Category Archives: Must See

Saint-Narcisse (2020) | Bruce LaBruce’s transgressive love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers

Since making his debut with 1991’s No Skin Off My Ass, Toronto filmmaker Bruce LaBruce has challenged audiences with his startling, sexually explicit films whose subject matter has included amputee sex, hardcore porn, gang-rape, castration and racially-motivated violence. Following 2013’s Gerontophilia, however, LaBruce changed direction, eschewing the extreme for a more meditative approach to his ongoing fascination with sexual taboos.

With Saint-Narcisse, he has crafted his most accomplished piece of transgressive cinema to date. Nominated for the Queer Lion award at Venice Film Festival, this anarchic love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers looks certain to mark a turning point for queer cinema’s former enfant terrible. But never fear; he still has a few shocks in store – this time, its twincest. 

Félix-Antoine Duval stars as 22-year-old Dominic, a sexually-adventurous young man in love with his reflection but doesn’t really know himself fully. Finding some unopened letters in his grandmothers’ closet, he discovers a family secret: his mother Beatrice (Tania Kontoyanni) didn’t die in childbirth. Determined to uncover the truth, Dominic heads to the parish town of Saint-Narcisse, north of Montreal, where he is shocked to find a tombstone inscribed with his name and date of death in a local graveyard.

Finally tracking down his mother (who the locals have labelled a witch), he discovers she’s a lesbian who was excommunicated by the church and was led to believe Dominic was stillborn. Now she lives in exile in a cabin in the woods with Irene (Alexandra Petrachuk), her late lover’s daughter. But Dominic also learns he has a twin. Sequestered in a remote monastery since birth, Daniel is being raised and groomed by a priest, Father Andrew (Andreas Apergis), who believes he is the reincarnation of Saint Sebastian. 

Whether dressed in leathers and sporting stubble or naked and shaved, Duval has the look of the divine about him, and his sex scenes (with himself) are both erotic and very tender indeed. It takes a good hour before the twins meet, but LaBruce uses that time to develop the narrative and his characters fully. Setting the film in 1972 also allows him to explore critical issues, such as children being taken away from their mothers (who happen to be lesbian or even just unmarried) and priests preying on the young men in their care.

I won’t reveal what happens, but LaBruce comes up trumps with a scene involving a St Andrew’s Cross, communion wafers, a wedding dress and some Caravaggio-inspired lighting that will stay with you long after the ending.

Kudos go to Andreas Apergis (who appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past and the US version of Being Human) as the film’s villain, the depraved Father Andrew. If his scary eyes don’t creep you out, his toe licking of the equally scary-eyed Saint Sebastian statue will. Oh, and that scene with the (very fit) monks skinny-dipping is gloriously gratuitous.

Saint-Narcisse will be released theatrically in the UK on 22 April
with a DVD and digital release from Peccadillo Pictures on 2 May 2022

A Tale of Two Sisters | Kim Jee-woon’s stylish and scary 2003 chiller on Blu-ray

Director Kim Jee-woon’s stylish and scary 2003 thriller, A Tale of Two Sisters, is one of the key films of the Korean New Wave. Now it’s getting a Blu-ray release from Arrow that comes with a host of extras that you should only view once you have watched the gripping chiller.

Inspired by the popular Korean folktale, Janghwa Hongryeon jeon, the twisted mystery centres on young Su-mi (Im Soo-jung), who returns home with her father (Kim Kap-soo) and her younger sister, Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young), after a stay in a mental facility. But the reason for her hospitalisation only becomes clear when she encounters the ghost of her dead mother, and engages in a battle of wills with her cold-hearted, self-medicating, stepmother (Yum Jung-ah).

Exquisitely photographed, with wonderful performances all around (especially the glacial Yum Jung-ah as the wicked step mum), A Tale of Two Sisters, is a slow burner but it’s never boring as every scene counts. It also deserves multiple viewings, so you can fully appreciate Jee-woon’s assured direction, visuals and storytelling.

Here’s what you also get…

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original DTS-HD MA 5.1 and uncompressed stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Brand-new Audio commentary by Korean Cinema historian Pierce Conran & critic James Marsh
• Audio commentary by writer/director Kim Jee-woon, lighting cameraman Oh Seung-chul and cinematographer Lee Mo-gae
• Audio commentary by writer/director Kim Jee-woon and cast members Im Soo-jung and Moon Geun-young
• Always on the Move: The Dynamic Camera and Spaces of Master Stylist Kim Jee-woon, a brand-new visual essay by Korean Cinema historian Pierce Conran
• Spirits of the Peninsula: Folklore in Korean Cinema, a brand-new visual essay by cultural historian Shawn Morrisey
• Imaginary Beasts: Memory, Trauma & the Uncanny in A Tale of Two Sisters, a brand-new visual essay by genre historian and critic Kat Ellinger
• Behind the Scenes, an archival featurette shot during filming
– Outtakes, archival footage from the set
• Production Design, an archival featurette about the intricate look of the sets
• Music Score, an archival featurette
• CGI, an archival featurette
• Creating the Poster, an archival featurette about the iconic original poster
• Cast Interviews, archival interviews with Kim Kab-su (Father), Yeom Jung-a (Stepmother), Im Soo-jung (Su-mi), and Moon Geun-young (Su-yeon)
• Deleted scenes with director’s commentary
• Director’s analysis, an archival featurette in which Kim Jee-woon discusses the complexity and ambiguities contained within the film and why they were important to him.
• Director’s thoughts on horror, an archival featurette in which Kim Jee-woon discusses his feelings about the horror genre.
• Psychiatrist’s Perspective, an archival featurette exploring the psychological reality behind the story of the film
• Theatrical Trailer
• Stills galleries
• Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Sister Hyde
• Illustrated booklet featuring new writing by critics Stacie Ponder and Anya Stanley, plus a new translation of the original Korean folktale that inspired the film.

Lake Mungo | Australia’s answer to Paranormal Activity gets a deluxe Blu-ray release from Second Sight

Lake Mungo is one of those films where the chills come gradually rather than in short sharp shocks, just like the similarly-themed Paranormal Activity. Released back in 2008, director Joel Anderson’s documentary-style thriller has become something of a must-see, and now its set to garnered new fans with Second Sight’s deluxe Blu-ray box-set featuring new interviews with cast and crew; filmmaker fans Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, and director Rob Savage; a brand new commentary, video essays and archive material.

In the small rural town of Ararat, southwest Victoria, 16-year-old Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) drowns while swimming with her family at a local dam. After her body is recovered and she is laid to rest, her family start to experience strange happenings in their home and become convinced that Alice has returned as a ghost. They then seek out the help of a radio psychic (Steve Jodrell), who discovers Alice kept secrets about her personal life from her family before she died. Alice’s brother Matthew (Martin Sharpe) then sets up a camera to capture his sister’s ghostly presence – and the results are quite unsettling…

Filmed in the vein of the Kiwi-made TV paranormal crime show Sensing Murder, Lake Mungo is made up of a series of interviews with Alice’s family and friends, interspersed with some arty location shots: mainly the starry night sky and a sunset-drenched countryside. The cast’s deadpan delivery of the dialogue is eerie to watch (particularly Alice’s dad David, who looks like he is going to break down and cry but never does), while the plot twists are surprising (particularly Matthew’s big admission).

But there are some rather odd moments (the mother’s obsession with breaking into her neighbour’s houses for instance feels absurd). With this in mind, I expected the film to turn on its head at one point and become a parody of the genre, in the same vein as the Australian mockumentary Angry Boys. But it doesn’t. Instead Lake Mungo takes itself deadly seriously and – despite some of the ideas being a little stretched-out – becomes one of those genuinely unsettling chillers that will have you watching the shadows in your own home long after the credits have ended. One shocking moment for me – personally – was seeing my old university tutor playing the psychic.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• Archive audio commentary by Producer David Rapsey and DoP John Brawley
• New audio commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood
Captured Spirits: an interview with DoP John Brawley
Ghost in the Machine: an interview with Producer David Rapsey
A Cop and a Friend: an interview with Actors Carole Patullo & James Lawson
Kindred Spirits: Filmmakers Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead on Lake Mungo
Hosting Spirits: Filmmaker Rob Savage on Lake Mungo
Simulacra and Spirits: a video essay by film writer Josh Nelson
Autopsy of a Family Home: a video essay by filmmaker Joseph Wallace
• Deleted scenes

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Rigid slipcase
• Perfect-bound booklet with new essays by Sarah Appleton, Simon Fitzjohn, Rich Johnson, Mary Beth McAndrews and Shellie McMurdo, interview with actor James Lawson by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas plus rare behind-the-scenes photos
• Three collectors’ art cards

Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway | This virtual reality mystery thriller is totally bonkers!

Are you ready for Miguel Llansó’s dystopian mashup of Afro-futurism, Cold War paranoia and 1960s/1970s exploitation cinema?

In 2035, the megalopolis of Tallinn is managed by a computer programme called Psychobook. Agents Palmer Eldritch (Agustín Mateo) and D.T. Gagano (Daniel Tadesse) are tasked with protecting it from any and all threats. But when a virus called ‘Soviet Union’ is detected, they set out to destroy it. On entering the system, however, the agents fall into a trap which leaves Gagano in a coma and stuck in the virtual world of Betta Ethiopia, where he is considered the true heir to the throne.

With the help of hologram Jiminy (Aris Rozentals), Gagano tackles the challenge of becoming the new Emperor, encountering kung-fu fighting monks, an Irish-accented Stalin, a coke-snorting Batman, and a Jesus Christ-like figure along the way. But as his kick-boxing girlfriend (Gerda-Annette Allikas) tends to him in the real world, Gagano struggles to discover just how to use a truth-seeking substance that will set him free…

Shot in Ethiopia, Latvia, Estonia and Spain, this bonkers, brain-boiling (crowd-funded) adventure is hugely inventive featuring a virtual reality world that looks like it’s been modelled on one of Eddie Romero’s Filipino horrors of the 1970s. Director Miguel Llansó’s underground James Bond meets The Matrix satire also pays homage to 1960s Euro-thrillers with its purposely out-of-synch dialogue, while the film’s computer technology is so 1990s (the Macintosh classic makes an appearance). Then there are those crazy characters wearing paper masks of famous Hollywood actors – including Robert Redford (I think – as it might also be James Franciscus or Peter Graves). But kudos go to Ethiopian actor Daniel Tadesse, who gives a stand-out performance in this, his fourth collaboration with Llansó. He so should have his own TV series….

Time to get in the pizza slices (there’s quite a few consumed) and switch on Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway which is available now on Arrow Video Channel (Apple TV and Amazon Prime)

Check out this mind-blowing 10-minute mega-loop trailer…

The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse | Your heart might just miss a beat watching Fritz Lang’s thrilling cinematic swansong

From Eureka Entertainment comes The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse (Die 1000 Augun des Dr Mabuse), the final instalment in Fritz Lang’s trilogy and the director’s cinematic swansong on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series.

After enjoying success with 1959’s Indian Epic (AKA The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb), German producer Artur Brauner signed Fritz Lang to direct one more film back in his home country. The result would be a picture that brought Lang’s career full-circle and become his final celluloid testament.

Why does it hurt when my heart misses the beat?
The character of megalomaniac criminal mastermind Dr Mabuse (who I will always associate with Propaganda’s 1984 debut song – catch the music video below) was originally made famous by Lang in his pre-Hollywood years. First in the four+ hour long 1922 silent Dr Mabuse (based on the novel of the same name by Norbert Jacques), then in the 1933 sound crime thriller Testament of Dr Mabuse (based on Jacques’ unfinished novel, Mabuse’s Colony). Both films starred Rudolf Klein-Rogge as the titular villain and both were set in the period of the Weimar Republic.

The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse is set in 1960s at the start of the Cold War, and while it is not a direct sequel, it does exist in the same universe. When a TV journalist is killed in his car on his way to an important broadcast, Inspector Kras (Gert Frobe) gets a call from blind psychic informant Peter Cornelius (Lupo Prezzo), who had a vision of the crime but not the perpetrator.

Meanwhile, at the Luxor Hotel (where every room has been bugged), industrialist Henry Travers (Peter Van Eyck) comes to the aid of the mysterious Marian (Dawn Addams), when she attempts to commit suicide in a bid to escape her abusive. Meanwhile, salesman Hieronymus B Mistelzweig (Werner Peters) always seems to be lurking about. Together, these disparate characters come together to work out just who is channelling Mabuse (Wolfgang Preiss).

This is a thrilling, action-packed crime thriller where Nazi survellious tech, sex crimes, paranoia, psychic powers and classic car chases collide, and its undoubtedly Lang’s final film masterpiece – and your heart might just miss a beat watching it. It also a spawned six Mabuse films in competition with the poplular German Edgar Wallace Krimi films. A must see.

The Masters of Cinema Series Blu-ray is available to order from: Eureka Store and Amazon

SPECIAL FEATURES
* 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
* Original German soundtrack
* Optional English audio track, approved by Fritz Lang
* Optional English subtitles
* Feature-length audio commentary by film-scholar and Lang expert David Kalat
* 2002 interview with Wolfgang Preiss (this is a wonderfully informative piece, and quite poignant as it was filmed two weeks before Preiss’ death in November 2002)
* Alternate ending
* Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned and original poster artwork
* Collector’s booklet featuring a new essays; vintage reprints of writing by Lang; and notes by Lotte Eisner on Lang’s final, unrealised projects

The Night of the Generals | The World War Two whodunnit on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes the World War Two thriller, The Night of the Generals, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, taken from a brand new 4K restoration, as part of the Eureka Classics range.

In 1942 Warsaw, a prostitute is found brutally murdered. Normally, the crime would attract little attention in war, but evidence points to one of three top Nazi generals as the killer. Thanks to German Military Intelligence officer, Major Grau, an epic man-hunt begins, through to Nazi-occupied Paris where, in 1944, an almost exact replica of the crime is committed…

This epic 1967 film, adapted from Joseph Kessel’s novel and directed by Anatole Litvak (making his penultimate picture), has a cast to die for! Not only do you have Peter O’Toole, Donald Pleasence and Charles Gray playing the prime suspects, you’ve got Omar Sharif (as Grau), Tom Courtenay, Christopher Plummer, Gordon Jackson, Coral Browne and many more. Even Juliette Greco gets in a little song.

More whodunnit than full-on war drama (with a Hitler assassination subplot that, frankly, seems a bit of an add-on), it also features a magnificent score from Maurice Jarre and evocative film location camerawork, alongside Litvak’s carefully calculated direction.

The highlight for me, however, was seeing Gray and Browne sparring as the devoted von Seidlitz-Gabler couple – as they would play similar roles on the London stage in 1975 in Jean Anouilh’s Ardèle alongside Browne’s hubby, Vincent Price. But O’Toole really is also totally captivating – even though he looks rather pale, sweaty and ill throughout most of the proceedings.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray, taken from a stunning 4K restoration
• Uncompressed LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
• Optional English subtitles
• Brand new and exclusive Audio Commentary by author Scott Harrison
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by author Scott Harrison

 

The Big Clock | John Farrow’s superior 1940’s noir heads to Blu-ray

Screwball comedy and heady thrills collide in director John Farrow’s superior noir suspenser, The Big Clock (1948), adapted from the classic 1946 Kenneth Fearing novel of the same name.

Overworked true crime editor George Stroud (Ray Milland) has been planning a vacation for months. However, when his boss, the tyrannical Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), insists he skips his holidays, Stroud resigns before embarking on a drunken night out with his boss’ mistress, Pauline York (Rita Johnson). When Janoth kills Pauline in a fit of rage, Stroud finds himself becoming the prime suspect in her murder…

Charles Laughton may steal the limelight here, but Elsa Lanchester (aka Mrs Laughton) is a real gem as the zany painter with a string of ex-husbands. Ray Milland and Maureen O’Sullivan (aka Mrs Farrow) are also good as the hero and heroine, and George Macready is super hissable as usual. Farrow tops off his terrific vintage thriller with an exciting chase climax.

The Arrow Academy Blu-ray edition of The Big Clock is out on 13 May 2019

SPECIAL FEATURES
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
• Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
Turning Back the Clock: analysis of the film by Adrian Wootton
A Difficult Actor: an appreciation of Charles Laughton by Simon Callow
• 1948 radio dramatisation by the Lux Radio Theatre, starring Ray Milland
• Original theatrical trailer
• Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options

Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1965) | Robert Aldrich’s splendidly macabre murder mystery on Blu-ray

hush... hush, sweet charlotte-4

From Eureka! Entertainment comes director Robert Aldrich’s brooding murder mystery, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, starring Bette Davis, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.

Don’t Tell Anyone What Happened In The Summer House!
Tended by her loyal servant Velma (Agnes Moorehead), Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) has been closeted in her family’s plantation mansion ever since the brutal murder of her married lover, John Mayhew (Bruce Dern) 37 years earlier. When the local county plans to tear down the house to build a highway, the spinster seeks the help of her New York-based cousin Miriam (Olivia de Havilland), but Charlotte’s mind soon becomes unhinged when she sees visions of John’s decapitated hand and hearing the song he composed for her wafting through the mansion late at night. Has his ghost really come back to haunt her or is someone trying to drive Charlotte insane?

Regarded as Aldrich’s informal follow-up to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, this splendidly macabre psychological thriller deservedly stands on its own merits, especially considering its seven Academy Award nominations, including a Best Supporting Actress gong for Agnes Moorehead. She is simply splendid as the dishevelled Velma, who is quick to alert the authorities and an insurance investigator (a twinkly Cecil Kellaway) about her suspicions. Moorehead’s old Mercury Theatre pal, Joseph Cotton, meanwhile, chews the scenery big time as the bourbon-soaked Dr Drew Bayliss, who jilted Miriam after the murder.

In her last film role is The Maltese Falcon‘s Mary Astor. ‘Turn her loose, Robert, you might learn something!’ was Davis’ famous on-set comment about the veteran actress whose scenes as John’s seriously-ill widow Jewel are the antithesis of Davis’ full-blown hysterics. Nevertheless, Davis brings much pathos to Charlotte (especially in the last half of the film), while Olivia de Havilland (who sensationally replaced Joan Crawford) gives sterling support as the butter-wouldn’t-melt Miriam, who is hiding a few dark secrets of her own.

With its atmospheric black and white cinematography (from Aldrich regular Joseph Biroc), meticulous art direction (from William Glasgow and Raphael Bretton), cracking script (from Baby Jane novelist Henry Farrell), ghoulish special effects and nightmarish set pieces, not to mention the memorably haunting theme tune (from Frank De Vol and Mack David), this is a classic murder mystery of the highest order and one that can be revisited over and over..

Watch out for George Kennedy as the demolition foreman, Ellen Corby as one of the town’s gossips, and a couple of faces from Baby Jane, including Victor Buono as Charlotte’s domineering father whom she believed killed John.

Favourite line: ‘Don’t turn on the light. It’s not real when it’s light. It’s only real when it’s dark… dark and still!’

Eureka! Entertainment presents Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte as part of their Masters of Cinema Series for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK with the following extras…

• 1080p presentation
• LPCM 2.0 Audio
• Optional English SDH subtitles
• Audio commentary by critic Kat Ellinger
• Audio commentary by film historian Glenn Erickson
• Hush…Hush, Sweet Joan: The Making of Charlotte [22 mins]
• Bruce Dern Remembers [13 mins]
• Wizard Work [5 mins] – archival behind-the-scenes look at the film, narrated by Joseph Cotton
• Stills Gallery
• Trailer & TV spots
• Collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Lee Gambin, illustrated with archival imagery

Available to order from Zavvi at http://po.st/vIhZja

DID YOU KNOW?
Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, which was shot on location at the historic Houmas plantation in Burnside, Louisiana, was originally going to be called What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte? However, Bette Davis disliked the title as it indicated a sequel to Baby Jane, so it was she who suggested using Frank De Vol/Mack David’s song title instead. Crooner Al Martino (who sings the tune over the closing credits) released it as a B-side of his January 1965 single release My Heart Would Know, which reached No.52 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bette Davis, Patti Page, Richard Chamberlain and even the UK’s very own Bruce Forsyth all released their own versions of the melody.

Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965) | The neo-noir psychosexual oddity starring Sal Mineo restored in HD

Who Killed Teddy Bear?

Take one handsome leading Hollywood actor, add two foxy Broadway hoofers, throw in some hip-grinding jazz sounds and mix it all up in a soufflé of psychosexual angst set against a sleazy New York City nightclub and ‘Hey Presto!’ you’ve got Who Killed Teddy Bear?, which is now getting a worldwide Blu-ray release from Network Distributing in the UK.

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

From the cheesy theme tune and Saul Bass-inspired title sequence to the shattering climax, this 1965 neo-noir American indie reeks of exploitation. Sal Mineo (of Rebel Without a Cause fame) plays Lawrence, a busboy at a 42nd Street discotheque run by Marian, a fierce-but-fair lesbian (played by the utterly fabulous Elaine Stritch).

Spinning the decks in the dingy club littered with grooving babes and middle-aged men on the make is hostess-cum-DJ Norah (the alluring Juliet Prowse – you might remember her dancing with the Muppets back in the 1970s).

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

Sexually-frustrated and forced to look after his mentally-challenged sister, Sal Mineo’s chain-smoking Lawrence gets his jollies from making dirty phone calls to Norah in the dead of night in his tight white briefs. Cue lots of heavy breathing and a very frightened young woman.

Enter equally mixed-up cop, Lt Dave Madden (played by US stand-up comic Jan Murray). Madden is determined to put every pervert in New York behind bars and obsessively plays audio tapes of various criminals confessions as his daughter listens from her bedroom (now, that’s just not right!). Madden then sets out to help Norah, but there’s a problem – she thinks he might be the psycho…

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

I won’t spoil the rest for you, but the gritty Times Square location shots and overt sexualisation of Mineo’s sweaty toned body (check out the slideshow for a taster) makes this curio a must-see. The catchy discotheque numbers, meanwhile, are by Four Seasons’ Bob Gaudio and Al Kasha (who wrote those Maureen McGovern songs in The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno).

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Who Killed Teddy Bear is a forgotten neo-noir oddity of American independent cinema that rightly deserves high cult status. Previously available only on DVD, the film has been newly scanned from one of the few surviving 35mm prints in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Missing frames/sections have been re-instated from a 16mm print and the image matched as far as possible but a difference in visual quality may be occasionally noticed. While their are some scenes where print damage is still visible, this new scan is a huge improvement on the 2009 DVD release.

Network Distributing’s Blu-ray (out on 17 September 2018) also carries over the extras from the DVD, including The House Where He Lived, an episode of the 1960s TV series Court Martial, in which Mineo guest stars alongside Anthony Quayle; and 1967 short, LSD: Insight or Insanity, narrated by Mineo, in which some questionable old men in white coats outline the dangers of taking the drug.

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

 

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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, and The Creepers on VHS) 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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