Primitive London (1965)

Inspired by the Italian shockmentary Mondo Cane (1962), Primitive London was Stanley Long and Arnold Louis Miller’s third film to offer a forbidden glimpse into the seedy side of 60s London.

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“Certain elements are clearly staged, so it’s neither fully documentary nor drama, but none the worse for it as the excellent camerawork captures den after den of iniquity, nailing the seedy atmosphere of late night London.”
Phelim O’Neill, The Guardian, 2009

The sensational follow-up to Arnold Louis Miller and Stanley Long’s genre-defining British ‘mondo’ films West End Jungle (1961) and London in the Raw (1964), Primitive London sets out to reflect society’s decay through a sideshow spectacle of 60s London depravity – and managed to outdo its predecessors.

Primitive London is a bizarre hotchpotch of loosely linked and entirely disconnected sequences. Here, we confront mods, rockers and beatniks at the Ace Café, cut some rug with obscure beat band The Zephyrs and goggle at sordid wife-swapping parties as we discover a pre-permissive Britain still trying to move on from the post-war depression of the 1950s.

The film is an entertaining period piece, most interesting precisely because it provides an unusual counterpoint to the prevailing myth of ‘Swinging Sixties’ London.

Peter Whitehead explored the explosion of English pop culture in the days of ‘Swinging London’ in his era-defining documentary Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London (1967).

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