MITCHMEN AUTHOR'S NOTE
This post completes Part 1 of the mitchmen review of Royale's 'Navy Romeo' storyette which was begun in the last post. I have also appended it there to make a single article for future readers.
Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 08
Ted is not tying up his boot laces here, but strapping gaiters round his ankles. These are stiff ankle protectors and intended also to capture the billowing bell bottoms and close off the open top of the boots for protection and safety in a combat situation. They are seen lying on the floor in picture 05? of this series and more clearly when worn by Ted in the pictures that follow this one. His leg-up position here creates yet another provocative pose out of a mundane everyday activity. One which the on-lookers find an almost irresistible target.
I probably don't need to point out the (barely) hidden eroticism of Spike's toe aimed at the cleft in Ted's backside but there's also a more subtle, secondary titillation with it's close proximity to Ted's own foot, suggestive of lovers playing 'footsie'. Spikes open, leaning-back pose is itself suggestive of intimate spooning with Ted (for a sex-starved imagination at any rate)! I suspect there was an interesting reflection in the mirror too, just off to the right. There's a similar 'closeness' going on between Tom and Spike. The subtle, erotic choreography of some of these images is amazingly complex. This picture also brings out a rather nice impression of the tight fit of Tom and Spike's trousers round the lower body and thighs, with a pleasing profile of Tom's bottom (extreme left).
Strong lighting from the left of Ted casts an odd shadow of his arm which has the extraordinary effect of making his trouser pants look completely open at the back. I haven't seen a full size version of this image so I can't say if this is deliberate artistry or a fortuitous quirk of the smaller scale picture. However, it is a graphic reminder of his discarded underwear, which I suspect is the little white pile on the floor just beyond his foot (see below also). There's another tantalising shadow in picture 03.
Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 09
With preparations complete, Ted imagines introducing himself to the film star pin-up on the wall and you can almost imagine him saying “don't I look great?” (not without reason from where I'm sitting!). The two mischievous voyeurs pause from their lusting to parody his action with Spike making a courtly bow and Tom simulating feminine surprise and delight. Cynics might see the less-than-modest forward thrust of his lower body here as an invitation for Spike to dip his head a little lower.
The dressy effect of Ted's gaiters and the discarded underwear on the floor are clearly visible here
Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 10
This image probably gives us the best view of Ted's attractive figure with the enhancing effect of his hip-hugging trousers complemented by the tightness of the RN shirt around his torso. It's low cut, square, head opening accentuates the sweep of his neck. He seems to be holding a cushion in his arms here as a substitute for the real thing he desires.
Behind the screen Spike and Tom pose as though kissing each other but their bodies and lips are not actually touching. It's interesting to consider how the censors would have viewed this. The female film star is a reminder that kisses like this between men and women were commonplace in movies and yet men passionately kissing each other was absolutely taboo. By distancing of the pair and providing the clearly-announced, humorous context of 'taking the mickey' out of their straight colleague the scene might have escaped the red pen in a live, theatrical context. Unfortunately the unashamed eroticism of the pictures that frame this scene nullifies that possibility.
Royale would have known that would be the case – the minds behind these complex images are not without intelligence, nor naïve. So it's more likely that this is another deliberate parody, not only of heterosexual vanity, but of the whole concept of censorship as it was applied to relationships between men. But imagine how comforting this portrayal would have been for lonely, gay men who saw the image, using the masculine aura of military servicemen to present men kissing as something that was perfectly OK. Notice though, that it still takes place in secret, out of the sight of the heterosexual.
The numbered thumbnail for this image (in the archive) is less closely cropped than this variant.
Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 11
In this image Ted appears to be holding something up as though to kiss it. It doesn't seem to be the same cushion-like object as in the preceding picture - that is now placed on the chair. The boys behind the screen eagerly return to their surveillance and Spike makes the 'OK' sign as though Ted's action means that their plan is now going well.
I confess I'm not certain what this means, but if you look closely, you might notice that Ted's attention in these pictures actually seems focussed, not on the glamorous film star, but on the other hard-to-make-out photo just above, which looks a bit like a showgirl in black stockings. In fact I believe this is one of Royale's infamous*, high-booted, Horse Guards images, rather like the one below, but with the subject in the process of undressing.
published pictures of real members of the Royal Horse Guards regiment
posing in a mixture of their proper uniform and racy underwear. It
was a very public scandal that made the tabloid front pages and may have helped the cause of
homosexual law reform. Royale's successor 'Guys in Uniform' repeated the feat in 1976.
That conjecture leads me to believe that what Ted is holding up may actually be bank notes, as though reminding us that the Queen's men can be bought for money. Simultaneously it's suggesting that Ted, the supposedly straight hunk, is not averse to buying such favours himself, thereby implying that the terrible 'queer' malady is also rife in the realm of The Royal Navy. What a superb mockery of the heterosexual establishment! No wonder Spike is so pleased with himself!
Back at picture 11, and on a more basic, erotic level, the reflection in the mirror at this point introduces the startling impression of Spike reaching up between Ted's legs to grope him, but the casual observer would never spot it. This dull little story positively sparkles with hidden homoerotic gems!
Notice that in this image Spike's trousers seem to have a 'bare' back window similar to Ted's in picture 08. It must be that this is the effect of the stretched, wet pants becoming slightly transparent and showing skin colour beneath. The dark shadow and whiter area to the right is the front flap of his uniform which is a double layer of fabric and not tight and thus shows as white. A different visual effect, caused by lighting from opposite sides seems to show Ted's bare legs showing though his trousers.
Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 12?
The true object of Ted's interest is even more obvious in this picture and the boys are so excited that they squat down piggy-back fashion to peek through a crack (yes a crack!) in a pose that seems to abjectly beg for Ted's (or our, or anyone's) attention. It's not far short of simulating intercourse between them and at this point there's no real attempt to hide the eroticism. Despite the revelation about Ted's true inclinations he cuts a figure just as attractive and manly as he did to them before (well of course he does!). His reflection in the mirror seems to introduce an element of ambiguity as to the direction of those inclinations, but they are happy, nay eager, to go down for him.
If Royale ever applied 'The Itch' to this series, it takes on a very different meaning here.
Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 14?
This looks as if it might be the end of Part 1 with Ted appearing to be departing (looking great) and the boys exchanging kisses (disguised as a high-five) and apparently very satisfied with the outcome.
I don't know exactly how many pictures there are in Part 1. The earliest image number I can positively identify in Part 2 is No 21 and I think it has 5 images in front of it, so that would mean Part 1 numbers 15. However, I've given this picture the number 14 (or it could even be 13) because the opening of Part 2 suggests that at the end of Part 1, Ted discovers that he's being spied on with some sort of confrontation happening. You'll see what I mean in Part 2 (to follow soon).
Royale Props and Accessories
Royale's specially prepared uniforms are responsible for much of the erotic flavour of these images but the props and accessories also play a part and some become familiar friends in different photo sets.
In these concluding pictures of Navy Romeo, Part 1 we get a good view of the Chinese bamboo screen that has concealed the voyeurs from their quarry throughout. It's not naval issue obviously! However, it's plausible that these men (regular sailors or forced conscripts) might be allowed personal items such as this in a barracks setting. The antique, oriental style tells you about the artistic taste of the producers of these photos, since they would have provided this prop.
The mirror plays an equally important role in the story, as it's used to emphasise Romeo Ted's vanity, but it's also a device for slipping in tantalising glimpses of anatomy (e.g. Nos 3, 12) and in telescoping the participants together to construct suggestive positions (e.g. Nos 6, 7, 11). The mirror also features in a number of other Royale series where it provides a 'virtual' partner for solo posers and simulates more forbidden physical contact between men and reflections.
To be continued in Navy Romeo - Part 2
The mitchmen Royale Open Archive link to this set will be provided at the end of this group of posts.