A long time exponent of sex and horror cinema, Derek Ford crafted his two 1975 films around the persona’s of two little known starlets. Sex Express a/k/a Diversions was a star vehicle for the self-destructive Heather Deeley, while The Sexplorer offered leading lady status to German actress Monika Ringwald. Much more lighthearted than Sex Express, The Sexplorer updates sci-fi themed nudies like The Nine Ages of Nakedness and Zeta One to the naughty 1970s. Aliens from Venus land their spaceship slap bang in the middle of Piccadilly Circus,but their arrival comes with more of a whimper than a bang,as their spaceship is nothing more than a minute silver sphere which unceremoniously lands in a puddle. One of the aliens materialises in the form of a nude German-accented girl (Monika) while another Venusian stays onboard the silver sphere/spaceship and continually yaks to her. When two airhead masseuses find her wandering around their massage parlor starkers they think she’s the shell-shocked victim of a clothes snatcher and send her on her way in a pea-green masseuse’s uniform and a fiver in her pocket. Monika goes on to scare a man by entering a urinal and eyeing his ‘large probe’ while her attempts at directing traffic in a high street are met with the –seemingly genuine- amusement of onlookers.
Eventually she is offered a place to stay by Allan an honest, understanding kind of a guy,who spends his nights walking the streets after being ditched by his girlfriend. Scenes between them are like a flashback to the Ford scripted oldie Saturday Night Out in which a sailor has an affair with a bohemian girl and finds it difficult to cope with her eccentricities. Things really go pear shaped however when Monika’s friend in the silver sphere equips her with a ‘full range of sensory organs’ which has the unintended effect of causing her to roll around naked allot. A turn of events that gets the voice of the sphere into a huff,whining ‘decease forthwith…it’s dirty…I absolutely forbid it’ like an irate film-censor.
While on the surface it looks like a single-joke movie (alien is mistaken for sexy foreign girl and inspires reprobate reactions like ‘you Scandinavians don’t beat about the bush, do you’) The Sexplorer is actually one of Derek Ford’s better sex comedies with his self-penned script showing an uncharacteristic amount of inventiveness and wit . Alongside farcical misunderstandings and more nudity than you can shake a ‘large probe’ at,the film’s funniest and freakiest moment finds Monika being offered a drink in a strip-club which has the side-effect of turning her green from head to toe (complete with spray painted Afro-wig). As one character remarks-‘she’s bloody green as a traffic light’. Ford also shows where his heart lay by throwing in lots of location work-night-time shots of Soho and Piccadilly Circus and scenes taking place in grimy men’s toilets and nicotine stained launderettes make The Sexplorer a great 1970’s London film. The most enduring aspect of The Sexplorer though,remains its theme song which the late Don Lang belts out on the soundtrack several times. Lang-born Gordon Langhorn-was a trumpeter by trade who played on the Beatles White Album and even had a whiff of top ten success in the late fifties. Here Yorkshire’s answer to Bill Haley serenades The Sexplorer with ‘she’s the girl from Star Ship Venus,she’s arrived from outer space,and she’s landed on our planet just to watch the human race. She’s got turned onto permissiveness now keeps up with the pace,she’s the interstellar traveler of love’.
This was Monika Ringwald’s only lead role,though for a limited actress (to put it mildly) Monika’s career brought her some diverse work. She was a model for naturist publication Health and Efficiency,appeared on The Benny Hill Show and can be seen dressed up as a ‘Spiv’s floozy ‘ on the back cover of The Kinks’ 1974 concept album Preservation Act 2. Monika was also a cover girl for Witchcraft magazine ‘the monthly chronicle of horror,Satanism and the occult’ which juxtaposed articles on the inquisition and witch-hunting with pictorials of nude models and man wearing goats heads! Given these brushes with the occult,you might wonder if she sold her soul to appear in a Derek Ford film. While good looking, Ringwald has a sometimes hard to understand German accent and seems to have been blessed with only two facial expressions-boredom and confusion. All of which makes it tempting to view The Sexplorer as an in-joke parody of her career. The story of a lifeless,slightly ‘distant’ girl lost in a foreign land and surrounded by peculiar Englishmen seems as much Monika’s story as it is the Sexplorer’s. That may sound a tad cruel,but with autographical touches like having her real-life agent Alan Selwyn play a man who takes one look at her then leeringly promises ‘if you’ve got what I think you’ve got under there,you’ll make a very good career out of it’-its sometimes hard to interpret the film any other way.
Ultimately appearing in The Sexplorer never made Monika Ringwald a star and in 1978 she retired from showbiz to marry a car dealer. Considering the fate that befell Heather Deeley-Derek’s other ‘star’ of 1975-Monika’s is a happy ending. For their troubles Monika and Derek have even managed to accumulate one famous fan in the form of Reservoir Dogs Director Quentin Tarantino-who encountered the film aged 14 under its US incarnation The Girl from Star Ship Venus. Suitably impressed Tarantino has gone on to screen The Sexplorer at several 1990’s film festivals,reviving it as a midnight movie in Austin Texas in 1996. As is the case with most of Ford’s seventies output The Sexplorer also exists in a longer, hardcore version (with additional pornographic footage shot by Derek behind closed-doors in Beeleigh and Maldon) in which Miss Ringwald presumably got to research ’emotional involvement’-as its referred to in the film-in much greater depth.