House of Whipcord (1974) | Pete Walker’s depraved exploitation horror remastered for your sick pleasure
Only young girls may enter and no one leaves…
Immoral young women are undermining the social fabric of Britain. What can be done about it? One couple think they’ve found the answer – buy a disused prison, fill it with women of loose morals and then degrade, flog and hang them until they see the error of their ungodly ways. When French model Ann-Marie (Penny Irving) causes a scandal for appearing naked in public, she accepts an offer from the dashing Mark Desade (Robert Tayman) to hide out at his family’s country estate. But she soon finds herself hurled into a secret women’s prison run by Mark’s parents – disgraced prison governess Mrs Wakehurst (Barbara Markham) and the blind, senile Justice Bailey (Patrick Barr). Now, she and her fellow inmates face the starkest of choices – submit or die. But Ann-Marie gambles everything on a third option – escape…
Was her act more obscene than theirs…?
‘This film is dedicated to those who are disturbed by today’s lax moral codes and who eagerly await the return of corporal and capital punishment…’ So ran the dedication at the start of this disturbing 1974 tale of depravity that was a mischievous nod to Mary Whitehouse and her Festival of Light brigade who wanted to clean up Britain.
In the 1970s, Britsploitation director Pete Walker bucked the trend for old style English Gothic horror with a series of contemporary terror tales that brought horror home to middle class England. House of Whipcord was Walker’s 10th feature (he started out doing skin flicks in the 1960s) and the first in a trilogy (Frightmare and House of Mortal Sin followed) that would define his vision: to scare UK audiences rigid and gross them out in a way that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was doing to in the US, but without alienating the British film censor.
For House of Whipcord, Walker and screenwriter David McGillivray used the institutional regime of a correctional facility – popular in US grindhouse films like The Big Doll House (1971) and Caged Heat (1974) – to stage their sado-masochistic fantasy. Audiences certainly got what they came for, but behind the scenes of sadism and flagellation there lurks a social critique about 1970s permissiveness that still resonates. There’s also some great performances, no more so than in Sheila Keith as a sadistic, carbolic scrubbed, whip wielding warden, who’d go on to appear in four other of Walker’s films, culminating in the director’s final feature, 1983’s House of Long Shadows, which united horror icons Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and John Carradine one last time. It’s just a pity that Keith doesn’t get a credit on the DVD cover because she’s the best thing in it.
THE OEG RELEASE
OEG presents a digitally remastered edition of Pete Walker’s film in a 1.85:11 aspect ratio (PAL coded/Region free) in Dolby digital stereo on Blu-ray and DVD. The extras include audio commentary with director Pete Walker and director of photography Peter Jessop, moderated by Walker’s biographer Stephen Chibnall, which originally appeared on Anchor Bay’s 2005 Pete Walker Collection DVD box-set; the feaurettes, Courting Controversy: An Insider’s Look at the Films of Pete Walker and Sheila Keith: A Nice Old Lady (recorded shortly after her death at the age of 84 in October 2004); and an overview by film blogger James Oliver.
Posted on June 27, 2014, in British Film, Cult classic, Exploitation, Horror, Must See, Must See, Must-See and tagged British Film, Cult classic, David McGillivray, Exploitation, Frightmare, Horror, House of Long Shadows, House of Mortal Sin, House of Whipcord, Must See, Odeon Entertainment, OEG Classic Movies, Penny Irving, Pete Walker, Peter Jessop, Sheila Keith, Stephen Chibnall. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.