It’s time to look at the video for Duran Duran’s 1981 hit, “Girls on Film.” I’ll be analyzing the uncensored Night Version, which is the porny version with all the bare breasts and whatnot, so if you’re reading this at work or in a public space, maybe you should plan accordingly.
Still here? Let’s do this:
The video for “Girls on Film” was directed by Godley & Creme, who would later direct the boys in “A View To a Kill.” It kicks off with a montage of workers rigging lights and building the set, which consists of a platform stage for the band and something that looks like a boxing ring with a long catwalk leading up to it.
This guy is probably just spray-painting the ring, but I prefer to think he’s dousing it with Lysol. Given all the unhygienic behavior that will soon take place here, disinfecting everything in sight seems like a necessary precaution.
There’s also a montage of the band primping before their performance. If, like me, you don’t have much interest in nude women yet have a fondness for watching pretty boys fuss with their hair, this will probably be your favorite part of the video. I admire the in-your-face way this video establishes Duran Duran’s credo: They like naked girls, they like sleaze, they like wearing makeup, they like looking beautiful and glamorous, and if you have a problem with any of that, they’re not going to lose sleep over it.
First up with the primping is the awesome and hilarious performance-art exhibit known as Nick Rhodes. Nick looks fantastic here, with two-tone hair (fiery red in front, jet black in back) and flawless makeup. After looking so painfully young and awkward in the videos for “Planet Earth” and “Careless Memories,” he’s finally grown into his glamorous and flashy magical-pixie persona.
This video marks the final appearance of the platinum locks Andy sported in “Planet Earth” and “Careless Memories.” After this, Andy will officially stop giving a crap about his hair.
And here we have John, in the process of getting his beautiful, beautiful face touched up. This is pretty much the textbook definition of gilding a lily.
There is no shot of shy, enigmatic Roger primping, which comes as no surprise. Roger probably does his fair share of primping. Just not when there’s a camera pointed at him.
Headbands! The iconic Duran Duran headbands make a triumphant debut in this video! Simon wears his trademark white one, while Nick sports a leopard-print one during the performance scenes. So help me, I love those headbands. Fashion-wise, this video is a huge leap forward for the boys. They’ve finally ditched those huge, frilly poet shirts, the ones that made John look like a runway model and made everyone else look stumpy and sad, in favor of a more tailored, high-fashion image. This video brought the band into the public eye in large part because of the over-the-top sexual content, but even without it, audiences would have taken note of the boys. They’re too glamorous and gorgeous to ignore.
The bulk of the video consists of a series of sleazy vignettes, which take place in the boxing ring while the band performs on the stage in the background. Sleazy Vignette #1: Two women in black teddies, their hair in rollers, slink down the runway amidst a flurry of flashbulbs from an unseen audience. They enter the ring and approach a long horizontal pole, which is covered in shaving cream. The women straddle the pole on either end, then slither their way through the shaving cream until they meet in the center. It’s more tasteful than it sounds.
Ha ha, no. No, it’s not. It’s every bit as tacky as you’d imagine. A referee hands the women pillows, which they use to vigorously whack each other while still straddling the pole. This sorely taxes the structural integrity of their flimsy teddies. They kiss beneath a shower of feathers from the destroyed pillows, then saunter back off down the runway.
Backstage, the women celebrate in the traditional manner, i.e. by pouring champagne over their breasts. Great merciful Zeus, is that a bottle of Veuve Clicquot? Veuve Clicquot is my bubbly of choice for super-fancy occasions. In the hilariously decadent and excessive world of Duran Duran, it’s the stuff best suited for dumping over the chests of scantily-clad women.
Sleazy Vignette #2: A cute girl in a mawashi—that’s the combination belt/loincloth that sumo wrestlers wear—paired with a transparent mesh shirt and a samurai-style topknot squares off against a sumo wrestler in the ring. Even though he’s easily twice her size, she applies a judo hold and flips him onto his back. She gives a formal bow and retreats.
Is “stylishly tacky” too much of an oxymoron? Because that’s the best way to describe this video: stylishly tacky. It’s all very early-1980s, with the sleekness and aggressive sexuality of a Patrick Nagel painting mixed with a healthy dollop of camp.
Sleazy Vignette #3: A woman in a sexy white nurse costume, complete with white stockings and a garter belt, enters the ring and approaches a towel-draped man, who lies on a massage table. She gives him a thorough massage, which seems to involve an abundance of baby oil.
Once finished, she strolls off, leaving the man sprawled across the table, limbs dangling over the sides, evidently dead. These women are not only sleazy, they’re dangerous.
Sleazy Vignette #4: A blonde in a white cowboy hat and skimpy cowgirl duds takes a ride on the back of a muscular black man, who gallops around the ring while wearing a horse mask and a skimpy thong. At the conclusion of her ride, she scrubs him down and leads him offstage by his harness. Yeah, this isn’t offensive much. Nosirree, no cringe-worthy racial stereotypes here.
Let’s move on quickly and pretend this didn’t happen.
Sleazy Vignette #5: A sexy lady in high heels and a one-piece bathing suit tumbles into in a kiddie pool and appears to drown. A lifeguard in mirrored sunglasses comes to her rescue with a judicious application of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. As soon as she’s successfully revived, it turns into a full-on makeout session, which culminates with the lifeguard lying dead in the pool while the lady strolls off in triumph.
There are two prevalent themes running through this video:
1. Women have breasts.
2. Women are dangerous.
In reinforcement of Theme #1, we now see a shot of the backstage area, where a naked woman—probably the sexy lady from the kiddie pool, though it’s hard to recognize her without her bathing suit—runs an ice cube over one perky nipple. Totally understandable. Luring a hapless lifeguard to his doom can raise a girl’s core body temperature to dangerous levels.
Sleazy Vignette #6: Everybody loves mud wrestling!
Yeah, so these two nice young ladies (one topless, one in a bodysuit) grope each other in the mud for a while, then someone sprays down the victor with a hose while she sashays off the stage.
So that’s the naughty version. Because the Duran Duran boys are never satisfied until they’ve re-cut and re-released each video multiple times, there’s also a sanitized-for-MTV version, in which all the nudity has been replaced with some ridiculous footage of well-heeled people dancing around the boxing ring under the watchful glare of a burly masked man. In addition, there’s a slightly different version of the original video, which concludes with the boys standing behind the mud wrestlers while holding a sign reading, “SOME PEOPLE WILL DO ANYTHING TO SELL RECORDS.”
Bingo! Points for honesty. This shot was probably scrapped from the original video for being a little too on-the-nose: Yes, making a naughty video was a shameless (and successful!) ploy to drum up controversy and thus spark interest in the band—all involved parties have been pretty open about that—but it was maybe smarter not to cheerfully trumpet that fact within the video itself.
Or the shot could have been removed due to how crappy that sign looks. Look at it—it’s horrible. Did the boys make it themselves? Based on how pleased they all look, I’m inclined to think Godley and Creme handed the boys a roll of butcher paper and a box of Magic Markers and set them at it, just to keep them out from underfoot while the grownups were setting things up.
And with that, I have now reviewed all of Duran Duran’s videos from 1981 through 1985 (with the notable exception of “The Chauffeur,” which does have a sleek and elegant video, but the boys don’t appear anywhere in it. No Durans, no Duranalysis. That’s the rule). To commemorate this occasion, here’s a montage of Nick’s awesome video hairstyles, in loose chronological order:
Wow. Yeah, that pretty much looks like a whole bunch of entirely different people, doesn’t it?
On the other end of the spectrum, here’s Roger:
Hmm. Not exactly a shocking amount of variety here. Well, he sported some vaguely blondish highlights in “Union of the Snake,” right? Roger is a man who values consistency.
Here’s the ludicrously pretty John Taylor:
Yep. Just a whole lot of nice hair and great bone structure going on.
Apart from some slight variations in shade and length, Simon’s hair changes surprisingly little from video to video. Still, his wide range of facial expressions more than compensates for his lack of tonsorial creativity. Simon is, as always, a one-man party.
Andy’s hair is a linear progression from fussy to indifferent to awful. Or, if you prefer, from “This whole bleached look isn’t really my thing, but I guess it’ll keep Nick happy,” to “Come to think of it, I don’t give a rat’s ass whether Nick is happy with my hair,” to “Nick will hate it; therefore I love it.”
Or at least that’s exactly how it’s going to play out in the histrionic and highly libelous screenplay for the made-for-basic-cable Duran Duran biopic that I’m currently writing in my brain (working title: Dance Into the Fire: The Duran Duran Story), an idea which has been festering ever since I read Andy’s account in his memoir of that time he and Nick hurled pork pies at each other during an especially acrimonious tiff. The screenplay would burst at the seams with glitter and champagne and scuffles and hair gel. It’d be deeply superficial and baffling and ludicrous, and yet would somehow consist of pure awesomeness. Just like Duran Duran themselves.