Category Archives: Blu-Ray

Review: House of Whipcord (dir. Pete Walker, 1974)

House of Whipcord

House of Whipcord
UK, 1974
Director: Pete Walker
Writer: David McGillivray

Review by N Emmett.

While doing his rounds at night, a trucker picks up a frantic young woman (Penny Irving) as a hitchhiker. Too traumatised to talk, clad only in dirty rags and bearing the scars of whipping across her back, the girl has clearly been through hell. “Who did that to you, love?” asks the trucker. ”He deserves to swing for that, whoever he is.”

After this in medias res prologue, we learn that the woman is a nude model named Anne-Marie. Recently achieving infamy for posing naked in public, Anne-Marie is lured by a cold but alluring young man with the unlikely name of Mark E. Desade (Robert Tayman) into an old jailhouse. Officially abandoned, this prison has been taken over by a band of stern moralists who feel that too many young women have been getting away with sexual immorality.

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Review: The 10th Victim (dir. Elio Petri, 1965)

The 10th Victim

The 10th Victim (La decima vittima)
Italy/France, 1965
Director: Elio Petri
Writers: Tonino Guerra, Giorgio Salvioni, Ennio Flaiano and Elio Petri

Review by N Emmett.

In the twenty-first century, mankind has found a way to end all war: humanity’s destructive impulses are now channelled into a worldwide bloodsport in which contestants are allowed to legally kill each other. Each player is paired off with a designated rival, and anybody who takes out ten victims is awarded one million dollars.

Marcello (Marcello Polletti) and Caroline (Ursula Andress) are amongst those pitted against each other for the benefit of the eager crowds – along with a tea company, which hopes to record the resulting death for a television advert. But the match is seriously disrupted when the two killers fall in love…

Based on Robert Sheckley’s short story “The Seventh Victim”, The 10th Victim (La decima vittima) is an early entry in the “deadly game of the future” genre that includes The Hunger Games, Battle Royale and The Running Man. Its closest cousin, however, is Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000: both have such a similar line in ultra-kitsch imagery and cartoonish satire that, were it not for the fact that 10th Victim came first, it could easily be mistaken for an Italian exploitation knock-off of the Corman film.

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Review: Kiss of the Damned (dir. Xan Cassavetes, 2012)

Kiss of the Damned

Kiss of the Damned
USA, 2012
Director/writer: Xan Cassavetes

Review by N Emmett.

A pair of pale hands, holding a luscious red apple against a pitch black backdrop. A woman’s silver-skinned jawline, illuminated by crimson lips.  A raven-haired glamour model, striking a pose with an axe in her hand.

These are some typical examples of contemporary vampire imagery, the sort of thing that you can expect to see when browsing the bookshelves that are dedicated to the genre. With Kiss of the Damned, writer-director Xan Cassavetes has created a work that is rooted firmly in this iconography. Just as the 1981 Conan the Barbarian film was more concerned with adapting the Frank Frazetta illustrations than the actual Robert E Howard stories, Cassavetes is less interested in the narrative conventions of vampire fiction and instead embraces the world conjured up by the iconic book covers.

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Schalcken the Painter (scr. Leslie Megahey, 1979)

Schalcken the Painter

Schalcken the Painter
UK (BBC1), 1979
Writer/director: Leslie Megahey

Review by N Emmett.

Written and directed by Leslie Megahey and based on an 1839 story by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Schalcken the Painter is something of an oddity in the history of BBC programming. Although the corporation had a tradition of televising horror tales throughout the seventies in its A Ghost Story for Christmas strand, Schalcken was originally aired in 1979 as part of Omnibus – a long-running documentary series about art. Horror stories really do turn up in unusual places…

The narrative is a work of fiction inspired by the work of the seventeenth century Dutch artist Godfried Schalcken. Le Fanu describes a painting of a smiling woman alongside a man about to draw a sword at something hidden in the darkness, and imagines an entire backstory to explain what might have induced Schalcken to create such an image.

The main characters in the tale are Schalcken (Jeremy Clyde), his tutor Gerard Dou (Maurice Denham) and Dou’s fictional niece Rose (Cheryl Kennedy), whom Schalcken is in love with. A wealthy but sinister man named Vanderhausen (John Justin) unexpectedly arrives in Dou’s studio and offers a hefty fortune in exchange for Rose’s hand in marriage; Rose is aghast at the prospect of marrying such a terrifying individual, but Dou ignores her pleas and readily consents to the deal.

Shortly afterwards, both Vanderhausen and Rose vanish without a trace. This begins a string of weird experiences for Schalcken, culminating in a terrible vision inside the vault of a church…

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