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The to be watched pile has been handing out a lot of classic porn recently and last night was no exception. Mrs Dave and I were treated to the Autobiography of a Flea. Flea is a 1976 re-make of an anonymous erotic novel written in 1810. You can't get much more classic than that.

Flea is the perfect antidote to those ghastly, saccharine, prudish Victorian/Regency frock dramas Mrs Dave is so fond of. I remember reading an Austen once (as an assignment at school, certainly not through choice) and thinking that it was a miracle that people so repressed and prudish ever managed to continue the species. Having read quite a bit of other material (ie: porn) from that period, I suspect though that Flea is a more accurate representation of what really went on. Austen, after all, was an unmarried, prudish spinster and probably imagined that everyone else was too.

Having read the original Flea in all its Victorian glory, the thing that strikes me about it (and most porn from that period) is just how dirty it is. You may think the triple penetration was invented by the porn industry in the 70s (in the Devil Inside Her, no less). You may think fisting was an invention of the gay community in the 80s. You may think female ejaculation was only discovered in the 90s. You would be wrong though. Read some old porn and you will discover that no matter how dirty and depraved it is, your great-, great-, great-grandmother was probably doing it.

Now that you're back from washing your mind out with bleach, lets get back to Flea.

Flea tells the story of Belle, a young innocent, 14 year old (they start them young in Victorian times), played by a very young (but not 14) Jean Jennings, as she is corrupted by the scheming Father Ambrose (Paul Thomas, yes, THE Paul Thomas in one of his first roles), the local priest. The story is narrated by a flea who takes up residence in Belle's pubic hair at the beginning of the tale. You could never do a modern re-make of this one. With everyone sporting trimmed pubes, there would be no where for the narrator to live.

Young Belle's corruption starts when Father Ambrose gets one of the local youths to seduce her after church so he can catch them in (or just before) the act. Once caught, Belle is convinced that the best way to atone for her sins is to serve the clergy... in a special way. Much sex ensues with the local priesthood, including the very well-endowed Father Clement (John Holmes, in his pre coke-addled, murder-suspect, AIDS-ravaged days). The now thoroughly corrupted Belle then conspires with the priests to corrupt her friend Julia, Belle's very creepy uncle, Julia's father and just about everyone else in the film.

This is a very typical 19th century porn story. The English libertines of the time who wrote most of this stuff were obsessed with the corruption of virgins (purity of youth and all that, what ho) and fiercely anti-clerical which is why the clergy are unmistakably the villains of the piece. About the only notable English perversion that doesn't make its way into Flea is the English love of flagellation. I'm not entirely sure why the English are so obsessed with flagellation. Even today. I blame the very peculiar English public school system. It seems to turn out a never-ending stream of conservative members of parliament, who wear rubber underwear under their pinstripe suits and hire mature ladies to flog them with birch twigs on the weekend.

Before this turns into a serious literary analysis of 19th century English erotica (which I am nerdy enough to do), let me just say that this is a film worth watching. By modern standards the story has some... confronting... elements but not enough to detract from the enjoyment. The costuming is great. The sex is good and like most classic porn, nicely varied. Even the acting is halfway reasonable. The DVD conversion looks good. Definitely recommended viewing.

You can buy Autobiography of a Flea here through Good Vibrations in the USA.

You can buy Autobiography of a Flea here through Uncut DVDs in Australia.

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