Category Archives: British Film

Death Line (1972) | Mind the doors! – Gary Sherman’s grim but moving London Underground cannibal cult horror gets the HD remaster treatment

Death Line (1972)

Fans of classic British horror need no introduction to director Gary Sherman’s London Underground-set cannibal film Death Line. Nearly 50 years on from its release on 12 October 1972 (in the UK), this oddly moving cult still packs a mighty punch, and features a standout turn from Donald Pleasence.

Previously available only on DVD and VHS (remember those?), Death Line (which got recut and renamed Raw Meat in the US) has been newly scanned to 2k resolution from the original 35mm camera negative for an exclusive UK Blu-ray release from Network – and it looks and sounds bloody fantastic! Finally time to ditch my second gen VHS!

Here’s my take on the exploitation cult, ‘But first were gonna get some tea… MARRRRSHAL!!!’

Death Line (1972)

Following a visit to Soho’s strip joints, James Manfred, OBE (a sleazy James Cossins, from Fawlty Towers and Doctor Who fame) is attacked by a feral-looking bloke at Russell Square tube station. Finding him collapsed by a stairwell, university student Patricia (Patricia Gurney) and her American boyfriend Alex (David Ladd) alert a local police officer, but when they return to the scene – there’s no sign of the politician.

Assigned to investigate, Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence), takes an instant dislike to the youngsters and continues to question them, then finds himself being warned off the case by a secretive MI5 handler (Christopher Lee). Meanwhile, the assailant (Hugh Armstrong) is revealed to be one of the last surviving members of a family of railway workers who became trapped underground after a cave-in in 1892, and resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. When his female companion dies, ‘The Man’ flies into a rage and kills three maintenance workers – then, when Patricia, finds herself alone on the tube at Holborn Station – he knocks her out and takes her back to his lair. Will she become his next meal – or does he just wants some company?

Writer/Director Gary Sherman has crafted a neat little fright film that belies its exploitation label, for at its dark heart lies a tragic class consciousness love story in which Armstrong brings great sympathy to the grotesque and violent cannibal, who resembles a destitute Jesus meets Rasputin, but with the shuffling gait of Boris Karloff’s drunken mute butler Morgan from James Whales’ Old Dark House. Despite his murderous impulses following the sad death of his partner, you can’t help but pity ‘The Man’ as he is credited in the film; and that’s compounded when he tries and fails to communicate with Patricia using the only words he knows: ‘Mind the doors!’.

Death Line (1972)

Then there’s Donald Pleasence’s fantastic turn as the abrasive, tea-loving, hippie-hating Inspector Calhoun – who loves Queen and country, but despises his upper class MI5 superiors and even more so philandering politicians. He has some great scenes (particular with Heather Stoney’s WPC Alice Marshall and Norman Rossington’s DS Rogers) and gets in some lines like: ‘That’s handy, pop round and see if he’s a nutter!’ and ‘Get ur bloody hair cut!’. Alongside Alfred Marks’ Superintendent Bellaver in 1970’s Scream and Scream Again, Pleasence’s Calhoun most certainly gave rise to the sweary likes of John Thaws’ DI Jack Regan in TV’s The Sweeney a couple of years later.

Cinematographer Alex Thomson (who became Nicolas Roeg’s favourite camera operator) provides the stylishly grim imagery, making atmospheric use of the dark and dingy real life London Underground locations (it was partly filmed at Aldwych). So effective where these scenes that London Underground took offence to the subject matter and banned its advertising on any station platform! Meanwhile, Wil Mallone and Jeremy Rose’s rumbustious soundtrack is another highlight, perfectly capturing the sleazy vibe of Soho’s strip joints, while also chiming with the film’s sadder moments.

Death Line (1972)

Keep an eye out for Keeping Up Appearances‘ Clive Swift as a detective and Christopher Lee (in just one scene) as the suited and booted bureaucrat.

Network’s exclusive UK Blu-ray release, includes the following special features…

Mind the Doors!: an engaging interview with actor Hugh Armstrong, talking about his life and career
• Theatrical Trailer
• Image Gallery
• PDF Material
• Collector’s booklet

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Assault (1971) | Sidney Hayers’ taut British thriller gets a 2k remaster

 

Assault (1971)

16-year-old schoolgirl Tessa Hurst (Lesley-Anne Down) is brutally attacked and raped when she takes a short cut home from school across a wooded common known as Devil’s End. Neither the police nor doctors can learn anything from the girl, who withdraws into a trance-like state.

While Tessa slowly recovers under the care of Dr Greg Lomax (James Laurenson), another girl is attacked – and this time is killed. Julie West (Suzy Kendall), an arts teacher at the all-girls private school, then places her own life in jeopardy in a bid to lure the sex maniac into the open…

Assault (1971)

This taut Rank thriller (retitled In the Devil’s Garden in the US) was directed by Sidney Hayers – best-known for Circus of Horrors (1960), occult chiller Night of the Eagle (1962), and a handful of Edgar Wallace Mysteries – who brings an exploitative dash of Italian giallo to the proceedings with some graphic violence, while also making suspenseful use of the camera-as-murderer technique (which made Peeping Tom so unforgettable in 1960). Hayers would follow this hard-hitter with another thriller dealing with a child sex crime, Revenge, the following year (read my review here).

Assault (1971)

The screenplay is by John Kruse (who did lots of ITC shows like The Saint), and is based on a novel by Kendal Young called The Ravine. It follows standard potboiler British thriller tradition, as the police (headed up by Frank Finlay) question their prime suspects, including Leslie Sandord (Tony Beckley), the emasculated husband of the school’s headmistress (Dilys Hamlett). But added to the mix is a not-so subtle attack on cheque-book journalism (with Freddie Jones going to town as a sexist reporter), while Julie’s amateur sleuthing (how very Argento) has shocking results.

Assault (1971)

Assault (1971)

The top star cast includes Anthony Ainley as the creepy head of the local mental hospital where Lomax works, James Cosmo as a detective, and David Essex as ‘Man in Chemist Shop’. Composer Eric Rogers crafts a rousing (if repetitive) main theme, while Ken Hodges’ cinematography turns leafy Black Park in Buckinghamshire into the stuff of nightmares.

Assault (1971)

Assault (1971)

Assault has been remastered to 2K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative preserved by the BFI National Archive, and Network’s Blu-ray release (out today) includes the following special features.

• Theatrical Trailer
• Image Gallery
• Limited edition, collectable booklet written by Laura Mayne and Adrian Smith
• PDF material

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Time to reveal Graham Humphreys’ exclusive artwork for the Attack of the Adult Babies limited edition Blu-ray

Attack of the Adult Babies

Nucleus Films have released the stunning new artwork created exclusively by the legendary graphic artist Graham Humphreys for the slipcase 1-1000 numbered limited edition Blu-ray of Dominic Brunt’s Attack of the Adult Babies, which is being released nationwide on 11 June.

And, in further good news for genre fans, HMV will be racking the limited Edition Blu-ray in their “Special Edition range” in stores across the country.

Attack of the Adult Babies

Jake West, co-director of Nucleus Films, said today: “In a time where it’s increasingly difficult to release truly independent movies in physical formats, this is a real treat for film fans. As a movie collector myself, who enjoyed the thrills of the Video Nasty era, I loved the ritual of browsing through the racks and taking a chance on something because the cover art and title caught my eye.

We wanted to re-create the thrill of that era and what better artist could we ask to do that than Graham Humphreys – and what better film could there be than Dominic Brunt’s outrageous Attack of the Adult Babies!”

West’s partner at Nucleus Films, Marc Morris. added: “We’re very excited that HMV are really getting behind the release, giving fans of physical media a chance to pick up their copy in the real world!”

Attack of the Adult Babies

Graham Humphreys commentated: “I met Dominic Brunt at FrightFest some three or four years ago, where he mentioned the idea for the Adult Baby project, so it was a happy surprise to be asked to provide this slipcase cover for the Nucleus films release.

It’s always daunting working on an image with multiple elements, as a busy layout can be visually confusing. However, by focussing on key characters and using carefully considered colour palette, I hope I’ve managed some level of visual restraint. I’ve intentionally used ‘baby’ colours, pinks and pale blues, these contrast well with the dark red blood, capturing the creepy mix of the infantile and adult horrors.”

World premiered at FrightFest 2017, Attack of the Adult Babies has been described as disgusting, depraved, brave, bonkers, brilliant and quintessentially British in its humour and depravity…

The aftermath of a shocking home invasion forces three frightened family members to break into a remote country manor and steal Top Secret documents. Little do they know the stately pile is also the clandestine venue where a group of high-powered elderly men go to take refuge from the stresses and strains of daily life by dressing up in nappies and having a bevy of beautiful nurses indulging their every perverse nursery whim. Nor do they realise this grotesque assembly is compelled to refuel the world’s economy by very sinister, sick and monstrous means. As the bodily fluids hit the fan, the bloody carnage and freaky weirdness escalates.

Starring Sally Dexter, Charlie Chuck, Kate Coogan, Joanne Mitchell and Laurence Harvey, Attack of the Adult Babies is released on 11 June on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download and there is a special advance screening at Derby Quad, Friday 4 May, 7.45pm, with Dominic Brunt and Joanne Mitchell in attendance. A special London screening will be announced soon.

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Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 | Six of the best from the iconoclastic British artist collected and restored on Blu-ray

Jarman Volume 124 years have gone by since his death aged just 52, but the legacy of British filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942-1994) lives on, and his highly personal work has lost none of its relevance or impact. The BFI have now released the first of two deluxe limited edition box sets that bring together six of his feature films on Blu-ray for the first time.

In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Jarman’s debut abstract short film is comprised of a series of Super 8 films and is provided with a soundtrack from music group Throbbing Gristle. Personally, it was thanks to this film that I started experimenting with my own short films, and turned me into a big fan of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Coil.

Sebastiane (1976), Jarman’s debut feature film, spoken entirely in Latin and featuring an ambient score from Brian Eno, is an homoerotic account of the life and martyrdom of Saint Sebastiane (Leonardo Treviglio), a Roman soldier who is exiled to a remote outpost where his commanding officer (Barney James) becomes obsessed by him.

Jubilee (1978) | Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported through time from 1578 to 1978 by her astrologer John Dee (Richard O’Brien), where she sees what has become of her once glorious kingdom where law and order has broken down. Adam Ant, Toyah Wilcox and Jordan co-star.

The Tempest (1979) | Jarman creates his own interpretation of Shakespeare’s final play. Abandoned on a remote island by his brother Antonio (Richard Warwick), Prospero (Heathcote Williams), the former Duke of Milan, engineers a shipwreck to bring Ferdinand (David Meyer) the Prince of Naples, and his daughter Miranda (Toyah Wilcox) together in a bid to restore peace between Milan and Naples.

The Angelic Conversation (1985), a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets are read by Judi Dench over atmospheric music by Coil and tableaux images of landscapes and people.

Caravaggio (1986) | A heavily stylised biopic of the Renaissance Italian painter Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) who falls in love with his muse, street thug, Ranuccio Thomasoni (Sean Bean).

Derek Jarman’s first six feature films have all been newly scanned at 2K from original film elements and are presented in this first box set alongside some incredible extras (listed below), all drawn from Jarman’s archive of workbooks and papers held in BFI Special Collections, plus a host of interviews with key cast, crew and friends, which have been exclusively produced for this release.

You can purchase Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 direct from the BFI bookshop or from Amazon and HMV (in the UK).

SPECIAL FEATURES
Sebastiane: A Work in Progress (1975): newly remastered from 16mm film elements held by the BFI National Archive, this sadly incomplete early black and white work-print differs significantly from the finished film. This previously unseen alternate edit – assembled in a different order, featuring a different soundtrack – was never subtitled or released
The Making of Sebastiane (Derek Jarman & Hugh Smith, 1975): previously unseen Super 8 footage shot on location in Sardinia
Jazz Calendar (1968): a rarely screened documentary record of the 1968 ballet by Frederick Ashton, performed by The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, for which Jarman designed sets and costumes
Sloane Square: A Room of One’s Own (1974-76)
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers Sebastiane (2018)
• Message from the Temple (1981)
• TG: Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981)
Pirate Tape (WS Burroughs Film) (1982)
Toyah Willcox: Being Mad (2014)
• Jordan remembers Jubilee (2018)
• Lee Drysdale remembers Jubilee (2018)
Stormy Weather: the Magic Behind The Tempest (2016): Toyah Willcox and Stuart Hopps share their memories of working on The Tempest
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers The Tempest (2018)
• Don Boyd remembers The Tempest (2018)
A Meeting of Minds: Christopher Hobbs on collaborating with Derek Jarman (2018)
Fragments of Memory: Christopher Hobbs on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
To the Cliffs: James Mackay on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
Derek Jarman: The Films that Never Were (2018): A look back on unrealised Derek Jarman features, including Egyptian period drama Akhenaten and science fiction horror Neutron
Akhenaten Image Gallery & Neutron storyboards
• Audio commentary for Caravaggio by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain
Caravaggio in Docklands (1985)
Kind Blasphemy: Nigel Terry on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Tilda Swinton on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Italy of the Memory: Christopher Hobbs on Caravaggio (2007)
• Dexter Fletcher on Caravaggio (2014)
• Christopher Hobbs remembers Caravaggio (2018)
• Derek Jarman interviewed by Derek Malcolm (1986, audio only)
In the Studio: Caravaggio soundtrack recording sessions (1986, audio only)
• Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio notebook (Gallery)
• Five galleries featuring storyboards, production designs and Jarman’s notes on Caravaggio
• Image galleries
• Original theatrical trailers for The Angelic Conversation and Caravaggio
• 80-page collector’s book

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Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960) | Hammer’s bravest venture is ripe for rediscovery in HD

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger

1960’s Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (aka Never Take Candy from a Stranger in the US) was one of Hammer’s bravest ventures: an earnest precautionary tale with its intentions in the right place that never really got a chance on its original release. But its now ripe for rediscovery as it joins Indicator’s second volume of Hammer classics: Criminal Intent.

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger

Adapted from a 1953 play, The Pony Cart, by Roger Garris, it follows a British family settling into a small Canadian town where the father, Peter Cater (Patrick Allen) has been appointed the new school principal. When daughter Jean (Janina Faye) claims that the town’s respected patriarch, Clarence Olderberry Sr (Felix Aylmer), offered her and her friend Lucille (Frances Green) sweets in exchange to seeing them naked, Jean’s horrified mother Sally (Gwen Watford) demands an investigation. But the ensuing trial sees Jean coming under some brutal cross-examining and the elderly Olderberry being found not guilty… a verdict that results in murder!

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger

Hammer’s social drama boasts great turns from Allen and Watford as the concerned parents, while Janina Faye gives a career-best performance as Jean (in a role that she also played on the West End). As the elderly paedophile, knighted stage and screen actor Felix Aylmer must be one of Hammer’s most chilling monsters (with or without makeup), and the fact he never utters a word only makes his performance all the more unnerving – as you never know what’s really going inside his sick mind.

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger

Cinematographer Freddie Francis adds a touch of cinéma vérité to the nerve-wracking courtroom sequences, which were all shot in a single take at Bray Studios, and he makes atmospheric use of some of Hammer’s favourite locations – Oakley Court (standing in for a sanatorium) and Black Park, as well as Burnham Beeches and a housing estate in Slough. The suspenseful score is from idiosyncratic composer Elisabeth Luytens, while director Frankel brings a tremendous amount of suspense to the proceedings (he would later helm Hammer’s The Witches in 1966).

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger

Hammer purposely plays down the sensationalism to craft an insightful message movie which explores both predatory behaviour and how power and privilege can shield dangerous people from proper justice. Applauded by critics of the day, the film was quite ground-breaking – especially as child sexual abuse was still a taboo subject. But the film was denied a certificate that would have allowed children to see it, as it was deemed too upsetting. Even the film’s star Janina Faye did not see her fine performance for many years. While promoted as a warning for parents, the film was not a commercial success and quickly disappeared – becoming one of Hammer’s most elusive titles in their back catalogue.

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger

Watching it afresh, it is a stark and impressive piece of cinema that continues to send a chill down the spine with its authentic exploration of a very real grim subject that refuses to go away. Brave, intelligent and way ahead of its time – this is Hammer at its most sincere.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
• HD restoration with original mono audio and new improved English subtitles.
• Two presentations: Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (UK); and Never Take Candy from a Stranger (US).
• New documentary: Conspiracy Theories: Inside Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (The film’s background and production are retraced by Indicator’s stable of Hammer experts, plus there’s some great archive audio interview excerpts from director Frankel).
• Appreciation of Gwen Watford by British cinema expert Dr Laura Mayne.
• An interview with Janina Faye, who looks back over her career with Hammer and recalls her role in the film.
The Perfect Horror Chord: David Huckvale explores composer Elisabeth Lutyens’ ‘eerie weirdy’ musical compositions for Hammer (if you are musically inclined, this is a must).
• Actor and film-maker Matthew Holness explores the film’s message, intentions, cast and crew.
Trailers From Hell commentary with Brian Trenchard-Smith, who succinctly does the same.
• Advertising and Publicity Gallery
• Press Material
• Exclusive booklet

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960) can be found on Indicator’s Limited Edition Box Set, Hammer Volume Two: Criminal Intent, which includes three other classic thrillers from the vaults of Hammer Films (all world Blu-ray premieres): The Snorkel (1958), The Full Treatment (1961) and Cash on Demand (1961) .

Hammer Volume Two: Criminal Intent

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A Dark Song (2016) | This terrifying occult head trip should come with a ‘Don’t Try This At Home’ warning

A Dark Song

Grief-stricken over the murder of her son, Sophia (Catherine Walker) is desperate for closure (and revenge) and seeks out ceremonial magician Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram), in a bid to communicate with her dead child.

But the arcane ritual she must undertake requires arduous preparation, which risks both hers and Solomon’s mental and physical well-being as they prepare open the gates to the other side…

A Dark Song

Winner of the New Visions award at the 2016 Sitges Festival, A Dark Song is an astonishing first effort from director Liam Gavin, chronicling the performance of the Abramelin operation, an intensive 17th-century magic rite that ends in knowledge of and conversation with one’s Holy Guardian Angel. It is well-known amongst occult scholars, including Aleister Crowley, who created his own ritual as part of his Thelema religion.

Gavin sets his supernatural drama in a derelict house in a bleak Welsh countryside where two strangers lock themselves up to perform the elaborate six-month rite, which includes much preparation, including daily pray, chastity and abstinence.

Being a two-hander in a single setting, you’d expect it run out of steam after a while, but Gavin uses the very realistic practicalities of the ritual to weave a compelling dark narrative that allows the two leads to explore hidden depths in order to bring their damaged characters to nervy obsessed life before the real horrors begin.

A Dark Song

With the soiled dress sense of Rab C Nesbitt or Andy Pipkin from Little Britain (but minus the laughs), Oram convinces as the dour outsider who is more in tune with the spirit world then the real one; while Walker genuinely disturbs as the grieving mother walking in a tightrope across a black abyss.

A Dark Song

Now, most films dealing with the occult tend to focus on the attainment of power, but A Dark Song is all about Sophia’s quest for inner peace (and the ability to forgive) through gnosis. What we get is a harrowing and intense experience in which you can practically feel the power of the ritual emanating through the images and Ray Harman’s sparse score. It’s a bold and inventive piece of indie cinema – just don’t try it at home – you might regret it!

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Cockneys vs Zombies (2012) | ‘Bloody Trafalgar!’ this zom-com is just as bloody brilliant as Shaun of the Dead

Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)

While geezer brothers Andy and Terry (Harry Treadaway and Rasmus Hardiker) rob a bank with their cousin (Michelle Ryan), an ancient plague is unleashed on London’s East End turning the locals into zombies. Next stop – the Bow Bells Care Home, where their granddad Ray (Alan Ford) and his fellow residents are trying to fend off the undead horde. Can the trio save the oldies and escape before it’s too late?

Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)

Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)

Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)

This 2012 zom-com combines the witty banter and comic hi-jinks of Carry On films of old with the flashy fast cut edits of a Guy Ritchie-styled mockney crime heist to produce one of the best British comedies in ages. In fact, having seen in countless times now, it’s as bloody brilliant as Shaun of the Dead.

Veteran stars Honor Blackman, Richard Briers and Dudley Sutton get the biggest laughs – especially Briers (who died six months after the film’s release) trying to outwalk the zombies on his zimmer frame. And the Ska-fuelled end credits song Head to Head with the Undead is just so darn catchy, you might find yourself wanting the soundtrack as well (yep, there is one).

Cockneys vs Zombies screens on The Horror Channel on Saturday 19th August at 9.00pm

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X Moor (2014) | Some nasty surprises await in the British indie horror – welcome to the lair of the Beast!

Xmoor poster

With her sights set on fame and fortune, American student journalist Georgia (Melia Kreiling) and her cameraman boyfriend Matt (Nick Blood) head to Exmoor in North Devon to capture footage of a legendary panther that is said to roam the moor.

With the help of an experienced animal tracker Fox (Matt Bonar), the couple set up camp in Slew Wood and begin fixing up 42 cameras to the trees and rocks. But when they uncover the rotting corpses of dozens of young women in the undergrowth, Georgia and Matt realise that Fox has intentionally led them into a serial killer’s dumping ground in a bid to hunt him down… So will they stay or will they go?

Xmoor (2014)

From writer/director Luke Hyams comes X Moor, an atmospheric survivalist horror. It’s a handsome looking film, with cool score and credits, and evocative photography of the wet and windy terrain (with Ballymoney, Northern Ireland standing in for Exmoor). The characters are well drawn and the cast is excellent.

Melia Kreiling’s Georgia’s got balls and a conscience and given what she goes through in the course of one night, she’s destined to join the ranks of horror’s other fierce Final Girls. Typically, Nick Blood’s Matt is a bit of a dick, although his relationship with Georgia comes off as playful and genuine. And when he sprains his leg and risks getting hypothermia, you can’t help but feel sorry for him.

Xmoor (2014)

Mark Bonnar’s Fox, meanwhile, is the film’s most intriguing character – part menacing, part sympathetic. He provides real gravitas to the proceedings and also one the film’s big shock moments. The other big jump-in-your-seat moment is when one of the six corpses the trio uncover is found to be still alive! That one really got me – as did the idea that the killer (the Beast) drugs his victims and buries them so that he can hunt them down later. That’s just sick!

The film however is ultimately let down by some serious randomness, especially the introduction of Charlene (Jemma O’Brien), the unseen killer’s one-eyed daughter, who is found by Georgia waiting for her father to return from grouse shooting. That was just too leftfield.

Xmoor (2014)

Then there’s the messy climax, in which everyone (killer included) make really stupid decisions until its just Georgia left to face her hunter armed with the jaw bone of a deer. What happens next is suppose to be the film’s big shock twist. But it just left me scratching my head and, in the end, there’s no closure for either Georgia or the audience. There’s also a suggestion that there’s more than one killer involved. I really wanted that one explained. The panther, by the way, does make an appearance on one of the CCTV cameras at the very end of the film. Growl!!!

FAVOURITE LINE
‘Smells like a giant kitty litter’

XMoor gets its UK TV premier on The Horror Channel today (Friday 18 August) at 9pm.

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Vampira (1974) | A dashing David Niven brings a touch of class to the bloodsucking British farce

Vampira (1974)

David Niven’s super smooth Count Dracula is strapped for cash and renting his Transylvania castle out as an upscale B&B and corporate event facility. But when he uses the blood from four finalists doing a Playboy photo-shoot to resurrect his beloved wife, Vampira (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In’s Teresa Graves), he gets the shock of his life when Vampira turns black.

Packing his coffin, old Drac, his jocular manservant Maltravers (Peter Bayliss) and Vampira leave the Carpathians behind for swinging London and a haunted Hampstead mansion to track down the right ‘donor’ to restore Vampira…

Vampira (1974)

Known as Old Dracula in the US (to cash in on Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein), this 1974 vampire comedy was written by Jeremy Lloyd (of Are You Being Served? and ’Allo ’Allo fame) as a vehicle for David Niven, who brings a real touch of class to director Clive Donner’s Carry On meets Confessions of a Biteable Playmate farce.

Vampira (1974)

One-liner vampire jokes are the order of the day, with the best of them deservedly going to Bayliss, although Niven does get some nifty ones like: ‘That look of horror when they realise that it’s me is so exciting’. Drac’s castle dinner show, complete with creepy organ-playing and flying bats, effectively spoofs Hammer’s horrors, while his gimmicky haunted London pad with its screaming, laughing ghosts, satanic imagery and rat-infested well is a nod to William Castle and AIP’s 1970s shockers.

Vampira (1974)

Lloyd and Donner also pay homage to blaxpoitation and spy flicks by turning Vampira into jive-talking disco queen after watching Black Gunn, and giving Niven some nifty weapons, including a cane with a deadly blade, which he uses to rescue a damsel in distress; while Anthony Newley’s jaunty theme tune sung by UK soul band, The Majestics is played over Bond-esque silhouetted credits. Mind you, Niven blacking up for the film’s final shot may have been misguided.

Vampira (1974)

Psychomania‘s Nicky Henson plays horror writer Marc, who comes under the Count’s hypnotic control in order to put the bite on the likes of Jennie Linden and Veronica Carlson; while sex kitten Linda Hayden makes an early exit when her just-turned waitress Helga gets staked with a crossbow. Comedy actors Bernard Bresslaw and Frank Thornton make their hilarious cameos count, while the other ‘stars’ are the gritty Soho locations and David Whitaker’s funky music that has an air of Geoff Love’s fake 1970’s exotica group Mandingo about it. Fangs for the laughs, folks!

The Fabulous Films Blu-ray & DVD release features a lovely transfer, but no extras. Available from 14 August 2017

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Prevenge (2016) | Alice Lowe delivers with a surprisingly emotional black comedy

Prevenge (2017)Alice Lowe writes, directs and stars in the deadpan black comedy, Prevenge, which follows her heavily pregnant character, Ruth, struggling with prepartum depression and turning to murder as a result.

Prevenge (2016)

Convinced by her unborn baby (who speaks to her from her womb) that her partner’s death in a climbing accident was the result of a group decision to cut his rope, Ruth tracks them down and kills them with a large kitchen knife. But when her waters break as she finally confronts the group’s leader, Tom, (Kayvan Novak), Ruth finds herself on a cliff edge (both literally and metaphorically) swaying between redemption and destruction…

Prevenge (2016)

Shot in just 11 days during Lowe’s own real-life pregnancy, Prevenge is an assured directorial debut from the writer/actress, who is best known for her turns in Ben Wheatley’s Kill List and Sightseers. Now I came into the film expecting it to be played strictly for laughs, but there’s an emotional core that quietly drags you in.

And that’s down to Lowe’s compelling performance as Ruth who, throughout her murder spree, which includes slashing the throat of Kate (Game of Thrones) Dickie’s bitchy boss and the gory castration of Tom Davis’ sleazy DJ, the viewer is left wondering if she’s clinically mad or just having a really bad day?

Prevenge (2016)

Thankfully, Ruth’s got Jo Hartley’s caring midwife to help ground her back to reality. But Ruth is a deeply sad and lonely woman – and you can’t help but sympathise with her because she has no family or support as she awaits the birth of her baby.

Ruth’s bland apartment – which looks like temporary council accommodation – only heightens her loneliness and sense of alienation. So do the other-worldly neon-lit Cardiff city locations  – which were chosen on purpose according to Lowe in the extras.

Speaking of which, do check out the Post Natal Confessions extra, it’s really informative in shedding light on the making of this surprisingly emotional black comedy that deserves multiple viewings. It also reveals the genesis behind my favourite scene in which Ruth meets ‘Death’ in the form of a Halloween party-goer.

Prevenge (2016)

Prevenge is out on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD from includes an audio commentary with Alice Lowe, cinematographer Ryan Eddleston, editor Matteo Bini and producer Vaughan Sivell.

The Prevenge soundtrack by ToyDrum is also available digitally through Invada Records at www.invada.co.uk

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