I found The Rent Man by accident. I expected it to be a film titled Sexation, as it was housed in an Eros Films box. Yet the collector must have misplaced it. It turned out to be an intriguing early example of a roller. It opens with a seemingly Letraset title-card before cutting to the eponymous rent man, who wears a suit and sports a teddy-boy-esque haircut. Carrying a briefcase, he arrives at a semi-detached house in what appears to be a suburban location. The title is self-explanatory. He is there to collect the rent from the house owner, the camera panning as he walks through the gate and to the front door. A woman answers the door, wearing a leather tabard, looking not too dissimilar to Emma Peel in the popular television show The Avengers. It is a modest house, a symbol of this period’s growing affluence.
They move to the living room, where the rent man sits on a chair and is immediately joined by the woman who kisses him – the camera crudely zooms to fully capture the intimacy of the act. To the right of them is a stereo system and some vinyl records; one clearly features Elvis Presley. An online search reveals that this particular Elvis album was first released in 1957, which sadly does not help to date the production of the roller, which looks to mid-1960s at the very latest. They quickly move from the chair and walk out of the room. Following them as they leave, the camera suddenly reveals a female figure in a coat standing behind what looks to be a tripod. Is this a clue to the production team behind this film? The camera cuts to the couple going up the stairs and then cuts again to them sitting on a bed, again kissing with the woman stiffly jumping on top of the man.
The film cuts, with the woman now in reverse cowgirl position and the man underneath; he is wearing a t-shirt, she is wearing stockings and suspenders. He now moves to missionary as the camera cuts; the action is now closer. This looks to be a filmmaker who is aware of the choreography required to shoot a hardcore porn film so that limbs do not obscure the sexual act. Suddenly the mood of the film changes. The performers play fight; this is evident from the their smiling faces. A cane is introduced, and he teases her buttocks with it. Another cut to a medium close-up where the man furiously wields the cane, simulating a caning for the camera; it does not touch, or mark, bare flesh. Another cut. Now the tables turn; she is caning the man. He wrestles the cane away, and it is back to a series of sexual positions. The performers’ shadows indicate that lights are being used; might this be further evidence of a professional filmmaker? The action now moves to the bathroom, where the woman strips and washes her genitals then washes the man’s genitals. He sits on the toilet, and they have sex with her on top, eventually moving to the floor. She now sits on the toilet and urinates while smiling at the camera. Back to the bed. They resume a series of positions, including a 69. Finally, during doggy style, the man removes his penis and ejaculates over her behind. A title card reading ‘The End’ displays.
Out of all of the rollers I have viewed, The Rent Man stands out. This is a rarity, mistakenly put back in the wrong box by a previous owner. The film is especially fascinating as it offers clues to its illicit origins. Cultural references likely indicate that the film was probably made between 1963-65. For instance, there is the suited teddy boy male with a quiff haircut, the Emma Peel style outfit worn by the woman that references The Avengers and the Elvis Presley album. There are no clues to the house’s location, other than it is in a suburban area, possibly the outskirts of London, where many rollers were shot. Then there is the female figure who appears in frame for a split second, possibly holding a stills camera or a tripod. She certainly seems to be involved in the production, but is not the camera operator. Could this be a husband-and-wife team making this roller? Given the film’s aesthetic, it looks to have been shot on 16mm, but printed on 8mm for wider distribution. My experience of looking at many rollers tells me that those shot on 8mm tend to have a softer look. The film fits a range of different sexual practices into its 13:30 minute running time, including kink play, such as caning and watersports. The performers regularly smile at each other and to the camera. Maybe they are husband and wife or, at the very least, in some form of relationship?
As with many rollers, they prompt more questions than give answers, an unfortunate symptom of their illicit origins. In February 1966, the Obscene Publications Squad raided a blue movie show taking place at a flat Sloane Square. One of rollers being screened was The Rent Man, making a 1964 or 1965 production date a possibility. It is unlikely that I will be able to uncover more unless I discover the identity of the mysterious female who erroneously appears in shot.