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THE PETE WALKER COLLECTION

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    Horace Cordier
    Senior Member

  • Pete Walker Collection, The



    Released by: Kino/Redemption
    Released on: November 20, 2012.
    Director: Pete Walker
    Cast: Susan George, Jack Jones, Pamela Stephenson, David Doyle, Penny Irving
    Year: Various
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    Comprised of four films, Kino's set represents an excellent primer on the career of 70's genre stalwart Pete Walker. The quality of both the transfers and films are generally excellent with one exception.

    We start with 1974's HOUSE OF WHIPCORD which remains one of Walker's strongest efforts. This is essentially a women in prison film setup that takes place in a home instead of an actual prison with a bunch of deranged "moralists" tormenting poor young ladies. Stunningly naive Ann-Marie (Penny Irving) has come to the big city to work as a fashion model. She's both young and gorgeous and meets the ludicrously named Mark E. Desade (Robert Tayman) who quickly charms the pants off her and somehow manages to convince her to join him at a party at a mansion out in the middle of nowhere. This is no normal mansion however - it is a secret prison for lewd and lascivious women run by Mark's mother, Mrs. Wakehurst (Barbara Markham) and Justice Bailey (Patrick Barr) replete with sham trials.

    What is most interesting about the film is its slyly subversive undercurrent about moral hypocrisy. Walker was known, in contrast to most of his peers, for his conservative political views but HOUSE OF WHIPCORD casts a dim view on Justice Bailey and his cohorts. While Walker gives the audience just enough T&A to meet the demands of the exploitation genre, there is also a strong focus on the risible behavior of these self-appointed moral guardians. And even with the whippings and nudity this isn't quite as exploitative as one would imagine - the girls are so likable, and the abuse so grimy, that the real thrust of the film becomes a revenge setup. You want to see these despicable creeps get what is coming to them. It must also be noted that Markham is particularly effective. Her enthusiasm for torturing her female charges makes for a particularly loathsome character. As a statement against the British guardians that made much public hay out of criticizing Walker and the type of populist films that he made HOUSE OF WHIPCORD is a winner.

    Click on the images throughout the review for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!
















    The second film in the set is the 1978 man-in-peril/pop music world nightmare THE COMEBACK. The film opens with a spectacularly nasty murder committed by a scythe wielding killer in a hideous old lady mask and wig. We then cut to pop star Nick Cooper (Jack Jones) arriving in England. He has just been through a rough divorce from his scheming ex-wife and been out of the pop game for six years. His tough manager (an excellent David Doyle showing he had far more range than just the lovably goofy Bosley on CHARLIE'S ANGELS) has set Jones up in a lovely mansion in the English countryside replete with 2 middle-aged servants to work on his comeback album. The servants, Mr. And Mrs. B (Bill Owen and Sheila Keith) veer between being strangely overly familiar to downright hostile and uncommunicative. Mrs B also has a strange habit of popping up unannounced in various rooms. The film then moves into haunted hose territory as Nick keeps hearing strange cries and moans and seeing a corpse that conveniently manages to disappear before anyone can verify its existence. There is also Nick's relationship with his manager's sexy secretary to add further complications.

    This is a well- plotted horror film with outstandingly grisly gore effects. The rotting corpse that figures prominently in the film is chillingly effective. Performances are excellent all around with Doyle and Keith being standouts. As various friends and acquaintances start dropping like flies and his whole world gets scarier and scarier, Jones does a neat reverse woman-in-distress trick. The final twist is both clever and unforeseen - which is rare for this kind of film. THE COMEBACK is a winner.
















    Up next is 1976's SCHIZO which opens with a scene describing mental illness that would probably earn an instant boycott in today's politically correct world. This is Walker in pure slasher mould with a young figure skater (the achingly lovely Lynne Frederick) being stalked by a creepy as hell older gent. Our heroine Samantha is engaged to the earnest Alan Falconer (John Leyton) but trouble is brewing. We keep cutting back and forth to Samantha's memories of her mothers brutal murder and that aforementioned strange older man doing classic crazy guy stuff like cutting up newspaper announcements of our girl's upcoming nuptials and packing scary cutlery into a suitcase. Where is he headed? Can you say stalker vacation? And what is the connection between him and his pretty target?

    Every plot twist in this one is old news but Walker handles the conventions with gusto. This is also pretty bloody stuff and where we get a chance to see Walker go for the blood and breasts with enthusiasm. Highly effective stabbings mix with nice touches of the Italian Giallo - notice the loving fetishization of bladed weaponry. Frederick does terror really well and Stephanie Beacham is also on hand as Samantha's best friend for some nice additional eye candy for the male viewers. Special props to actor Jack Watson as the stalker - in his dingy overcoat and unkempt appearance he's a truly freaky figure. The film also contains a terrifying sequence with a medium communicating with the dead that William Friedkin would have been proud to call his own.
















    Up last is the one dog in this kennel - 1971's virtually bloodless thriller DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE. Plagued by production problems related to director Walker's contentious relationship with star Susan George, the film is a convoluted mess about sexy go-go dancer George who has left Portugal on the run after being threatened by some rough trade.

    She hooks up with creep Sebastian (Christopher Sanford) who tells her she can shack up with him in London. Of course the two start sleeping together and we are then introduced to Sebastian's friend Eli (Barry Evans). After Sebastian proposes and Marianne accepts the movie gets into a ridiculous plot involving Marianne getting involved with Eli, her mysterious relationship with her father (who, it turns out, is the reason she had to flee Portugal), a Swiss bank account and a homicidal sister.

    Instead of a more in depth plot description let us cut to the chase. Hitchcockian thrillers were quite the rage at the time of this film's release. A number of fairly effective ones like PARANOIAC with Oliver Reed had been done in England earlier. MARIANNE however is a great example of one of the lousy ones. Walker wanted more nudity and exploitation elements in the film but was fought tooth and nail by his star so the film could have only succeeded with a strong plot. While some of the scenery is nice and George's opening dance number sexy fun the rest of this is a plodding and confusing mess. And a full 30 minutes too long.


















    Video/Audio/Extras:

    In lieu of individual A/V assessments which would simply involve a lot of repeat information I am going to give an overall report. All 4 films are up to the usual Kino standards which means we are dealing with solid transfers that provide a marked increase in detail and no use of overbearing "corrective" techniques like DNR or grain reduction.

    Keep in mind that while color reproduction is very good - some of these films have drab color schemes so expecting a lot of "pop" in the image isn't realistic. SCHIZO suffers from the most softness in the image (though that appears inherent to the original elements) and THE COMEBACK has the crispest image by a small margin. All four films have their natural grain structure intact. Most importantly however, all of the films are in their correct aspect ratios. Previous DVD issues have suffered from various inconsistencies in this regard so it is wonderful to have this straightened out here. The AR specs are as follows and all films are in widescreen. Detail and texture are vastly improved over those previous DVD releases as well.

    The four movies are framed as followed and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition:

    House Of Whipcord: 1.66.1
    The Comeback: 1.85.1
    Schizo: 1.78.1
    Die Screaming Marianne: 1.66.1












    As for audio, all the movies have only English language LPCM Mono tracks. No subtitles are provided but the audio is clear and free of any obvious distortion, clarity is fine across the board and dialogue is easy to follow. The scores also sound very good here.

    All of the films except for SCHIZO have commentary tracks that are informative and entertaining. Walker is a good speaker and knows how to keep the listener engaged while providing the inside scoop on film production. In addition the set has some nice on camera interviews with Walker specific to each film except for MARIANNE which are very interesting and in SCHIZO's case, makes up for the lack of a commentary track. Finally we have a featurette entitled "An Eye For Terror Part 1" which is a more general overview of Walker's career appended to the MARIANNE disc in lieu of a film specific interview. All of the films have their original trailers included as well.

    The Final Word

    This is a great set for fans of Pete Walker. The films have never looked better and the set has a nice selection of excellent extras. The films are highly recommended for fans of gritty 70's UK horror. Highly recommended.

    • Ian Jane
      #2
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      Ian Jane commented
      Editing a comment
      That was my mistake, it's been fixed.

    • Bruce Holecheck
      #3
      Bruce Holecheck
      Member
      Bruce Holecheck commented
      Editing a comment
      Haha, now just put the bottom four in the correct order. (You have them as Whipcord, Comeback, Schizo, Marianne.) Glad to see they did this up right; I can't believe how good THE COMEBACK looks. The price is still a little too high for me to take the plunge, but it's definitely on my list. I'm scanning my photo negatives for THE CONFESSIONAL for them at some point. Apparently they've licensed a total of thirteen Walker films!

    • Ian Jane
      #4
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      Ian Jane commented
      Editing a comment
      They've already confirmed Frightmare and Flesh & Blood Show are coming next year - it's a good time to be a Pete Walker fan.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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