Spare The Rod

Date of Production: 2005
Guest Review By: Alex Gardner

Nobody could pretend that "Spare the Rod" is a high-budget production. The film has only two characters. Emma-Louise is a uniformed schoolgirl. She wears a white blouse, a grey pullover, a blue pleated skirt, white ankle-socks, and a straw boater. The headmaster wears the same fairly nondescript attire in every scene (although they are supposed to be spread out over at least two weeks). The setting is meant to be his study, but it resembles more a bare box-room, with only a bureau and a battered old dining-chair as furniture.

The reason for this minimalism was primarily cheapness, no doubt, but I think there was probably a secondary motive too. By stripping away all superfluities, the director wished perhaps to intensify the focus on the central CP action, and thus replicate the style of the technically primitive but dramatically memorable Roué videos of the 1970s and early 1980s (now marketed as Roué Classics).

The film opens to the strains of a Chopin nocturne. We see Emma-Louise waiting with her hands on her head. A slender brunette with an expressive face and long hair in bunches, she looks a pretty convincing senior pupil at St Angela's. She has been sent to the headmaster for failing to do her geography home-work. "The dog ate it," she claims. The headmaster orders her to write a hundred lines.

On his return, after an hour is supposed to have elapsed, she is discovered not to have made much progress. He therefore places her over his knee and spanks her on the seat of her bright blue knickers - "to stop this sort of thuggery," he says (which sounds rather an exaggeration for skipping a home-work assignment, but never mind). This, the mildest punishment in the film, is to me definitely the most enjoyable to watch. Three strokes of the tawse on her right hand follow. Personally, I have never seen the appeal of hand punishment - "Bottoms, bottoms, always bottoms!" might be my motto - but preferences differ. Emma-Louise accepts this and all subsequent chastisements with an air of forlorn resignation and considerable stoicism.

A week later, she is back in the study, as the headmaster has heard from her parents that she has been rude to a vicar. She explains that she is doubting her faith, and the teacher's homilies take on a religious tone for the remainder of the film. He declares that he is doing God's work and claims that a bare-bottom spanking is a form of exorcism to drive out the Devil. For so apparently pious a man, however, he exhibits none too sure a grasp of the Bible, repeatedly asserting that it states "Spare the rod and spoil the child" (which it nowhere does, though some verses in Proverbs express the same idea). Perhaps we are meant to conclude from his ignorance that he is not a genuinely religious man, but merely a lustful hypocrite. If so, his acting is not sufficiently subtle, as his demeanour is always earnest (and slightly tentative), even when delivering what must be a comic line: "I feel the Spirit rising in me!" He gives her six more strokes of the tawse on her hand.

In the third session, Emma-Louise is severely chastised for nothing more specific than having "strayed from the path of righteousness". The headmaster has her kneel upon the chair for twenty strokes of the tawse. He intersperses his punitive efforts with seemingly random readings from the Old Testament. Then she strips naked for a caning: six strokes from a junior cane, six from a medium cane, and finally sixteen from a rigid senior cane. Remarkably, Emma-Louise does no more than snuffle in response to this onslaught. She is left alone at the end clutching the Bible.

I have to say that "Spare the Rod" doesn't altogether work for me. For one thing, there is a certain inattention to detail. I know I am fussy, but who ever saw a bureau that was totally empty? Couldn't somebody have told the headmaster to tuck in his shirt-tail? Couldn't the script have been planned a little more thoroughly? One minute, he suggests that Emma-Louise has had so many tawsings that she should know the correct position by now; then he says that no girl in the school has been punished in this fashion for half a decade. And couldn't he select some really apposite Bible quotations, if he had to use them at all?

In truth, I find the religious content in the film generally off-putting, including the music track ("O for the Wings of a Dove" played on a church organ). References to God and Christian morality tend to inhibit my erotic pleasure. Emma-Louise comes over as sympathetic and long-suffering: I actually feel a bit sorry for her by the end! My principal reservations about "Spare the Rod" are thoroughly subjective: I prefer a slightly lighter tone in CP films and a cheekier spankee (in both senses: more pert in attitude, plumper of buttock). If your tastes are more austere, however, "Spare the Rod" might suit you.

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