Body (The)

Format: DVD


This is a sex film with a difference. Where have you heard that before? Except that The Body really is unique. In its day it was sold as sexploitation. Certainly it’s got more than enough to keep voyeurs satisfied. Plenty of full frontal nudity and even real sex. (Was this the first time the BBFC allowed real sex in a movie? Almost certainly). But the intentions of the film-makers were very different. Producer Tony Garnett worked on The Wednesday Play, the BBC TV series which gave us such classics of social realism as Up the Junction (1965) and Cathy Come Home (1966). Director Roy Battersby had similar inclinations and went on to work on The Wednesday Play’s successor, Play For Today. The narration for The Body was written by poet Adrian Mitchell and spoken by theatrical luminaries Vanessa Redgrave and Frank Finlay. Songs are by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. None of these names was associated with soft porn. Battersby took Richard Smith’s 1968 book, also called The Body, as a starting point for a philosophical contemplation of “the incredible journey from birth to death.”

Most critics weren’t impressed, one dismissing the film as “a montage of arbitrarily related images.” But Battersby’s editing technique is now more acceptable. And there’s the added curiosity of a wide variety of people speaking their minds at the end of the decade which introduced sexual liberation. An admirably disparate, multi-national group (actors like Danny Daniels and Peter Kerrigan, but also students, Northern “characters”, an obese man and a blind woman) were gathered in a studio in Staines and encouraged to share their feelings and explore each other’s bodies. A famous tableau features one hundred (mostly naked) people aged from birth to 100. The 30-year-old is Richard Neville, soon to be convicted for publishing an obscene magazine (Oz). It’s also Neville and his girlfriend who have sex.

Interspersed throughout are huge magnifications of external features of the human body and endoscopic photography of internal organs. (Despite claims, this wasn’t unprecedented. A camera was dropped inside a human body in Corps Profond in 1963). Battersby seems a little obsessed about comparing the human condition with the factory assembly line. This is very much a product of the Wednesday Play school of thought, but it now seems trite. Then again the references to ice caps melting and “this wounded planet” appear shockingly topical. The ending, however, where the camera is between a woman’s legs as she gives birth, has a captivating timelessness. The moment, magical and yet natural, is quite wonderful. As the baby girl in question is now old enough to be a grandmother, surely the time has come for a film about the human body that uses everything that’s been learned since 1970? It’s been done. Smith’s book was also the basis of The Human Body (1998), a popular, much less idiosyncratic TV series presented by the fearsomely moustachioed Robert Winston.

David McGillivray

The Body


Made in 1970, this remarkable study of the human body is neither scientific nor medical; it is, rather, a deeply intimate feature-length film exploring the physical experience of being human.

Narrated by Vanessa Redgrave and Frank Finlay with a commentary by poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell, The Body traces the human life-cycle from conception to death. Photographic techniques never seen by cinema audiences at the time of release – including the use of internal cameras – allow an unprecedented insight into the body’s functions; these visuals are beautifully complemented by a soundtrack by Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and pioneering composer Ron Geesin, incorporating the latter’s experiments in biomusic – in this case, sounds created by the human body itself.

The Body is presented here uncut, in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio.

[] Original theatrical trailer
[] 38 minute suite of original music
[] Image gallery
[] Promotional material PDF

The Body

Number of Discs
1.66:1 / Colour
Mono / English
2 / PAL
107 mins approx