THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW – The Horror Films of Pete Walker Reviewed by Steve Kirkham

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THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW – The Horror Films of Pete Walker

4 stars
88 Films. Deluxe Collector’s Edition Blu ray Box Set. Limited to 3000 Units. Out Now

First off kudos the guys at 88 Films for finally getting this delayed box set out the door – with it’s numerous extras including commentaries and interviews. A worthy exploration of the work of the sometimes controversial director Pete Walker – who comes across as an affable chap in the interviews presented here, who went out of his way to stir things up, often with the help of writer David McGillivray.

All the films look good for the most part, with some exhibiting raised levels of grain in the darker sequence – several are encoded from new 2K remasters from the original negs with the balance drawn from restored HD masters.

Alongside the numerous extras shown below you also get a rigid slipcase to house the blu-ray cases with artwork by Sean Longmore – this fabulous new artwork is also used on the menu designs; 56 Page Perfect Bound book featuring essays by Simon Sheridan, Barry Forshaw and Jon Towlson; 8 Collectible Original Artwork Postcards; 2 Pairs of 3D anaglyphic glasses for use on The Flesh and Blood Show sequence.

DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE (1971)
First up is this rather lacklustre affair starring sexy Susan George as go go dancer Marianne in the Algarve, Portugal, who is on the run from someone and is picked up and rescued by slimy Sebastian (Christopher Sanford) who takes her back to London. When he suddenly proposes marriage, she realises he is a bit of wrong ‘un and tells the registrar that she has actually married the best man Eli (Barry Evans). She is right to be suspicious as Sebastian is working for her nefarious father, who goes by the name The Judge (Leo Genn).

The convoluted script by Murray Smith is basically about a large inheritance that Marianne is due to get when she turns 21 and her father and equally evil sister Hildegard (Judy Huxtable) wanting to get their hands on the money. There is a hint of an incestuous relationship between The Judge and Hildegard but she will use her womanly wiles in any way to meet their needs and get the number to the bank account!

Despite the presence of Susan George, this is all rather dull and talky, even with the mini skirts and cravats on show. Best thing here – which Walker acknowledges in one of the interviews is often highlighted in reviews – is the opening groovy credits with George having a boogie in a bikini to Cyril Ornadel’s catchy music. This is not a horror film and honestly is barely a thriller.

Some shots in the film appear to be from a lower grade source.

THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW (1972)
The film opens with blood running down the rusty struts of a seaside pier during the credits (there is a hair in the bottom of the shot – as per the original?). A young group of thespians are brought together to try and put a show together via improvisation. They set themselves up in the theatre at the end of a pier in a small seaside town and decide to sleep there, as they have no money. Cue naked and scantily clad young ladies and sexual shenanigans! Soon they are being killed off by an unknown assailant – a gloved killer. A British giallo? If only…

Supposedly inspired by Agatha Christies’ Ten Little Indians, this is more a mystery thriller whodunnit than an out and out horror, with a good looking cast of familiar faces – Ray Brooks, Jenny Hanley, Luan Peters, Robin Askwith, Judy Matheson and even Jess Conrad.

The whole thing is rather British, with the cast sitting around chatting and having cups of tea, and was Walker’s first step into actual horror – though his past in sexploitation movies is evident. Jenny Hanley, however, refused to partake in the nudity – so Pete Walker just used a body double, who was rather better endowed than she was! Brooks and Hanley are good in their roles. The twist at the end is fairly easy to guess.

The film is presented here in both it’s flat version and also as an anaglyphic 3D version with one sequence playing in stereoscopic vision. The film looks okay if not outstanding, with some shots soft and even out of focus (though this is probably as per the film as shot).

External scenes were shot at Cromer Pier with the internals of the theatre in the old Palace Pier Theatre in Brighton.

HOUSE OF WHIPCORD (1974)
Now we get to the meat of this set – with Walker starting his censor-baiting horrors.

At a swinging party (where writer David McGillivray pops up in one of his numerous cameos), young French model Anne-Marie (Penny Irving, not terribly convincing) falls for the charms of one Mark E Desade (Robert Tayman – Count Mitterehaus in Hammer’s VAMPIRE CIRCUS). Now what does that name sound like… let me think?

She accepts an invite to go away for the weekend to meet his Mum, a decision she is going to regret. She soon realises that when they arrive at the house, it is a prison, not a hotel. This “proper house of correction” is run by the nasty Mrs Wakehurst (Barbara Markham) and her husband Justice Bailey (Patrick Barr), who has dementia. It is a place where they can mete out their own form of justice on wayward women, who they believe have not received the appropriate sentence for their crimes.

They are assisted by the amusingly named Walker (Sheila Keith) and Bates (Dorothy Gordon) who guard over the girls in their charge and use whips to keep them in line.

This was the introduction of Sheila Keith into the Walker “universe” and she is memorable here as the uncompromising warden. Director Walker and scriptwriter McGillivray have crafted an often brutal “women in prison” thriller whilst taking a jab at those who think the lax morality of the day should be punished appropriately.

Also known as Stag Model Slaughter/The Photographer’s Models

FRIGHTMARE (1974)
Having played a secondary role in HOUSE OF WHIPCORD we now have the splendid Sheila Keith to the fore in FRIGHTMARE – front and centre on the original poster images brandishing a bloodied drill!

Having been freed after 15 years in a mental asylum for disturbing crimes, Dorothy Yates (Keith) and her husband Edmund (Rupert Davies) are considered rehabilitated and able to be released into society… which of course we know is a big mistake!

Their daughter Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) makes frequent visits to the couple at their isolated farmhouse, whilst also trying to keep her 15 year old wild sister Debbie (Kim Butcher) under control. Before long things start to go awry in bloody ways…

This is one of Walker’s best horrors, encompassing cannibalism, aided by Keith, who is great as the seemingly peaceful old lady – effortlessly switching to a demented psycho when needed.

Also known as Brainsuckers/Cover Up/Once Upon a Frightmare

HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN (1976)
Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon) meets an old friend, Bernard Cutler (Norman Eshley), when he nearly knocks her over! He is now a priest – she confides in him that she is having man trouble and he offers to be a listening ear if she needs it.

Returning to her flat, above the shop her sister Vanessa (Stephanie Beacham) owns, she finds her boyfriend moving out. Upset, she goes to the Catholic church where Bernard is, but not finding him there she goes into the confessional and speaks with Father Meldrum (Anthony Sharp) and ends up admitting she had an abortion. Well you would wouldn’t you. Unbeknownst to her he has taped her confession and is soon stalking her and killing those around her.

Another of Walker’s films where the antagonist thinks they are taking the higher moral ground and punishing those that have done something wrong – in their own twisted sense of justice. “I was put on this Earth to combat sin” declares Father Meldrum.

Once again Sheila Keith pops up as a nasty character – Miss Brabazon – this time out sporting a pair of glasses with one of the lens blacked out. Very odd.

The cast is strong and Walker is trying to court controversy with the depiction of a wayward and insane Catholic priest.

The part of the pathological priest was originally offered to Peter Cushing.

Also known as The Confessional/The Confessional Murders

SCHIZO (1976)
The opening narration helpfully explains schizophrenia or multiple/split personality… just in case you had no idea.

An older man William Haskins (Jack Watson) is upset when he see the headline ‘Ice Queen to Wed’ in the newspaper with a picture of Samantha (Lynne Frederick). So much so, he packs a suitcase, including a machete and a piece of jagged glass, and heads to London. Whilst on the train he is plagued by violent visions.

She is soon being stalked and harassed by him – he appears to know her but calls her Jean. How is he connected to her past? It takes a while but eventually people around her start to be bloodily killed by a black gloved killer… is it Haskins?

Lovely Lynne Frederick is good in her biggest starring role – she was, of course, famously married to Peter Sellers and tragically died far too young at the age of 39.

The poster declared “When the left hand doesn’t know who the right hand is killing”… though you probably won’t have too much trouble guessing who the murderer is. As it is this is a well made horror thriller with a nicely creepy seance sequence.

THE COMEBACK (1978)
In a massive stretch, crooner Jack Jones plays singer Nick Cooper in the final film in this set. The film opens with Nick’s ex-wife Gail visiting his penthouse apartment, which is in a creepy warehouse, and being attacked and bloodily killed by a maniac with a scythe, wearing an old woman mask with a shock of white hair.

He has flown over from the States to England to record a new album after several years of inactivity. His manager Webster Jones (David Doyle) sends Linda Everett (Pamela Stephenson) to meet Nick at the airport – of course, before long they are romantically involved.

Nick heads to a remote large house (shot at Foxwarren Park Mansion) for peace and quiet and to write new songs. He is greeted by housekeeper Mrs B (Sheila Keith with a Scottish accent), who runs the house with her husband Mr B (Bill Owen), who tends the grounds.

He is soon hearing odd noises, a crying woman, a scream and is also plagued by nightmarish visions – real or imagined?

After the gory opener, the film takes ages for anything similar to happen – though it keeps cutting back to Gail’s body as it decomposes! Eventually someone else associated with Nick is killed… but who is the killer and why are they are carrying out these murders?

Jones is okay in the lead, and the film ambles along with bursts of violence. This is entertaining enough as a sort of Brit slasher and you may not guess who the person in the mask is. Keith is her usual reliable self as the slightly creepy caretaker.

Also known as The Day the Screaming Stopped/Encore

EXTRAS 4 stars

DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE: Brand New 2K remaster from original neg; 2 audio commentaries – one with film critic Samm Deighan and a 2006 one with Pete Walker and Jonathan Rigby; Interview with Walker talking about horror films, his films and the censor (6 mins); Cinematographer Norman Langley on the film (12 mins); Trailer

THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW: Audio commentary with Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons; A three minute interview with actor Stewart Bevin; Interview with 3rd Assistant Director Terry Madden (9 mins); Trailer; Radio Spot

HOUSE OF WHIPCORD: Brand New 2K remaster from original neg; 2 audio commentaries – one with Kim Newman, Barry Forshaw and David McGillivray and a 2006 one with Pete Walker, Director of Photography Peter Jessop and moderated by Steven Chibnall; Courting Controversy: An Insider’s View of the Films of Pete Walker – this is probably the best extra on this set. A talking heads documentary directed by Jake West and put together by Nucleus, this is an excellent overview of Walker’s films with contributions from Walker and McGillivray plus Susan Penhaligon (or Sneaky Penhooligan as Walker called her), Peter Jessop and Paul Greenwood. This was made in 2004 and has been updated with upgraded clips (36 mins); House of Walker: a fascinating interview with Walker about creating the film. Directed by Simon Sheridan (11 mins); Return to the House of Whipcord: all about the disused jail in Littledean, Gloucestershire where the film was shot. The current owner Andy Jones has turned it into a museum, not just covering the film, but a stuffed to the gills exhibition space – the “Crime Through Time Collection”. Not a place to visit if you are of a sensitive nature. Directed by Simon Sheridan (11 mins); Sheila Keith: A Nice Old Lady? – Archive 13 minute talking heads about the actress. Directed by Jake West in 2005 with upgraded clips; Trailer

FRIGHTMARE: Audio commentary with Kim Newman, Barry Forshaw and David McGillivray; Audio commentary with horror experts Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth; Audio commentary from 2006 with Pete Walker, Director of Photography Peter Jessop and moderated by Steven Chibnall; Interview with Editor Robert Dearberg recorded in 2015 and directed by James McCabe (7 mins); Trailer

HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN: Brand New 2K remaster from original neg; 3 audio commentaries – one with Kim Newman, Barry Forshaw and David McGillivray, one with film critic Samm Deighan and a 2006 one with Pete Walker and Jonathan Rigby; Symphony of Horror: Interview with Walker about the music in his films “to create atmosphere… or cover up faults”. Talks about Harry South who did his earlier sex films, Cyril Ornadel, who not only wrote music for his movies but was musical director at the London Palladium and on to Stanley Myers and the horrors. Directed by Simon Sheridan (7 mins); Interviews with actors Norman Eshley and Stewart Bevan. Directed by James McCabe and shot in 2018/19 (14 mins)

SCHIZO: Audio commentary with Kim Newman, Barry Forshaw and David McGillivray; Ask Mr Walker – this was a fun extra with question submitted by friends and fans which Walker seemed to enjoy taking part in. Directed by Simon Sheridan (12 mins)

THE COMEBACK: 2 audio commentaries – one with Kim Newman, Barry Forshaw and David McGillivray and a 2006 one with Pete Walker and Jonathan Rigby; Walker’s Women: Walker talking about the numerous females he cast in his films – Susan George, Judy Matheson, Stephanie Beacham, Susan Penhaligon, Lynne Frederick, Pamela Stephenson and of course, Sheila Keith. Directed by Simon Sheridan (11 mins); Making Of: A somewhat cursory look at the making of the film with Peter Sinclair (Camera Op) and Denis Johnson Jr (Production Manager). Directed by James McCabe (7 mins); Trailer

Steve Kirkham