To my readers......

SITE UPDATE NOTICE

Thanks for visiting mitchmen, home of Mitchell's Gay Art

The Caps and Collars/ Flat Cap Gang story continues at Google Groups (see Group News for link)


Message updated 6th Mar 2021

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Royale Studio 2b - Navy Romeo (Part 2)


Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 22

This is one of the best images from Part 2 of Royale Studio's 'Navy Romeo'. In this section of the story there's a complete change of setting, from the contrived, studio set of a Navy Barracks in Part 1 to this leafy woodland. It must have felt odd and sexy for the models, having to wear the trademark, Royale, wetted trousers (notice the creases from wringing them out) to work in this more exposed environment. A number of other Royale Studio storyettes also had open air settings and it's said that this was the garden of Basil Clavering, the man who was the driving force behind the Studio. 

As well as the contrasting setting, there's a dramatic change of atmosphere. The jokey Peeping Tom's have turned on the object of their ridicule. They now have tied him hand and foot and are punching him. So what's going on? 

~

This open air shoot Royale used for Part 2, results in a different set of quality issues for us. Helped by bright, natural light, many of the original photos must have been as good as this one. Several other surviving images are equally fine, but the inability to control the direction of light outside has resulted in some localised over-exposure and washing out of the erotically-crucial, all-white, uniform areas. The effect is possibly magnified in some cases by deterioration of the source photograph before it was digitised. In addition, smaller thumbnail images inevitably suffer from blurring and indistinctness as well, but most of them in Part 2 are bigger than those in Part 1 and I have given them bigger displays here. The quality of  image 22 here seems to indicate that full size photos as well as catalogue thumbnails were sometimes printed with sequence numbers on them.


Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 16(?)

I believe this image to be the starting point of Part 2. It shows Ted (the vain Romeo) being helped out of a car by Spike. At this point Ted already has a rope around his chest and his hands are behind his back, possibly being restrained by Tom who can be glimpsed, close behind him inside the car. There's a half-decent impression of Ted's bulging crotch and a general sense of muscles and uniforms. 

You'll see as we go along that this part of the story is more action oriented and less about artful, erotic posing than Part 1. Having said that, the coal hod* Spike is holding has a certain, phallic quality about it and is suggestively angled upwards between Ted's open legs and just below his mouth, leaving the scene open to the mitchmen-esque interpretation of 'hidden eroticism'! Is Spike's hand pulling his head down?

(*The coal hod, was a commonplace domestic device in the 1950's, used for fetching coal from store and tipping it onto an open fire or into a burner. It's used for a very different purpose here and it pops up again in a later Royale story.)

~

So what has happened to bring about Ted's captivity? Royale's plot summary from their catalogue is not very helpful. It tells us only that "Later in the car, they stop in a lane, pull out Ted and rough house him.....". This confirms the unnumbered image above as the starting point of Part 2 and also the impression of a conflict, but doesn't explain why it has happened. 

I suggested at the end of Part 1 (without any real evidence) that perhaps Ted had spotted the two voyeurs and confronted them about their spying and mockery of his extreme vanity. Sailor Al's conjecture of an 'itching powder' practical joke and my own theory that Ted's secret homosexuality had been discovered (dynamite in the forces then!) might also explain a fight. Whatever the cause, it's clear Spike and Tom have decided Ted needs to 'dealt with' for his offence** and have therefore abducted him to this remote location. 

(There's an odd mark on Spike's buttock which looks a bit like a tear, is this evidence of a struggle? Well no, because it can also be seen in picture 03 in Part 1 and it has actually disappeared by No 24, below) 

**At the end of this post I recount a real life incident from a Cadet Force camp, when a junior member was subjected to a mock trial for being 'too posh'. This sort of arbitrary bullying of anyone 'different', disguised as laddish, practical joking, was commonplace in the Regular Forces (and elsewhere) in Royale's era and would not need any explanation to their audience.  The term 'rough housing' used by Royale had connotations of manly, boisterous toughness rather than plain assault, which is how we would see it today, rightly or wrongly.

~

I have 19 images altogether from Part 2 of 'Romeo'. The last image in Part 1 that I was able to (tentatively) give a number  was No14(?) and according to Royale there were 36 in the set altogether, which implies that there are only 3 missing from the 15 to 36 group, possibly including my conjectured, confrontation scene. 

There is a relative scarcity of sequence numbers on the images in Part 2. In many cases, like the one just above, it has been deliberately obliterated, leaving us to rely on continuity and intuition. I have given this picture No 16(?) based on the fit with subsequent numbering. That leaves a gap for a missing No 15 at the end of set 1. 

Question marks against sequence numbers signify that they've been assigned that number by me and not explicitly identified by a Royale catalogue source.


Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 17(?)

Ted is bundled off into the wood and this is quite a good image of a confused captive being bossed, off-balanced, by his captors. Ted's physique looks good here and once again his head is interestingly positioned, poised above Spike's crotch as though there is a magnetic attraction there. 

Despite the over-exposure and smaller picture size, you can still glimpse interesting  groin 'under-shadows' on all three men (their shapes revealed of course by the clingy, wetted fabric). It creates a sense of simmering sexuality.

You'll notice Tom and Spike have put on civilian-style, dark-coloured belts for Part 2 (they become clearer in the next image). Ted is still wearing his white military belt and gaiters from Part 1. All three men are wearing Royal Navy dress caps for this sequence, which are probably genuine and possibly their own. That detail links this little group of pictures together

Notice the dark mark on Spike's upper thigh, it will gradually become clearer.

 

Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 18(?)
 

Ted's captors free him from the lasso round his chest. It seems from this picture that his hands were were probably not tied in 16 and 17 despite appearances. Royale provide us with another trio of crotch bulges which seem to dance suggestively in close proximity to each other. They resemble the famous, enhanced 'Scott Studios' shapes discussed in the second 'Rigging' article (Royale 1b) and most notably displayed there by Brian Cross in his classic, tight shorts picture. 

Spike's chest here provides another nice shape which must have looked good in the proper photo and am I imagining a hint of nipple there? Yes, I know it's childish, but simple pleasures amuse - as they must have done back then!



Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 19(?)

If you're missing the views of succulent bottoms that dominated Part 1 of this series, this would have been the perfect antidote, were it not for the fact that the left side has been over-enthusiastically cropped by an earlier benefactor, removing half of what looks to have been the best bum of the three, Tom's (the truncated shape of the thumbnail 'box', bottom left, is incontestable, incriminating evidence!). As it is, Ted's peach-like ass undoubtedly seems to have grabbed Spike's full attention, he seems a lot bulkier in this image. The choice of sloping ground has helped accentuate the men's bottoms.

At first sight Ted is being escorted off into the undergrowth here and seems to be almost collaborating with his captors and leading the way (as though they are seeking a place for some kinky homosexuality). In fact I think that, having been freed, he is actually making an attempt to escape. The abandoned coal hod at Spike's feet supports this interpretation which then leads naturally into the next image. The technical necessity of depicting this moment using a static pose (with no rapid-fire snapping being available in the 60's) is largely responsible for the ambiguity.


Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 20(?)

Ted is brought down and recaptured. His tormentors decide to tie him up properly so he can't run off again. Tom attends to his feet and deliberately produces a provocative, humiliating display of the Romeo's impressive bottom (notice the emphatic stretch creases on his right buttock and centre seam). The pose also results in Ted's feet ending up in Tom's lap, which is an erotic coming together in it's own right and his projecting boot caps create another suggestive phallic shape which Tom seems to be grappling with. 

Tom's own bubble butt is seen in a nice profile set off by his flaring bell-bottoms in a way reminiscent of Tom of Finland's sailors. 

Meanwhile Spike begins to tie one of Ted's wrists, and he's almost sitting on his upturned face as he does so, thereby completing a seemingly inevitable 'docking' which began in back in picture 16.



Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 21

They roll Ted over and tie his hands behind his back. His backside is over-exposed in this otherwise crisp picture but his two tormentors are very nicely captured by the camera lens, thanks to some fortuitous tree shade. We see them holding him down and tying the knots. This double act is quite an usual take on what is one of the most erotic moments of bondage, when the victim's freedom ebbs away from him leaving him totally at the mercy of his captors. This moment is more believable and intense if there are two assailants.

The intimate collaboration between Tom and Spike, kneeling with their heads together, makes a nice image in anyone's language and there are some appealing details: Tom's crotch and neck (left) and Spike's shoulders and tight shirt. 

The 'mark' on Spike's left thigh, is finally revealed as a small tear. Is this then tangible evidence of a struggle earlier on? Unfortunately no again, because it's also visible in the Peeping Tom pictures 09 and 10 in Part 1. It must simply be wear and tear in the thin fabric Royale used for these tight-fitting replica uniforms.

21 is the first picture with a number box in Part 2 and this allows us to infer the number 20 for the previous picture. It is clearly the same scene - the plants just below the number 21 are almost identical those to the left of Tom's leg in 20. The preceding 'hatted' image sequence must therefore be Nos 16-19.

 

Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 22

Ted is pulled to his feet and Spike's punches the defenceless man in the ribs, vividly demonstrating his anger. His clenched ass draws our attention to the tension in his body as he delivers the punch, tension that is mirrored in Ted's scrunched-up torso. These elements are all connected visually by the line of Spike's muscular arm and although this is a static pose, it seems to create a convincing sense of effort and impact. 

There is a particularly suggestive juxtaposition here of Ted and Tom's crotch bulges which seem to be touching, or about to. In the context of Spike's violence and the bondage restraint, this gives the scene a truly S&M edge.


Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 23(?)

Having violently subdued Ted, the two voyeurs tie him to a tree, Cowboy & Indian style. It's almost as though they intend to burn him at the stake (but that doesn't really work with a tree!). Although the 50's and 60's were the heyday of Cowboy comics and movies this scene would still have seemed almost comic in character to it's audience at the time. It revives the sense of all this being just a playful, prank, despite the darker tone injected in No 22.

In the original, full size photograph Ted's cock area must have been graphically displayed at this point. Once again Tom seems to be rubbing himself against his thigh and Spike's eyeline suggests he is studying them. There seems to be an apple hanging on the tree behind Tom, a coincidental erotic hint?

This scaled-down image was used to advertise NARO 2 in Royale's catalogue, unfortunately I don't have a better version


Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 24(?)

The role of the coal hod is revealed as Spike uses it to throw water over Ted's bell bottoms, almost as though he's dousing those imaginary flames. That's small compensation for a soggy Ted! You might wonder where this water came from since any they brought with them in the hod (picture 16) must have been spilled in picture 19. 

If you were wondering why they didn't use a simply bucket, the subtle, phallic qualities of the hod come to the fore here:- it's shape, especially the tip, it's angling, which originates from just above Spike's scrotum bulge and, not least, it's use to deliver a stream of water onto the helpless captive's leg, which I hope I need not translate erotically.

Spike comes out looking good in this image apart from bedraggled-looking trousers, but we can only sigh for the tantalisingly washed out detail of Ted's torso (how slim he looks here!). The restraint of his head is a nice touch underlining his defencelessness.



Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 25(?)

Ted grimaces in this companion image as another slug of water engulfs his chest.
Presumably he was paid for this job (but not much, I imagine) and it must have been a fun assignment on the whole, but being buffeted by water in this way can't have been terribly pleasant. It's erotic for onlookers however and of course, men were men, back then!

Nice details again of Spike's crotch and Tom's ass.

It's quite possible that 24 and 25 were originally sequenced the other way round, but this seems a more effective progression, dramatically.



Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 28
 
This is a great, understated picture of captivity and domination - and tight trousers. Having drenched and battered Ted with water, his captors pause to gloat over the result. Spike seems to be still taunting him and he seems to be hold something(?) in his hand. Ted angrily struggles against his bonds, his dipped head reflecting his effort and frustration. We can see the water stains all over his trousers which look smooth and impossibly tight round his bottom - as do Tom's (left). Some groping at this point seems a natural next step, but none is shown.
 
The picture has some sunny over-exposure but it's caught the hair of all three men giving them a halo effect, which obviously isn't appropriate in at least 2 cases, but it imparts a slightly magical atmosphere to scene the as though this is very significant, but not quite real.

This picture is a bit of an oddity in continuity terms. Ted's hands are not tied here, but there are multiple loops of rope round his arms which he is straining against (and showing nice arm muscle). There's nothing round his torso. This restraint arrangement doesn't seem to match the preceding images. It's also taken from a different angle to every other picture in this sequence. There are a couple of missing pictures between (my) 25 and 28, which might explain this discontinuity, but there's no continuity either with the group of images that follow, as you will see. Perhaps this image was separately posed and intended as a 'cover', marketing image. It's also possible that the men simply took a break or that the restraints were re-jigged or loosened for practical reasons


Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 29 (?)

In this image Ted has been turned round and his hands have been tied to the tree above his head. His backside reasserts it's claim to the starring role. Tom's hand on his shoulder both restrains him and suggests support, sympathy even. Tom's role in these photos seems softer and more sensual than Spike's, who mercilessly continues to deluge the former Romeo with his inexhaustible supply of water. 

(Along with the roses and fruit trees seen earlier, the availability of a water supply supports the theory that this was actually Clavering's garden).

 
Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 30

The open air, sunny lighting probably helped the photographer to capture this spectacular image as a chunky-shouldered Ted is doused with water once again. I wonder how many times Ted had to endure this? In those days, it wasn't possible to see the final image until the film had been developed and printed, so it seems likely that many 'takes' were done to ensure there was at least one satisfactory photo. You can see his trousers here are absolutely sodden and Tom's face also suggests this wasn't the first enactment. Possibly for that reason, there's virtually no sense of erotic contrivance here although Tom's groin area seems to have some eyebrow-raising features!

This is the first view we have got of Spike's ass since Part 1 and it seems to be the most petit of the three, leaving him more boyish looking than he seemed earlier.

Luckily for us this picture's reference number has survived obliteration attempts and is visible on a bright display, so we know for certain that this is No 30.



Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 31 (?)

Once again, Tom and Spike gloat over Ted's plight. This is arguably the best image of Ted in the whole set (along with No14), showing him as strongly built with a well proportioned, chunky figure. A fortuitous alignment with background shadow has also endowed him with a big, strong and straight neck worthy of Superman. Appropriately enough, he shows no sign of breaking.

Tom has a slighter build but is putting on good manly front too (!) but, by contrast, Spike seems to be diminishing before our eyes. I can't think it's deliberate, but there's a strange sense that Ted's trials are making him stronger while his tormentors wither away.

There is a case for designating this as No 29 based on the rounded top edges of the obliterated thumbnail and this would make a less abrupt transition into this sequence. However but 31 and 32 are so similar that it seems impossible for them to have been posed separately and there isn't room for both between 28 and 30! Placed next to each other, their subtle differences lead the eye nicely into the denouement.

Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 32 (?)

In this near identical image, the focus of attention shifts back to Ted's alluring backside which seems to have become tensed and drawn in. The onlooker's smiles seem more forced, menacing even (is that just through holding the pose?). Both of them are leaning closer and Tom's cock shadow is noticeably more prominent. It foreshadows their next move.

Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 33 (?)
 
Tom moves in to undo Ted's belt, always an exciting, erotic moment, but one that modern photographers rarely bother with. His cock bulge hovers close to Ted's thigh, not for the first time in the story. This is looking bad for 'ladies man', straight-acting Ted.

Ted's chunkiness has returned but Spike looks distinctly gaunt and weedy in this image, pushed out to the margins by the attraction that Tom seems to have for Ted. The way in which the characters' appearances seem to alter from one picture to another in this series is quite bewildering and I'll come back to that in a post-script.
 
 At his point it's clear that Ted's feet are no longer tied together

 
Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 34 (?)

Spike moves in to help Tom peel down Ted's trousers in a theatrical 'reveal' of the fact that he isn't wearing any underwear (see Part 1).  Ripping the bell bottoms off probably isn't an option, because you can see how wet they are, almost transparent around Ted's thighs! Tom looks at his ass thoughtfully showing a prominent bulge (and nice pecs). Spike's groin pushes forward as though magnetically attracted to the sight.

There are two good quality versions of this picture in the archive


Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 35 (?) 
 
Bare assed and helpless, Ted's humiliation is almost complete. Almost.
He hangs his head but this doesn't seem to diminish the other men's interest. They stand back respectfully, almost in awe it seems. It's suggestive of that "what have we done?" moment that pranksters with a conscience experience when the jape passes the point of no return. Usually of course it's quickly followed by a "Oh well, what the heck" moment.

Sadly, this is a rather poor copy of an erotic highlight of this piece

Royale Studio - Navy Romeo 36 (?)

We are not told what, if any, indignities Tom and Spike inflict on Ted in his naked vulnerability. They slope off, leaving him to the tender mercies of whoever might chance upon him in this neck of the woods. If it's a gay cruising ground he might be in for far more than the boys have given him.  He makes a delicious sight for those inclined to the fuller figure. Spike however looks weedier than ever.

Notice that they are all wearing formal naval hats again for this finale. 
Take a bow chaps! 

~

Navy Romeo is one of the most complete Royale storyettes that have survived in reasonable quality. It's a  got a good, slightly mystifying story with plenty of erotic moments derived from stripping, abduction and bondage plus the esoteric art of showing men manoeuvring their (apparently) aroused organs in close proximity, screened only by the flimsiest veil of clothing. A modern equivalent would be the gathering of track athletes clad in leotards without any underwear. It's very sexy if you get a good view!

 Below I have reproduced Royale's catalogue description of this set. It's interesting but sketchy. It's quite difficult filling in the details of the narrative just from the pictures but presumably that was what you were meant to do. I'm not aware that any supplementary information was provided.


In Part 3 of this post (pending) I look more closely at the players in this drama.
Links to the mitchmen Royale Archive will be provided there.
~
 
The majority of the images in this post have come from Sailor Al's Blog. He presented them in a different sequence to me, but I am happy to give him credit for unearthing them. As far as I know he didn't ever add to his collection there.

~

Institutional Bullying in the 1960's
 
In the 60's, many UK schools had a Cadet Force. This was a sort of sampler of military service dressed up as education. It involved lessons in marching, drilling, shooting, map craft and similar matters in school time. Out of school there were occasional weekends at a real military camp where the skills learned could be practised in a more realistic environment. This is a true story from one of those camps.

 On the first night in camp the cadets were summoned from their beds to witness the 'trial' of one of their number, who was deemed to be 'too posh'. The trial was conducted by the senior boys within their ranks who had been awarded NCO status (Corporal, Sergeant etc). The poor victim was bullied into a confession, stripped of his clothes and subjected to humiliations of the type meted out to Ted here. No-one lifted a finger to help him. 

In recent years it has become apparent that this sort of arbitrary bullying was commonplace in the real services and accepted as normal, in fact it was not regarded as bullying at all, but as some sort of legitimate, masculine, tom foolery and 'rough and tumble'. 
 

 
This is a relevant, ambiguous example, possibly an initiation into 'crossing the line' for the first time. It seems like a civilian ship rather than military but no one has spared the victim's blushes.
 
 
Bad Lads Army
 

More recently (2004) a parade ground punishment almost identical to Ted's was vividly depicted in the TV series 'Bad Lads Army' (link pending) which purported to recreate 1950's training practices. In this context Ted's treatment does not seem at all fanciful and at the time the motivations behind it probably didn't need explaining.

No comments: