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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Pete Walker, The British Goremeister, Creates NightmaresAug. 14 2008
J. B. Hoyos
- Published on Amazon.com
What do the films in this box set have in common? They were all directed by British Goremeister Pete Walker. Each film is a nightmare brought to life by Walker's magnificent direction. They all involve the following elements: abuse and corruption of authority, sexual perversion, and insane families. All of the female leads, or victims, are involved in the entertainment industry, i.e.,. dancing, modeling, acting, and make-up artistry. Pete Walker doesn't believe in happy endings. His films often end on a downbeat note.
This collection, depending on where you bought it, cost less than a single DVD. It is definitely worth the purchase, especially if you haven't seen "Frightmare" or "The House of Whipcord." The former is a true horror classic and the gem of this collection. Consider "Die Screaming Marianne" and "The Flesh and Blood Show" as bonuses.
Each film has is own merits. However, only "Frightmare" and "House of Whipcord" are worth repeated viewings. I will quickly review each film in the order in which it was released.
"Die Screaming Marianne" - Released in 1970. My Rating: 2 Stars. A young dancer is on the run from a family that wants to kill her. But first, they must obtain from her the number of a Swiss bank account that has a lot of money along with incriminating documents. Slow moving psychosexual drama with not much suspense or mystery. The ending does not have enough bang to justify the long wait.
"The Flesh and Blood Show" - Released in 1972. My Rating: 3 stars. Both a slasher flick and a mystery in the vein of an Italian giallo. Aspiring actors/actresses are lured to an abandoned theatre where they are murdered. Slow moving but has a nice twist ending. A few dead bodies are thrown in to keep one's interest until the killer is revealed. Recommended for a late night viewing.
"Frightmare" - Released in 1974. My Rating: 5 stars. A true horror classic. Dorothy Yates is imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital for cannibalism. Fifteen ears later, she is pronounced cured and released. Unfortunately the killings begin again. As always, Dorothy's husband protects her. They have a daughter who has grown up and wants to be just like her mum. This film has a lot of violent death scenes and a great downbeat ending. It contains elements from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the "Psycho" films.
"House of Whipcord" - Released in 1975. My Rating: 4 Stars. This film is a brutalized version of "Chained Heat" and "Reform School Girls." Beautiful, innocent young women are lured to a large house in the country where they are thrown into cells and psychologically tortured, whipped, and hanged. This is a political satire on censorship based on morality. It offers a lot of suspense and action. However, it is void of mystery and does not have a twist ending.
One can see that Walker's movies improved with each one he directed. "Schizo" of 1977 was also directed by Pete Walker and would have made a fine addition to this collection. It also involves the moral decay of a family and past events that traumatize a young victim.
"The British Horror Quadruple Feature" is worth the purchase as an introductory to the works of Pete Walker. Now I want to view his later works such as "The Comeback" and "The Confessional."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Mixed Bag from Indie Auteur Pete WalkerDec 8 2008
Michael R Gates
- Published on Amazon.com
For fans of horror cinema of the 1970s, auteur Pete Walker is sort of the British version of America's Roger Corman. Or more accurately, he's a hybrid of Corman and Herschell Gordon Lewis, as in his films there is often a combination of Corman's low-budget and camp sensibilities and Lewis' copious use of stage blood and female skin. And this combination has, of course, endeared Walker to generations of horror fans.
This "British Horror Quadruple Feature" from Shriek Show (aka Media Blasters) offers four of Walker's films from the early 1970s:
In FRIGHTMARE (1974), arguably one of Pete Walker's best films, the Western concept of family is skewed in a dark, dismal narrative that inexorably spirals towards an inevitable downbeat ending. By modern standards, it's not too high on the gore scale, but it is downright chilling nonetheless.
When Edmund Yates (Rupert Davies) and his wife, Dorothy (Sheila Keith), are convicted of committing unspeakable acts of murder and cannibalism, a judge sentences them to a psychiatric institution, where they are to remain until it is proven that they are no longer a danger to others. Shift 15 years into the future (and to color film), and the couple has been declared sane and released. Not wanting any publicity or undue stress, they live a reclusive life in the country, and only Edmund's daughter from a previous marriage, Jackie, knows who and where they are. Even the daughter that Edmund and Dorothy procreated together--Debbie, now 15 years old--has been led to believe that her parents died just after she was born.
Lately, Debbie has been hanging around with violent delinquents and having run-ins with the law. Is she in any way responsible for the bartender that went missing soon after she and her friends visited the pub? And Jackie has been making mysterious visits to her father and stepmother in the wee hours of the night. Just what is in those blood-soaked packages she brings to them? Are Edmund and Dorothy falling back into old habits? And if they are, how deeply are their daughters involved?
As far as older British horror goes, FRIGHTMARE is one of the best to come from outside of Hammer studios. The dialogue is replete with witty funeral-parlor humor, but there is also plenty of grisly action that is no laughing matter. Some of the murder scenes can be stomach churning, but interestingly, most of the actual violence and gore is beyond the camera eye. Yes, a heaping helping of blood and guts is sometimes served, but rarely is the viewer privy to the actual slicing, dicing, or skewering. In many ways this makes the action all the more chilling, especially when the frame is filled with the wild eyes and crazed visage of the killer as the bloody, stringy nasty bits flip into view.
HOUSE OF WHIPCORD (1974) may not be Walker's best horror film, but it is still pretty darn good. If viewed with the tongue-in-cheek spirit with which it was made, the film is actually a rippingly fun but dark parody of 1970s mores and jurisprudence. The cheesy gallows humor is punctuated with several verbal and visual puns, and as with most exploitation films of the era, there are scenes with outre violence and a tantalizing peppering of gratuitous T&A.
Most of the performances in the film are surprisingly good, and fans of British horror and exploitation will recognize genre regulars like Sheila Keith (who was also in Walker's 1974 film FRIGHTMARE) and Robert Tayman (who co-starred in Hammer Studios' 1972 offering VAMPIRE CIRCUS), among others. Peter Jessop's cinematography for HOUSE OF WHIPCORD is excellent, creating a brooding atmosphere that perfectly suits the story without detracting from the underlying humor.
THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW (1972) follows a group of struggling young thespians as they attempt to stage a Grand Guignol production. Unfortunately for them, a killer lurks in the dilapidated old theater where they are rehearsing (and bedding down), and the young actors are soon getting picked off one by one.
Essentially an old-dark-house story transplanted to a different milieu, the plot of THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW is cliche even by the standards of the decade in which it was made. In comparison to most of Walker's other horror films--and even when compared to other exploitation flick of the 1970s--the use of grue and gore is minimal, and what IS there is not particularly effective. Sadly, even the ample T&A peppered throughout doesn't add any real voltage to this shocker wannabe. Not Walker's best effort, by far.
DIE SCREAMING, MARIANNE (1971), one of Walker's first horror thrillers, is probably the weakest of this lot. It has essentially none of the gore and skin for which Walker would later become famous, and the story itself is a cliche tale involving the young heir to a fortune and the jealous family members who want to kill her and get their mitts on the dough.
The film is not totally without merit, however. As the young heiress, cute and perky Susan George is a delight to watch. Most of the supporting cast is pretty good, too, especially Barry Evans as Ms. George's love interest. Walker's direction is adequate, though it's not his best effort, and there is some very interesting camera work, specifically a couple of split-screen shots that predate Brian De Palma's masterful perfection of the technique by a few years. Still, this one is, overall, only of interest to fans of Susan George and to Walker completists.
As for Shriek Show's DVD editions of these films, the source prints used for the digital transfers are abysmal. Most of them contain countless scratches and other filmic artifacts, and there are numerous instances of color shift and contrast fluctuation. In addition, all of the prints look faded and washed-out overall. Probably the print that is in the best condition is the one used for the transfer of DIE SCREAMING, MARIANNE.
On the plus side, all the DVDs do present the films in their original theatrical aspect ratios. Bonus material for each film varies. All have the original theatrical trailer for their respective film, and three of them offer a feature commentary with Walker and a moderator. Instead of a commentary, THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW disc contains a video interview with Walker.
Not all of these films represent the best from Pete Walker, and the Shriek Show (aka Media Blasters) DVDs aren't of the greatest quality. But FRIGHTMARE and HOUSE OF WHIPCORD are great films that belong in the collections of fans of the Grand Guignol, and those two alone make this DVD set worth the price of admission.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
FRIGHTMARE defective DVDJan. 24 2009
Mark A. Miller
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a top-notch presentation of four Pete Walker DVDs, with informative, entertaining commentary from Walker on three of the disks and a good on-camera interview on the fourth. For me, unfortunately, 46 minutes into FRIGHTMARE, the audio and video broke up for the rest of the film. (I tested it on three DVD players, each player a different brand.) Amazon does not allow the flexibility to return just one DVD of the boxed set, so I had to return the entire boxed set and received -- free -- a replacement boxed set. (I do appreciate Amazon's quick service in replacing defective products.) Unfortunately, the replacement FRIGHTMARE disk has the identical defect. So my fear is that there is an entire lot of defective FRIGHTMARE disks out there, and it may be a waste of time to keep sending back the entire boxed set for a replacement. So beware. You may be getting only three good DVDs for your money.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Mixed Bag Of Entrails...March 15 2010
Bindy Sue Frønkünschtein
- Published on Amazon.com
This Pete Walker collection goes from great to terrible. FRIGHTMARE is a 5-star cannibal insanity classic! HOUSE OF WHIPCORD is also good. If you like torture / women-in-prison / survival, then this is a hallmark! DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE is so-so, w/ a dragging story leading up to a halfway decent finale. THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW is a wretchedly boring tale of hippies and the occasional death. Awful! Well, there you go. Worth owning...
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Buyer Beware- Great Set Held Back by Defective DiscsJuly 25 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
This review will not be concerned with the content of the films presented here as they are primarily enjoyable & supported by strong video/audio transfers. The problems stem from poor quality control. There are numerous copies of "Frightmare" that are defective. Around the forty-three minute mark (approximately halfway through the movie; possibly at the DVD layer change), the video stream becomes corrupted and changes to pixelated digital "garbage" & remains that way for the remainder of the film. I verified this problem on three different players and a PC DVD drive. I also verified the exact same problem on a second set very courteously and promptly forwarded by Amazon.com once I informed them of the defect. However, prior to contacting Amazon.com to report the defect, I had taken it upon myself to contact the distributor- MediaBlasters Inc operating under the Shriek Show label. After more than a week, the folks at MediaBlasters have not had the courtesy to even respond. I recognize that small to mid-size distributors, such as MediaBlasters, do not replicate their own discs and, as such, the defect is the fault of the replicator. However, it is extremely improbable that MediaBlasters would not be aware of the severity of the problem by this point and, as such, they should have recalled this product and most certainly should be responding promptly to customer complaints. As such, I must say "shame on" MediaBlasters. I own many of their releases and, while this by no means rules out any further purchases of their product, I will certainly be more cautious prior to purchasing MediaBlasters titles in the future. As of this date, after multiple customer complaints, Amazon.com has pulled this item from their "catalogue" to evaluate the extent of their stock afflicted with these defect. Excellent service by Amazon.com as always. Hopefully this issue can be corrected as the content of this boxset is solid & otherwise recommended.