FRIGHT. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

fright

FRIGHT. (1971) A BRITISH LION FILM. WRITTEN BY TUDOR GATES. DIRECTED BY PETER COLLINSON. STARRING SUSAN GEORGE, HONOR BLACKMAN, GEORGE COLE, DENNIS WATERMAN, JOHN GREGSON, TARA COLLINSON AND IAN BANNEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a terrific horror-thriller movie in the sub-genre of what we would call ‘babysitter horror.’ Remember the original version of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (Carol Kane), the first twenty minutes of which are pure unadulterated perfect horror? Damn right. ‘Have you checked the children?’

There’s also HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (Jocelin Donahue), in which a young American college student desperate for rent money is lured out into the sticks on the pretext of a babysitting job, but when she gets to the creepy old house in the country, she discovers two things. One, the baby she’s been called out to sit for isn’t a baby at all, but an elderly lady; and two, that the entire family are up to their tits in a devil cult. Lol. Dontcha just hate it when that happens?

And then, of course, there’s the original babysitter horror itself, HALLOWEEN, with Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode doing duty as the babysitter and the masked escaped criminal Michael Myers providing the chuckles, I mean, the murders.

FRIGHT stars the delectable Susan STRAW DOGS George as Amanda, the young babysitter and child welfare student who comes to the isolated house of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd to watch their son Tara, while they go out to the Plover Inn in the village a few miles away and celebrate ‘a sort of anniversary.’

The real star of the film is Susan George’s infinitely expressive, mobile face, with the huge eyes, the lush trembling lips and the slightly gammy but still charming teeth. This woman can really show fear in her face. Her long blonde hair and perfect, petite little body all go to complete the package.

The camera loves her, and her face can be shot endlessly in close-ups and you’d never get tired of it. Also, she’s rather smashing at portraying women who are being pushed around and abused by men. You can see this here, and also in STRAW DOGS which she made later in the year for Sam Peckinpah.

Anyway, as Amanda, she shows up at the Lloyds’ house in her fab little woolly pinky-purple mini-dress with the kinky black knee-boots, all set to babysit their little blond cherub of a son, Tara. By the way, in Ireland, Tara is a girl’s name. Just sayin.’

The Lloyds are played by George Cole (MINDER, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS) as Jim and the super-posh and classy Honor Blackman (GOLDFINGER, THE AVENGERS, TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER) as Helen. They are an uneasy pair.

Helen is obviously on edge, and doesn’t really want to leave the house, or her baby son, at all, but she’s going to go out to dinner for her husband’s sake and for the sake of living life as normal. Even though they clearly have a secret, one that might possibly place Amanda and the baby in danger if things pan out the way Helen clearly fears they’re going to.

The Lloyd house is big and old and creaky. Amanda gets a few scares initially that turn out to be no more than taps dripping or washing-lines tapping off the branches of trees. But when she sees a distorted man’s face through a ground floor window-pane, she can’t pass this off as a mere commonplace event.

She gets really scared and is glad when her male friend Chris (Dennis Waterman; MINDER, THE SCARS OF DRACULA) pops round to try and get in her knickers. She resists him at first, then gives in part of the way, then throws him out on his ear. Women, eh? Talk about moody and inconsistent. Men are like children. They need consistency in a woman. No means no and all that. Chris leaves, angry, confused and in a danger he’s unaware of…

In the meantime, there’s someone in the Lloyd house who shouldn’t be there and poor little Amanda, in her skimpy mini-dress that opens at the front to show her brassière and her perfect little boobies, is about to be subjected to a nightmare that will only be topped when Susan George films STRAW DOGS later in the year for Sam Peckinpah, the Daddy of Movie Violence. Will Amanda make it out alive? Will Tara? And what is the secret that’s eating Helen Lloyd up from the inside out…?

I love the shots of Helen and Jim boogey-ing on the dance floor in the Plover Inn, and also the fact that Amanda is watching Hammer’s PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES on the Lloyds’ ancient telly. FRIGHT could so easily pass for a Hammer film itself. 

I also love the confident, ginger-moustached cop who’s clearly in charge of the station’s one gun, and the way the desk sergeant won’t tell the Inspector a single solitary dicky-bird until he’s painstakingly made out a handwritten report.

‘Oh, you’ve been shot in the ‘ead there, ‘ave you, sir? Well, just hang on out here, sir, will you, while I go and fetch a pen and paper and write all this down for the Inspector, sir. Now where did I put that darned pen? It were ‘ere a minute or two ago. ‘Ere, you, Davies, ‘ave you had me pen? Blue it is, with a chewed cap where I chewed it myself. Oh, you’ve given up and died, ‘ave you, sir? Right on the floor down there? Fair enough, sir, I can’t say I blame you, but just hang on a minute, will you, while I make a note of it for the Inspector? Oh yes, that’s right, I’ve lost me pen, ‘aven’t I…?’

Cracking stuff. Watch FRIGHT. It’s a good atmospheric watch with loads of shocks and scares along the way. Out now from STUDIOCANAL, it features interviews with Susan George (she’s still alive and looking very well) and good-humoured cinema critic and snappy dresser Kim Newman. I saw him give a talk once, but unfortunately didn’t get close enough to him afterwards to ask for an autograph. You snooze, you lose.

But please don’t snooze while you’re on your own in a strange house, with their telly and your refrigerator privileges. That could be the very chance a boogeyman needs to gain access. And, once he’s in, he can be very hard to get rid of…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

AND SOON THE DARKNESS. (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

and soon the darkness

AND SOON THE DARKNESS. (1970) SCREENPLAY BY BRIAN CLEMENS. DIRECTED BY ROBERT FUEST. STARRING PAMELA FRANKLIN, MICHELE DOTRICE, JOHN NETTLETON AND SANDOR ELES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is exactly the kind of super-atmospheric 1970s British chiller I adore. It reminds me very much of ASSAULT (1971), aka IN THE DEVIL’S GARDEN, starring James Laurenson and featuring Lesley-Anne Down in her debut role. In it, a serial killer-slash-rapist terrorises the students of a girls’ college situated near a creepy forest.

In AND SOON THE DARKNESS, two pretty little English nurses from Nottingham taking a cycling holiday in northern France are terrorised in a similar fashion by an unknown assailant, and the film becomes a bit of a who-dunnit in that we have at least four plump, juicy, positively succulent suspects to choose from.

The two girls are Jane, played by Pamela Franklin (from THE INNOCENTS (1961) with Deborah Kerr), who actually looks as French as French can be with her chic bobbed brown hair and the little blue scarf knotted jauntily about her neck, and Cathy Mercer.

Cathy, a luscious blonde with long hair and a delectable figure, is portrayed superbly by none other than Michele Dotrice. Michele went on to experience television immortality for playing Betty Spencer, the long-suffering wife of the accident-prone Frank Spencer (Michael Crawford) in the hugely successful sitcom, SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM.

Jane and Cathy are, as I said, cycling through northern France on their holidays. Jane seems to be enjoying the fresh air and the scenery, but Cathy is bored to death with the empty roads, the wide-open spaces and the lack of hot night-spots. Or night hot-spots, if you prefer.

They are being followed at a distance by a strikingly attractive dark-haired French male on a moped, and having a good time with this stranger, to whom she’s never addressed so much as a word, would be much more the flirtatious Cathy’s idea of fun than endlessly cycling along these deserted French roads till her butt grows numb.

The two girls argue about this very subject. Cathy decides to mutiny and she downs tools- ie, her bicycle- and proceeds to lie down to sunbathe in a little clearing by some woods at the side of the road. You might as well bugger off, she tells Jane, if you’re so eager to keep cycling all bloody day. Me, I’m stoppin’ ‘ere! Ooooooh Betty…! You never made a worse decision.

Jane gets the hump and cycles off, stopping for a drink outside a really crappy café down the road a bit. After a while, she grows uneasy and decides to go back for her friend. But Cathy is gone. So is her bicycle, her backpack and the knickers she draped over the bushes so that they could dry in the sunlight. Jane doesn’t know what to think.

Thanks to a British woman who lives in the area and works as a teacher, she knows that a young tourist girl was murdered hereabouts only two or three years ago. More than just murdered, the British woman tells her with a snooty, disapproving face that can only mean that the girl was raped as well. It was a sex murder. But it was the girl’s own fault, of course, the woman is quick to point out, for being ‘alone on the road…’ Well, Jane is ‘alone on the road’ now. And so was her missing friend, Cathy…

Jane is starting to dread that something awful, something unthinkable, has happened to Cathy. The feeling of dread, for me, begins building up in this film right from the start, when you first see the two girls, cycling two abreast (cycling to a breast, tee-hee-hee) on a foreign country road.

Nothing but miles of open road and open sky. There is as much capacity for horror in wide-open spaces as there is in cramped basements and dusty attics, and this film portrays that really, really well. I mean, when there’s nobody around for miles and miles it can be nice and peaceful, sure, but it also means that there’s no-one around to come to your assistance if you get into trouble. The suspense and tension here just keep on being ratcheted up, until our jangling nerves are in shreds and we want to screech, tell us who it is already!

It’s one of those films that portrays not only sexy, half-dressed young women (come on, just LOOK at those short shorts!) in peril but also the holiday-maker in distress. Jane is careering around madly, looking for someone to help her find her friend, and she keeps coming up against both the language barrier (her French is barely functional) and also the difficulties inherent in trying to impress upon bored policemen who don’t speak your language that there really is a missing girl. Pamela Franklin’s face, like that of Michele Dotrice, is just so incredibly expressive. I’d give ’em both Oscars just for their brilliant facial expressions alone.

Hungarian actor Sandor Eles as the smoulderingly sexy Paul Salmont is just fantastic. Is he evil or does he really just want to help out Jane, a damsel in some very obvious distress? Frankly, I wouldn’t care how evil he was, he’s so devastatingly good-looking, and so super-cool too in his sunglasses and with his little moped tightly clamped between his brown-trousered thighs, lol. Hold me, he commands Jane. Phwoar! He wouldn’t have to ask me twice.

Locations of note? The little clearing by the woods at the side of the road where Cathy decides to have her nice lie-down, and the derelict caravan park. It’s not exactly Tom and Pippa’s homely, wholesome family-run caravan park from Antipodean soap opera HOME AND AWAY, is it? What horrors will we find there? God alone knows.

The scene at the edge of the woods reminds me of the five minutes at the beginning of another superb old British horror film called THE APPOINTMENT (1981). A schoolgirl called Sandie is making her way home from school by way of… you guessed it… a short-cut through the woods. It’s the last thing she ever does. It’s terrifically spooky.

Woods can be perilous, as well we know. As can going abroad on holiday to a place where you don’t speak the language, and the three inhabitants of the one village you pass all seem so inbred as to make the guys in that fine example of French extremity cinema, THE ORDEAL, look like models of deportment and sanity. The moral of the story? Forget your foreign holidays and bloody well stop at home. End of.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor