Shriek Show, a division of Media Blasters, provides us with another entry from The Pete Walker Collection, this one titled The Flesh and Blood Show (1974) aka Asylum of the Insane, directed by Pete Walker (House of Whipcord, Frightmare, Schizo), who considered himself an outsider within the British film industry, and featuring performances by Jenny Hanley (Scars of Dracula), Tristan Rogers (Four Dimensions of Greta), and Patrick Barr (The Satanic Rites of Dracula). Also appearing is Ray Brooks (House of Whipcord), Luan Peters (Twins of Evil), Judy Matheson (Crucible of Terror), Candace Glendenning (Tower of Evil), Penny Meredith (Night Train to Murder), David Howey (Cellar), and Robin Askwith (Horror Hospital), probably best know as the character Timothy Lea from the English `Confessions of...' softcore films.
As the film begins we learn of a group of actors hired to perform some kind of stage production, to which they're all supposed to go to a small English coastal town and rehearse in a gloomy, old, abandoned theater on the end of a deserted pier. As far as those attending there's Jane (Matheson) and her busty, blonde flat mate Carol (Peters), John (Howey), who's a bit of a prankster, an Australian actor named Tony (Rogers), Simon (Askwith), Angela (Meredith), Julia (Hanley), an up and coming film actress looking for some stage experience, and Mike (Brooks), who was hired on as a producer and director. Most everyone arrives about the same time, and after some introductions they all decide to settle in for the night at the theater since the local hotel is closed due to the fact it's the off season. The next day they begin rehearsals, which include performing some lame, interpretational dance numbers with the performers dressed in skimpy furs (I prayed for a murder or two at this point). That evening, after everyone's retired, the fun really begins as woman's screams pierces the night. A quick headcount indicates Angela's missing, but not for long as Mike finds her in a corridor under the stage, looking a bit under the weather if you know what I mean. He neglects telling the others, but rather runs off for the police, and when they return, the body's missing, but a note is left behind, supposedly from Angela claiming she wasn't keen on sticking around, so she left. The next day Mike contacts his agent and a new girl named Sarah arrives (Glendenning) to take Angela's place. After the group meets a local, friendly old timer named Major Bell (Barr), who was something of a performer back in the day, they continue rehearsals, but something's not right, probably given the fact some creep is stalking about the theater. What follows is, well, not much, but we do discover the theater has an interesting past, particularly in terms of a Shakespearian actor, his wife, and another performer who all mysteriously vanished some years ago, relating to a scandal of sorts. Eventually those left discern a killer is lurking about, leading up into a lengthy flashback that reveals all, with a slight twist thrown in at the end for good measure.
Have you ever wanted to see a slasher film without any, actual slashing? Well here's your chance. Now I haven't seen all of Pete Walker's films, but of the ones I've seen this one is the tamest and, quite frankly, most boring. Given the ones I have seen I'd recommend, for someone new to Walker's films, starting off with either Frightmare or House of the Whipcord (or Die Screaming, Marianne if you're a Susan George fan, of which I'm not). It's not that The Flesh and Blood show is a terrible film, but it grows tedious quickly given the fact there's huge chunks of time where very little happens. Given the healthy sized cast I was expecting a larger body count by the end but in reality it was very low. Now I'm not all about the gore but a little thrown in here or there really couldn't have hurt things any. There's no actual killings depicted anywhere in this film, but there is plenty of obvious misdirection intent on putting suspicion on various characters, the idea, perhaps, to keep you guessing up until the very end the identity of the killer. If the whodunit aspect had been stronger I could have passed on the fact there was no blood or depicted violence, but the mystery seemed like no mystery at all as it was pretty obvious to me whom the killer was about halfway through. Even the slight twist at the end wasn't much of a shock as if you paid attention to the flashback sequence as it foreshadowed what was soon to come. I thought the atmosphere of the theater decent and certainly creepy, but often scenes were too dark and it was hard to discern what was happening. I thought most of the performers did all right and the direction solid, but the material seemed lacking and often obvious, which really did little to help the either the director or the actors. One thing the film does have a lot of is nekkidness. I think by the end of the film, nearly every actress appeared topless at one point or another and many of them could have easily found themselves roles in a Russ Meyer film, given their healthy `endowments' (Ms. Glendenning seems the only exception). One interesting aspect, at the beginning of the film there's some text talking about a three dimensional sequence within the film, informing viewers to don their theater supplied viewing glasses when necessary. Obviously the 3D element didn't make it onto this DVD release, but I'm guessing it occurred during the flashback sequence given the performers propensity to `push' objects towards the camera. All in all if you're looking for a frightening, visceral experience you'd best keep looking as the show here features a whole lot more flesh than it does blood. If you're interested in a middling mystery with few shocks, decent atmosphere, and a bit of skin, then this one's for you.
The picture, presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) on this Shriek Show DVD release looks pretty sharp and relatively clean, although it does exhibit signs of aging from time to time. The Dolby Digital mono audio comes through clearly enough. Extras include an original theatrical trailer, an interview piece with the director titled Pete Walker: A Man of Flesh and Blood, a photo gallery featuring production shots and promotional materials, and a slew of trailers for other Pete Walker releases including The Comeback (1978), Frightmare (1974), Die Screaming, Marianne (1971), The Confessional (1976) aka The House of Mortal Sin, and House of the Whipcord (1974).