I'm so happy that Redemption Films and Kino-Lober have teamed up to bring us these lost titles from the height of the cult/grindhouse era. We've seen some pretty amazing and fun releases as of late from these two studios, and the Pete Walker collection is just the latest to arrive on blu-ray. Pete Walker is an interesting individual. He was born in the 30s and is still alive today, although I think his filmmaking days are over. Walker specialized in films that fit the sexploitation genre that mixed well with his horror style. And usually, his films involved someone of high authority punishing his victims in sadistic ways. And now, we have the Pete Walker collection on blu-ray, bringing us four of some of his best works, including 'The Comeback', 'Die Screaming, Marianne', 'House of the Whipcord', and 'Schizo'.
'House of Whipcord' is one hell of a fun and deranged movie. As all of Walker's films have a political or social undertone, much like George Romero's zombie franchise, this particular film satirizes corporal punishment and harassment in the workplace. The film starts off at a lively office party where a young model Anne-Marie (Penny Irving) was recently called to justice for showing her breasts in a photo shoot she did. Her work colleagues find out about this and brush it off as a joke and all have a friendly laugh about it.
Anne-Marie meets a guy named Mark E. Desade (I see what you did there.), whom has taken a liking to Anne-Marie, and the eventually go out. After their dinner date, Mark wants Anne to meet his mother and drives her out to the country to meet her, however once she gets out of the car, Mark speeds off, leaving her in the cold. There is someone waiting for Anne, and leads her to a dreadful place which is an off the grid women's home that is supposed to cure women of their wicked ways.
The place is run by the evil Mrs. Wakehurst (Barbara Markham) and her husband Justice Bailey (Patrick Barr) who are not above brutally torturing or even murdering their kidnapped victims. Mrs. Wakehurst is helped by Walker (Sheila Keith) and Bates (Dorothy Gordon), a duo of old ladies who use whips to keep the ladies in line. Will Anne and the other girls get out alive?
This film could be compared to the 'women in prison' genre, but it is much more than that. 'House of Whipcord' is more sadistic than that and less sexy. It's also much darker and sinister than other films of that sub-genre. I enjoyed seeing how Mrs. Wakehurst had a troubled past as well and the irony of how these old ladies are quick to deal out brutal and serious punishment for small crimes like shoplifting or exposing yourself, but the old ladies in charge of the home severely beat and murder people. This is a great psychological horror film, some of the characters will stay in your mind for days after viewing.
'Schizo' is a very fun slasher flick and delivers on the blood and gore all the way through. The schizo's name is William Haskin (Jack Weston), a middle aged man who is sent in a sudden rage when he reads his newspaper and sees a headline that makes him snap. That headline says 'Ice Queen to Wed,' and is referring to the ice queen Samantha (Lynne Frederick), a prominent and well known figure skater. Samantha is planning on marrying a wealthy man and this does not set well for William, for reasons we don't know yet.
William somehow gets into Samantha's wedding where he places a giant bloodied machete next to the wedding cake, maybe a sign of what's to come. From here, people who are close to Samantha are meeting their gruesome ends by all means of violence, including one scene I had to close my eyes for in involving a sharp weapon and an eyeball. I still cringe thinking about it. With most movies like this, there is some sort of long relationship between the killer and the victim he is after, and throughout the film we are slowly give clues with twists and turns to figure out the true story.
This is a fun slasher flick with all of the 70s guts and gore and some gratuitous nudity from Lynne Frederick. By all means you most likely will be able to predict the outcome of this film early on, but Pete Walker does a good job of keeping it tense and flowing along.
Die Screaming, Marianne (1/5)
Here is my least favorite movie out of the collection, but it's still a decent flick. The title suggests a decent horror movie with tons of gore. With a title like 'Die Screaming, Marianne', I would have thought that as well, but that's not the case. Instead, this is more of a incestuous thriller than straight horror. The lady playing Marianne is Susan George, who starred in the original 'Straw Dogs.' Marianne is an exotic dancer who is wanted by some criminals. She escapes their capture, and takes refuge with a guy named Sebastian (Christopher Sanford) who is a little too nice for my comfort.
Marianne figures out that Sebastian is not the guy he says he is after he suddenly proposes marriage to her, as he has partnered up with Marianne's father (Leo Genn), a corrupt authority figure who is after Marianne's fortune, a large wealth of money left to her by her mother, which she will inherit on her 21st birthday. And Marianne's father is not the only one after her fortune, as Marianne tries to avoid capture and being killed by family.
This has a good plot, but was poorly executed. The script isn't that good, and each climactic moment utterly fails to bring any kind of resolution. It keeps a decent pace, but with its terrible dialogue and anticlimactic moments, it runs longer than it should. Susan George looks great in this film though.
The Comeback (4/5)
Dario Argento would be proud of this movie. 'The Comeback' is part super natural horror, part slasher flick, and part psychological terror. The film centers on Nick Cooper (Jack Jones, yes that Jack Jones who is famous for singing the theme song for the 'Love Boat'), who is a singer and recently divorced. Nick has gone several years without creating a new record and is looking to get back to work. Nick leaves his place in Los Angeles and sets out for a nice, quiet home in the country, far from anyone to work on his new album. Being a film from Pete Walker, this won't end up nice and quiet.
As Nick is on his plane traveling across the country, his ex-wife pays him a visit to patch things up, only to find out he is not there, but she is not alone. She is quickly and brutally murdered, even chopped up, by a killer who looks like a decaying old woman. Once Nick is in his new quiet place, his needs are tended to by the butler and gardener of the premises. However, Nick begins to hear strange and scary sounds and even finds a corpse in his closet. It's clear someone is out to kill him, but this could all be part of Nick's imagination. We just don't know. I thoroughly enjoyed this film as it reminded me so much of Argento's horror films. With plenty of chopped up victims and a good psychological yarn, 'The Comeback' is a fun yet frightening film.
For the most part, all four films look the same, so I will describe them all right here. Each comes in a great 1080p HD transfer with 'Schizo' presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio; 'The Comeback' presented n a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and 'House of Whipcord' and Die Screaming, Marianne' presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. All four film are presented and remastered from their original 35mm negative and are "as is", meaning there is no epic digital cleaning, so the source material still looks filmic and unprocessed.
That being said, you can expect the prints to still have some dirt, brightness fluctuations, and flaws throughout, but this never detracts from the viewing experience. It's just how those old films were made over 40 years ago. 'The Comeback' looks the best of the four films as it looks like it's been kept in a better condition over the years. I did not notice any edge enhancement, halos, or aliasing on any of the films, which is spectacular.
The images come across as clear mostly, but their are spots of film that are our of focus, but that is obviously a product of the filming. Detail and depth look amazing. The colors pop more vibrantly than they ever have before, with the black levels running deep. Yes, these films look great for their time period and being very low budget. A very solid video presentation here.
Each movie in this collection has an uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 stereo audio mix. Due to the age and low budget of each film, there are is a tiny bit of hissing, cracks, and softened sounds. The dialogue on all of the films sound about 98% clear and easy to understand, while all of the music is loud and boasts over the speakers, which is great for these tense horror films. As 'The Comeback' is the film about a singer, it's music and score sound the best with its fun 70's poppy music. The dynamic range does sound full here, considering the material we are dealing with.
There are some great extras on this collection including commentaries and an interview with Walker himself.
Die Screaming, Marianne
This Pete Walker collection is a must own for any genre fan. All of these films have never looked better or sounded this good since their initial run over 40 years ago. If you love grindhouse films that come complete with blood, guts, nudity, and a high level of psychological terror, than this Pete Walker collection is for you. Highly recommended.