Original classification rating: R.
This clip chosen to be PG
Sixteen-year-old Alvin Purple (Graeme Blundell) is chased through the streets by excited schoolgirls on bicycles. He finds refuge in the arms of Mrs Horwood (Jill Forster), wife of his teacher.
Slapstick humour gave the film a kind of innocence that was popular with local audiences.
This clip shows schoolboy Alvin Purple (Graeme Blundell) speeding down a road on his bicycle. He is being pursued by a group of excited schoolgirls also on bicycles. Alvin rings his bicycle bell and in response, his teacher’s wife (Jill Forster), with whom he is having an affair, opens the garage door and he cycles in. The scene is repeated, over a period of time with Alvin, dressed in different clothes, confidently ringing his bell and entering the garage, until one day the door remains closed and he cycles into it and falls off his bicycle. He bangs on the door but it remains closed. Watched from inside the house by the teacher and his distressed wife, the injured Alvin gets back on his bicycle, its handlebars symbolically limp, and rides away.
Educational value points
- Alvin Purple was Australia’s most successful film at the time of its release. Between 1973 and 1977 Alvin Purple took more than $4 million at the box office and, over the next decade, it achieved cult status. The character Alvin, through the film and the ensuing television series, became an Australian cultural icon and the name 'Alvin Purple’ was synonymous with a sexually vigorous male. The television series Alvin Purple (1976) similarly used sex and nudity for comic effect. Other television programs in this immensely popular and sensational genre included No. 96 (1972–77) and The Box (1974–77).
- The sexual content contained in the film is indicative of changes to censorship laws at the time it was made. In 1971 new classifications had been created, including an over-18 category that allowed more explicitly sexual material than had previously been permitted.
- With the liberalising of film restrictions, Australian directors were free to tackle sexual content in ways they never had before. In the context of modern soft core pornography, Alvin Purple is light-hearted and coy, but in 1973 it represented an attempt to provide the Australian adult population with material suitable for both titillation and amusement, without shocking or offending those new to sexually explicit cinema.
- The theme of the sexually inspired chase (adult women being chased by a lecherous older man) to frenzied upbeat music was used by the popular British television series Benny Hill (1969–89). Alvin Purple reverses this chase, with schoolboy Alvin chased by a group of schoolgirls. Alvin’s helplessness and weedy frame add an element of absurdity to the film and emphasise its humorous appeal. This sort of slapstick humour was popular in Australia in the 1970s.
- The clip suggests the recurring theme of female sexual predators in the film. The reversal of traditional masculine and feminine roles, with the female now seen as a sexual predator and the male as the prey, is central to Alvin Purple.
- Feminism was emerging as a key political movement in Australia in the 1970s and supporters of radical feminism, who saw women’s oppression as the cause of many social problems, were becoming more vocal. Role reversal in Alvin Purple provides fanciful wish fulfilment for men, with willing rather than increasingly politically engaged and potentially hostile women. The film’s attitude to sexual politics of the 1970s both promotes and trivialises the ideas of the women’s rights movement.
- Alvin Purple belongs to a particular genre of Australian cinema, the 'ocker’ film. Australian cinema of the last three decades of the 20th century is often defined by a dichotomy between the 'ocker’ film and the 'arthouse’ film. The former relies on contemporary urban stereotypes easily recognised by a local audience. It is crude and lively and offers Australians the chance to laugh at themselves and in particular at representatives of the establishment, such as the cuckolded schoolmaster. Other more recent films in this genre include The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) and Muriel’s Wedding(1994).
- Through his role in Alvin Purple, Australian actor Graeme Blundell became one of the most popular actors of the period. He is now also known as an author and biographer.
This clip starts approximately 1 minute into the feature.
We see Alvin riding his bicycle, singing a wordless song. Suddenly, a group of schoolgirls start chasing him on their bikes through the streets, screaming for him. The longer the girls chase him, the more hysterical they become. Alvin cycles to Mrs Horwood’s garage and rings the bell on his bicycle on approach. The garage door opens and he falls into her arms.
Mrs Horwood Oh, Alvin.
Alvin Oh, Mrs Horwood.
Mrs Horwood You’re a big boy for your age. You’ll soon have to start shaving every day, won’t you?
Outside, the schoolgirls ride past the house. Inside the garage, Alvin and Mrs Horwood are kissing and fall to the floor in an embrace.
We then see Alvin cycling to Mrs Horwood’s garage on other occasions, each time ringing the bell on his pushbike as he approaches before riding in. On the third time, the garage door does not open and he crashes into it. He looks confused and knocks on the garage door. Mr and Mrs Horwood are looking out the window at him. When there’s no answer, he gets back on his bike and cycles away. He looks back at the house and an upset Mrs Horwood wipes away a tear.
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