“Honestly, the scene where he thrusts his knob instead of a sword through the sides of a wicker basket containing his beautiful female assistance is comic genius,” enthuses John Pusker of Brazen Films, as he describes one of the highlights of the company’s latest DVD release, much loved British comedian Tommy Cooper’s long-suppressed 1970s sex comedy Just Like That. “It was filmed in front of a real audience in a sleazy Soho sex club – their reaction to her screams as his wand penetrates her wicker work is priceless! They think she’s screeching in agony as he gets it wrong and batters her with his banging stick, whereas in reality she’s moaning in ecstasy as he secretly pleasures her!” The film, apparently shot in 1972, features the late comic – who died, quite literally, on stage in 1984 – in his usual stage persona as a hapless conjurer, mixed up with a white slavery ring. “It’s typical British sex comedy stuff – Tommy finds that the run-down theatre he’s performing in is a front for the white slavers. The girls from the audience he makes disappear in his magic act are actually being kidnapped and sold to wealthy foreign potentates as sex slaves,” Pusker explains. “Of course, he breaks up the ring and rescues the girls, despite his incompetence. One of the running gags is that he is as bad a lover as he is a magician, with his various sexploits going hilariously awry, with vibrators going out of control, beds collapsing and him forever sticking his old man in the wrong orifice!”

Fans of the late comic are up in arms at the release, claiming that it sullies the memory of a beloved family entertainer. “There was never any smut in Tommy’s act, he was safe viewing for the entire family,” declares James Smockers, president of the Tommy Cooper Appreciation Society. “Now these notorious smut-peddlers come up with this utter filth which besmirches his name and undermines his reputation. I don’t know what’s wrong with people these days that they have to continually dig up dirt on our most cherished childhood icons!” Indeed, retired army officer Smockers has even cast doubt as to whether the film is genuine. “Honestly, there’s absolutely no way Tommy would have done any of the depraved things in that film – caning young women with his wand, doing magic ‘tricks’ which involve chaining women to racks, then pulling their clothes and underwear off in one tug whilst leaving the twelve piece crockery set he’s balanced on them in place. Pure filth!” he fumes. “Besides, it’s bloody ridiculous – why on earth would someone as successful as Tommy Cooper make a low-budget piece of smut like this? It isn’t as if he was short of work in the early seventies – he had back-to-back long running series on ITV for God’s sake!”

Pusker, whose company specialises in reissuing obscure low budget exploitation movies on DVD and packaging them as ‘cult classics’, is adamant that the film is genuine. “Cooper made it at the end of his contract with London Weekend TV and he wasn’t sure whether he’d get another TV series, so he decided to do this sex comedy. They were quick to shoot and usually made a lot of money,” he says. “Besides, a lot of British comics like Chic Murray and Arthur Mullard were appearing in them. Although they usually only had supporting roles to get the punters in and didn’t get stuck in with the birds like Tommy did!” However, shortly after finishing the film, Cooper signed a new contract with Thames Television. Fearing that his presence in a softcore sex comedy would undermine his image as a family entertainer, the comic bought every copy of the film he could find and had them destroyed. Despite his efforts, a few copies survived with private collectors, but after his death his estate succeeded in tracking down every surviving copy and having them destroyed – or so they thought. Unbeknownst to Cooper’s estate, a print of a special hardcore version of the movie made for export had lain undetected in the vaults of a Finnish porn distributor for decades and was eventually located by Brazen’s researchers. “As well as having Finnish sub-titles, it was missing several of the comedy sequences – notably the one where, as he tries to show a girl how he wants to be fellated, keeps using his catchphrase ‘Not like that. Like that!’ – and specially shot hardcore sequences featuring body doubles had been edited in,” says Pusker. “Honestly, the guy they had doubling for Tommy was atrocious, he was at least six inches shorter and had an incredibly hairy arse!”

Even if the film is genuine, Smockers argues, it still shouldn’t be released. “Why bring up a youthful indiscretion, an aberration in an otherwise exemplary life dedicated to entertaining people, now, when Tommy isn’t even around to defend himself?” he asks. “Can’t we be allowed to enjoy his legacy of fun without having it spoiled by muckraking? Thanks to this bloody film I can’t hear the words ‘Just like that’ any more without conjuring up a mental picture of Tommy shouting it as, clad only in his fez, he surprises a girl by taking her from behind!” Pusker has little time for such arguments, countering that films such as Just Like That are a vital part of Britain’s cinematic heritage. “Look, throughout most of the 1970s smut like this sustained the British film industry – they were some of the biggest grossing films of the era. Yet now we try to sweep them under the carpet,” he points out. “Believe me, old school comics like Tommy Cooper couldn’t wait to get a piece of that action, but now their appearances in these movies are airbrushed out of their autobiographies in order to protect the DVD sales of their old TV shows and ‘legitimate’ films!” Pusker points out that British comedy icons Norman Wisdom and Arthur Askey both appeared in sex comedies which are now never mentioned. “The fact that Wisdom flashed his arse and cavorted with topless teenage girls in Sauce For The Goose, or that ‘Big Hearted’ Arthur Askey played a bottom pinching patient in Rosie Dixon, Night Nurse, just doesn’t fit the narrative the comedy establishment now wants to spin about them, “ he opines. “According to that, every pre-alternative comedy comic was a clean-living family entertainer, who may have told the odd racist joke, but never swore or had sex out of wedlock!”

In point of fact, Pusker notes, Cooper himself wasn’t the genial family man his fans like to portray, and contends that Just Like That sheds valuable light on his true nature. “He was a tight-fisted drunken wife-beater who had a long-standing affair with his wardrobe manager,” he says. “There’s a persistent rumour that one of the reasons he agreed to do Just Like That was that it gave him the opportunity to slap around some women legitimately in the bondage sequences and get paid for it.” Pusker has high hopes for the DVD release and is already lining up a successor. “We’re hoping to track down a print of Morecombe and Wise’s ground breaking gay porn movie Boulevard Boys,” he explains. “They made it in the mid-sixties, before they hit it big on TV. Obviously, in those days gay porn was all underground, so it is incredibly difficult to find copies. Apparently you get to see Little Ern’s short fat hairy testicles and it features the origin of their bed-sharing routine.” Smockers is predictably aghast at this news. “Is nothing sacred?” he sighs. “Can’t we even be allowed to watch the annual festive repeat of a Morecombe and Wise Christmas show without thinking of anal sex?”