From Media Blasters/Shriek Show comes another entry in The Pete Walker Collection in the film The Comeback (1979) aka The Day the Screaming Stopped, which was both produced and directed by Pete Walker (House of Whipcord, Frightmare, Schizo). Starring in the film is popular, Grammy winning crooner Jack Jones (Juke Box Rhythm, Airplane II: The Sequel) in one of his few, silver screen roles. Also appearing is Pamela Stephenson (Superman III), Bill Owen (The Secret of Blood Island), Sheila Keith (Frightmare), Holly Palance (The Best of Times), daughter of legendary actor Jack Palance, Peter Turner (The Krays), and David Doyle, probably best known for his role as `Bosley' on the late 1970s television series "Charlie's Angels".
As the film begins two things happen, the first being the arrival of American pop singer Nick Cooper (Jones) in England and the second being the brutal murder of his ex-wife Gail (Palance) in his English penthouse apartment (she was viciously hacked to bits with a sickle by an assailant dressed up like an old lady, complete with granny mask). So Nick, whose career has been in the toilet for the last six years (primarily due to Gail railroading his career), has come to London to produce a new album, and his manager Webster `Web' Jones (Doyle) sets him up at a large English manor, complete with recording studio. As Nick arrives at the manor he meets the caretakers, a couple named Mr. And Mrs. B (Owen and Keith, respectively) and settles in proper. Later that evening Nick is awoken upon hearing unexplained noises but he eventually writes them off as his imagination. As Nick begins working on his album he gets friendly with Webster's executive assistant (i.e. his secretary), an attractive blonde woman named Linda Everett (Stephenson). Anyway, the nighttime noises continue, along with the appearances of Nick decomposing ex-wife, both of which ultimately lead to Nick having a nervous breakdown and spending a few weeks in the hospital (seems someone's been playing a game of hide and seek with the maggoty, decomposing corpse of Nick's ex-wife). Upon being released from the hospital Nick visits his penthouse to discover the walls have been scrubbed and the carpeting replaced...now keep in mind Nick never visited his pad after Gail was dispatched so he's got no idea what happened there, or why his place smells of antiseptic. Nick returns to the manor, which seems a bad idea to me, and this is when the stuff really hits the fan as Nick learns the noises and visions are not related to any mental fatigue but stem from a carefully orchestrated plot to destroy him...why? And by whom? You'll just have to watch and find out for yourself...
I did enjoy The Comeback but I thought it suffered some similar issues I saw in one of Walker's other, previously released film, specifically The Flesh and Blood Show in that they were both just so slow and plodding (the latter did have a lot more nekkidness, though). The film here runs roughly 100 minutes, but Walker could have easily slashed off 20 minutes or so in favor of a quicker pace. The one thing this film does have over The Flesh and Blood Show is the violence is actually depicted, which didn't hurt in helping to keep the viewer's attention. Another positive element over that pervious film is there's more of a connection between the viewers and the characters. In The Flesh and Blood Show there's not much in the way of character development so I never really cared much what happened to them, and while I didn't relate much to the characters here, at least they had some depth. Of the various Walker films I've seen to date, most all seem to be of the `whodunit' variety, and all feature lots of misdirection. As the story progresses here we're given any number of possible suspects, some having what appears to be clear motives, while others are suspects based primarily on the fact they act so weird. You may guess who the killer is here, but it's unlikely you'll understand the reasoning behind the acts, as the insignificant hints dropped along the way amount to so little. Jones did all right, his past experience primarily consisting of episodic television work (he's probably best known for his singing The Love Boat theme song) as he seems to know his way around a set, but the real standout for me was Walker regular Sheila Keith, as her characters usually include a not so subtle creepiness (she was great in Frightmare) that just fun to watch unfold. There are a couple of solid scares, the one at the end worth sticking around for, along with a couple of graphic murders. Perhaps the most bizarre part of the film involves David Doyle as there's a scene where we see him, in his home, dressing up like a cabaret singer, complete with gaudy makeup and huge, false eyelashes, the intent being, I suppose, to display a side of him that might somehow indicate he's capable of murder (drag queens are unpredictable, I guess). As I said, the ride here is pretty slow overall, but things do pick up considerably near the end, within the last twenty minutes or so...you might guess who the killer is, but I'd avoid spending too much time trying to discern a motive as it will be energy wasted, especially given how everything's detailed at the end.
Here's a bit of oddness...the back of the DVD case on this Shriek Show release states the picture is in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), but it's actually presented in open matte, full frame. The picture itself is decent, but does come across a little soft. As far as the audio there's two options, English mono and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, both of which come across well. Extras include an audio commentary track with producer/director Pete Walker, moderated by author Jonathan Rigby, an original theatrical trailer, photo gallery, film notes, and trailers for some other Walker films including House of Whipcord (1974), Die Screaming, Marianne (1971), which is mistakenly listed as `Die Screaming Maryanne', Frightmare (1974), The Confessional (1976) aka House of Mortal Sin, and The Flesh and Blood Show (1972).
By the way, if anyone out their from Media Blaster/Shriek Show is reading this, how about a DVD release of Walker's Schizo (1976)? I haven't had a chance to see it, but it was previously released onto DVD and is now out of print, prompting those third parties willing to sell to ask for some ridiculously high prices (I'm interested in seeing the film but I ain't paying four times the original DVD price for the privilege).