Saturday, January 10, 2009

Instant Impressions: Pete Walker's Frightmare!

So I haven't posted a movie review in a while, and of those I have posted, they have either been films I've seen many times, or films I'd watched a few days prior, and really had time to digest. As a result, I decided I'd spend my Saturday morning after dropping CSD Julie off at the airport for a whirlwind tour of lovely... Detroit... cracking open a DVD I purchased 6 months ago but had yet to unwrap, Frightmare, from the Pete Walker collection.


Watch out! Ben Franklin's got a drill!



It goes without saying that this post is one big friggen' spoiler, so if you too have purchased the Pete Walker collection and allowed your copy of Frightmare to go unwatched I highly recommend you rectify that situation before continuing. There are no 'you'll have to see for yourself' moments here. All of Walker's twists and turns will be revealed. Don't say I didn't warn you!!

I'd planned on giving this one the old blog treatment, but I figured instead of the typical watch the film, gather my thoughts, and allow them to percolate with the sweet nectar of time, I would instead go ahead and bust this one out mid-watch, just so my impressions are as raw and fresh in my mind as possible. I do not suggest you try this yourselves. Raw Pete Walker is an excellent carrier of salmonella...

On that note, on with the show!

Frightmare
A Pete Walker film
1974
Starring Rupert Davies and Sheila Keith

Right from the get-go I can tell this one is going to be menacing with a capital enacing... First off, it's called Frightmare... Second off, the minute of looped soundtrack layed over the DVD menu is eerie as all get out. It kind of reminds me of Gargamel's theme from The Smurfs... If the haze of youth has blocked your memory, that dude was a serious tool-box, and we never really truly found out what he wanted with the smurfs anyway... The easy first impression is he wanted to eat them, which in and of itself is creepy, but if you look for deeper Freudian meaning to Gargamel's little-blue obsession things get REEEEEally twisted... I mean, if the guy was just looking for a meal he already had Azreal...

There is nothing funny or flippant about eating your cat. I apologize to my personal feline denizen, Milo.

Anyhoo, so I'm led to believe that aside from a creepy music'ed menu screen, there's also a feature length film on this DVD! This news is so exciting I think I have no choice but to hit Play...
We open on an expanse of blue water, calm water, more like a lake or river than an ocean. The camera pans up to reveal a factory belching filth into the sky (credit to Sting for that line) just as we begin to wonder what far away locale this scene is taking place, it's like good old Pete reads our minds...

LONDON ENGLAND
February 18th - 1957

None of this 'the present' or 'a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away' for our man Pete. He's a scene setter you can set your watch by.

We switch scenes to a grey, seemingly abandoned carnival, with a lone black coated Brit walking with a purpose toward a dingy trailer. He is greeted by a sound effect staple creaking door and announces himself as Barry Nichols. A quick check of the IMDB page shows me that he's listed under the 'more' jump on the cast list, so my first guess is that Andrew Sachs, the portrayor of bad bad Barry isn't long for this flick...

Sure enough, Barry enters what will heretofore be known as The Fetid Trailer of Woe, and finds himself down an ear, and most of the left side of his face... It's all good though, he's all right now... In addition to this serious miscarriage of justice, someone just fell repeatedly on a harpsichord... Oh, never mind, that's the 'LOOK HE'S DEAD!!' theme from the Frightmare soundtrack.

We do not get to see the de-side-facing of Barry, an inconvenient fact that I hope will be rectified in future offings. Although, if prior Walker films are any indication, there's not likely to be another offing for the next 70 minutes or so... Here's oping this one is a little more House of Whipcord and a little less Die Screaming Marianne...

From here we are whisked to a very impressive looking courthouse, where the trial of Edmund and Dorthy Yates is just concluding. Apparently the Yateseses are some pretty twisted folk, as Judge Powder-Whig surmises that while he'd LIKE to sentence them to death, he has no choice but to institutionalize them instead, as the fall under the crown's legal definition of Batshit-Insane. I dunno, but I kinda get the feeling that decision is going to backfire in a corn-syrup-faux-blood-bath sort of way.

All this intrigue and missing face parts, and we're just now reaching the opening credits! Tarot cards are flying, and the red wavy font is as spooky as spooky gets. I fear I may wet myself... Hold me tightly internets...

We return to the aforementioned 'present day' where a gang of bikers is tearing up Flanagans Bar and Disco... OK, by 'present day' we of course mean '1974'. We know these bikers are bad news what with their feathered hair, mistreatment of the middle aged, kissing on the dance floor, and enjoyment of pinball. Somehow I feel that before too long their uppence will come.

Before long our biker troop is kicked out of this upstanding dance establishment, and we shift scenes to a more pedestrian crowd. a group of twenty somethings enjoying a friendly candle lit dinner, discussing everyone's favorite small-talk gab, the practice of psychology. Oh you Brits, always having to prove via film that you're better than us Yanks. I suppose this film isn't going to feature a single farting-round-the-dinner-table scene now IS it? Before too long the conversation changes course to the extroverted sister of one of our attendees, and an ill advised attempt at flattery by a horn-rimmed Buddy Holly impersonator. Everyone is made inexplicably uncomfortable by his small flirtation, as though he had just relayed a story about flashing a nun rather than made a gesture of kindness to a fellow diner... In both table manners and repression, the Brits have cornered the market...

Before we even have time to settle in for a little bobble and squeak, we return to the biker gang, this time they've followed home Flanagan's bar man whom our fearless Cockney motorhead is convinced insulted his lady fair. A Clockwork Orange style beat down ensues, and I'm beginning to see how these two groups are related. I'm guessing that the 'extroverted sister' mentioned at Britain's lamest dinner party is likely the fair maiden who's unchallenged honor is being erroneously defended by our wanna-be Alex. Alas, our walrus mustachioed barman will be no more than collateral damage in this one, but not before we find that the petite and pretty biker girlfriend is the most vicious fiend of the bunch, continuing the beating long after the portly drink slinger has hit the ground.

I asked for a BUD Light!!


Suspicions confirmed. Debbie the biker babe from hell is 'the sister'. We're also informed that the beaten bar tender has gone missing, never returning to the bar to be patched up. Perhaps our sweet Debbie is even more of a nefarious no-goodnick than previously assumed??


I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that before this one is over, we'll find out that Debbie and her sister are not in fact the orphans of dead parents, but the offspring of our Batshit-Insane supercouple The Yateseses... I have no proof of this, but we'll see if my Pete Walker-dar is fully functioning...

Not five minutes later my suspicions are confirmed when Debbie's sister Jackie sneaks away in the middle of the night to deliver a package to the Isle of Crazy, home to the Yateseseses. Just in case we're not sure that mother Dorthey Yates is a picnic missing the potato salad, the 'package' young Jackie has delivered seems to be oozing the tell tale corn syrup gore that stars in all Walker cinema... Jackie is apparently unaware of the evil she is bringing her mother late in the night, as is displayed by her strange dream in which she's presented a bloody gift by crazy Dorthey decked out in Debbie Harry style pancake makeup.


Once had a love, and it was a gas...


This just in: Debbie isn't a fan of pants. She prefers to run around without them. This is not a complaint by any means, just a point of fact.

Also, I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to know that the couple living in Kooky Castle on the Isle of Crazy are the Yateseseseses, since they seem to be selling themselves to the public as the 'Crosby's'. The latest victim... errrr... customer to stop by for a Crosby tarot card reading is likely about to find out just how out of her gourd Dorthey Yates Crosby really is.

Poor Buddy Holly is trying to make time with Jackie Psycho's-daughter, but is losing out to nutty Mommy. Jackie is inclined to run off in the middle of their date to handle some unknown mystery. No doubt relating to the bloodied pig face in the boot of nutty Daddy's auto. Jackie is peeved at Mommy's insanity leaching into her love life and she's ready to put a stop to in. Unfortunately for her, Jackie's interference is likely to have menacing results.

Crazy mommy wines and cries and outs that Jackie is not in fact her real daughter, but we have reason to believe that Debbie is, proving the genetic theory that the psychopathic apple doesn't fall to far from the fruitcake tree...

Whilst Jackie is off trying to straighten out her apparent step-mother's involvement in apparent serial murder, her apparent half-sister the equally apparent murderess is busy makin' time with Jackie's houndstooth coated Buddy Holly who has stopped by to peddle his psychiatric wares on poor disturbed Debbie who would much rather be getting into Buddy's pants than having him get into her mind. No good deed goes unpunished as the old saying goes. I'm guessing poor Buddy at worse is going to lose some body bits, and at best is going to be out a girlfriend...

Suspicions again confirmed. Our tarot card enthusiast stranger needed to meet the murderous Mrs. Yates/Crosby like she needed another hole in the head. As luck would have it, she's going to end up with both! Time for the tell tale Pete Walker corn-syrup-to-the-face-whist-grinning-maniacally shot...

At this point in the film I shall pause to use the restroom, and will take an opportunity to verify that all my power tools are present and accounted for.

I'm back, and ready for more corpse drilling madness.

Graham (our Buddy Holly) is committing the cardinal sin of a burgeoning relationship, berating his would-be paramour's treatment of her very likely psychopathic sister. Just a word to the wise, if you're trying to impress on a first date, you'd best not follow up your ill gotten attempt at seeing a movie by barging into your date's apartment, psychoanalysing her sister, and then lecturing her about how she doesn't know her family as well as YOU do, the guy who just met this young fruit-loop within the last hour. I was kind of under the impression that piece of advice went without saying, but apparently Graham's dating etiquette differs from my own. After all, I also wouldn't wear a tie to the movies...

Apparently between the previous night's shrink session and this morning, our little Debbie beat a Sherpa and stole his overcoat. Now she's having an alleyway meeting with her biker boyfriend, whom we have discovered since last seeing him that the wanna-be Alex is actually NAMED AleC... Subtle distinction there, Pete... Debbie leads Alec to an abandoned garage that she has been using to 'store things'. Things like THE SEVERED HEAD OF BAR TENDER!!! Despite his tough guy blue helmet, it turns out our Alec is freaked-the-eff-out by Debbie's dismembering and trunk stuffing ways. Or course, not so freaked out that he gets the hell away from her, just freaked out enough that he becomes concerned that the local cops are going to pin the murder on him. I'd like to think that if my lady offered me a disembodied one-eyed head as a 'gift', the potential of jail time would be the farthest thing from my mind. Then again, being a Yank, I'm still eagerly awaiting the farting-around-the-dinner-table scene...

Another day, another tarot-minded stranger for Dorthey to add to her stack of Black and Decker home lobotomy patients, but this time there's someone else on the property, peering through the windows at Dorthey's misdeeds. Will this heroic other be able to react in time, or is Delia the be-capped sooth-sayee as good as head-drilled? The suspense is killing me! Well, at least mildly startling me into not taking a nap...

How's about I deliver you a news paper in exchange for a tarot card reading?

This time we get the full zero-to-crazy in 3.4 seconds treatment from Dorthey the Deranged. She seems to be accusing this complete stranger, Delia, of some sort on nastiness that exists only in her mind. Delia doesn't take kindly to the outburst and makes the mistake of mentioning that she's paid handsomely for the tarot service and expects her fair reading. Alas, where's the better business bureau when you really need them. Still, Mrs. Yates offers a money back guarantee, provided you are able to gather the handful of cash she's heaved in your direction and run screaming from her chambers before she's reached her trusty Ryobi...

Our brave Delia does manage to avoid the drillin', at least for now, unfortunately she didn't watch out for the FLAMING EMBER CRUSTED FIREPLACE POKER TO THE GUT! Just in case we're not sure if such an intrusive violation would bring death on swift wings, Pete makes sure we're all on the same page through use of the post-stabby-death-blood-dribble.

It seems that in the land of the Yateseseseseses the drill is actually a culinary implement, which we discover when the nosey and bespectacled Graham tracks down the doctor who treated Debbie's mother in the asylum in which she was held. You see, Mrs. Yates isn't just a tarot card wielding fiend, she isn't just a perpetrator of murder most foul, she isn't just the victim of recurring bad hair days, she's also a CANNIBAL! That's right, when the Yateseseseseseses invite you to dinner, you're so much more than just a guest. What's more, judging fro her post-Dalia machinations it seems that Mrs. Yates doesn't even bother with cooking her food... I believe raw figure-skater-haired-Brits, like raw Pete Walker are prime carriers of all manner of squirming yucks. I fear Mrs. Yates is going to end up with quite the tummy ache...

Turns out that Mrs' Yateseseseseseseses psychiatric condition was brought on by her parents feeding her the family's pet rabbit during the Great Depression. A fact that disturbed the young Dorthey so greatly that a psychotic break led to a bloodlust that has only grown since that terrible day. Sometimes we never know how many victims will be claimed by a failing economy...
This has also given Pete a chance to fire a shot across the bow of the good old US of A. Dr. Lytell, the psychiatrist who was overseeing Mrs Yates whilst she was governmentally institutionalized offers a definition of the patient's condition. 'A Case of Carabantropy, psychological cannibalism. There's a couple of cases in the UNITED STATES but almost unheard of in THIS country...' Sure pal, Americans are FAR more likely to kill and eat each other than Brits are, but you know what, when an American does it, we don't stick them in a hospital for 15 years and then let them on their marry way to snack on more unwitting citizens... SOME countries KNOW how to imprison people-eaters, so put that in your pipe and smoke it mister. Dr. Lytell, fresh off his American bashing, reveals what we have ultimately known all along. Jackie is the daughter of Mr. Yates from a previous marriage while Debbie is the child of both Mr. and Mrs. Yates, born in the asylum and shipped off to a orphanage never knowing of her mother's flesh-eatyness.

Dr. Lytell informs Graham that the Yateseseseseseseses were released just a few months back. Released because they were completely cured... Well, except for that 'Mrs. Yates still like to kill and eat people' thing...

At this point in our film Jackie has stumbled across Debbie's bloody jacket, the one she was most likely wearing we she de-headed and de-eyed the bar tender, Mr. Yates has found out his wife is up to her no good murderey and cannibally antics again and is playing the role of the dutiful husband, helping her cover it up, and Graham has discovered just about everything he need to know about the sisters Yates and their wacky matron. Now will Graham be able to save Jackie fromher step-mother or half-sister? Will he be able to save Debbie from herself? Will he be allowed to keep his sweet, sweet wardrobe after shooting wraps? Tell us oh puppetmatser Pete!

Debbie sells Jackie a story about young tough Alec beating and killing the slinger of suds with a bicycle chain, copping only to hiding the body. Since we've seen Alec's response to her showing him the corpse, we know she's lying, and we know there's a good chance she gnawed out the gent's eyeball considering the atrocities of her mother. That not withstanding, Jackie and her Romeo Graham have headed off to the local police station in an effort to straighten out all this ickyosity. Debbie, being the sociopath she is, is much more concerned about being implicated in the bar keeps death that she is about her motorbike riding squeeze taking the rap for her crime. Will she make an effort to 'silence' Jackie and Graham? Get with the climactic ending Petey!

The police discover the body and can tell with little to no forensic prodding that this crime was not committed as Debbie claimed, via a bicycle chain beating. I'm guessing the first clue was the whole head-not-being-attached-to-the-body thing. The second clue was probably the whole one-eye-seems-to-have-gone-missing-from-it's-socket thing. The po-po with Jackie and Graham in tow head back to Jackie's flat to confront the lying Lolita Debbie and discover she's gone on the lamb. Just you guess which blue-helmeted bike riding accomplice she has sucked into her web of deceit... Will young Alec have an opportunity to mend his ways and spend the 1980's as a London based investment banker, or will his love for an underaged psycho lead to death most deadly? What say you Peter?

Just in case the young lovers Jackie and Graham don't already have enough on their plates, Jackie drops the my-step-mom-is-killing-and-eating-people-again bomb on Graham. Meanwhile, Debbie has lured Alec to Kooky Castle on the Isle of Crazy to hide out. Did Debbie know about her true mother's evilishness from the very start? Why you gotta go and leave so many unanswered questions Pete the W?

A knowing sneer and an 'allo Dad' from Debbie answers this one. Debs knew ALL about mommies dietary debauchery, and now mother and daughter are going to have to dispatch Alec post haste as he's stubled upon the haystack of gore growing in castles barn. Not wasting any time, mother Dorthey plays a little SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE PITCHFORK on Alec's guts while Debbie looks on hurgrily awaiting the meal that is sure to follow. This Lifetime moment of mother and daughter bonding almost brings a tear to my eye...
AHHH!!! Corn syrup stings!!!

Just to tally up the scorecard we've got Barry Nichols, Walrus Mustache the bar tender, tarot girl 1 Lillian, tarot girl 2 Delia, and Alec the blue helmeted biker dude. Five kills at 70 minutes in. Only time will tell if any more blood letting occurs in the final dozem moments, but either way, I'd say Pete's scored a win on the body count in this one. What we lack in the brazen women in prison styling of House of Whipcord we more than make up for in cannibal themed murder. The inclusion of anything interesting at all is enough to exceed the expoits of Die Screaming Marianne, so this one, even before reaching it's fruition, proves to be the best of the Pete Walker three pack!

While we were counting our Walkers before this one had fully hatched, Jackie spilled the beans to Graham that she's been taking cuts of bloodied organ meat from the local butcher over to Kooky Castle to convince Mother Maniac that she's been offing people so Dorthey won't have to. Graham being the-next-best-thing-to-Sigmond-Freud gets all uppity and wines about how she shouldn't be playing psychiatrist with a crazy woman. Again, giving her the business about trying to hold together here screwed up family probably isn't going to get you into those knickers pal...

Graham tries to convince Jackie that she's over reacting, and that Dorthey was certified sane and therefore she simply must be. After all, would BRITISH psychiatrist make a mistake? Somehow, his 'you're foolish and I'm better than you' act does in fact get him a little sugar, but Jackie throws up the stop sign before he can really get down to gettin' down. She suggests that Graham head for Kooky Castle on the Isle of Crazy under the guise of a tarot reading. Little does she know that she's not only blocked his carnal advances, but also signed his death certificate. Will Graham make it out alive? Eh, go ahead an off him Pete... He's kind of a yutz...

Alas, Dorthey and Debbie have more than fly to catch in their web of carniverous delights. They've captured Graham, now they just need to lure Jackie to the lair and finish 'tying up loose ends.' Debbie phones her sister to tell her that all is well at the Yateseseseseseseseses farm house, Kooky Castle on the Isle of Crazy, so Jackie should head on down for a game of Boggle with the family and their good friend Graham who's already arrived. Jackie, being exceedingly dense, agrees without much coaxing and gallops straight on into the spider's web. Will Pete do away with both our hero AND Heroine in a bloody final act? You know you want to, Walkernator...

Jackie arrives at the family stead, apparently too late for game night and her father impores her to leave at once. Jackie, being the devise through with thios plot is furthered, does not take her father's advise and goes searching the grounds for her oft-rebuffed love Graham. Following the sounds of electric doom, she finds him all right BEING POWER-TOOL-PERFERATED BY THE CRAZED YATES WOMEN! Good on you Pete, since the opening dinner party where he made everyone in the room uncomfortable by expressing a more than passing interest in our sweet Jackie that guy has been asking for the old extra-holes treatment. That'll teach him to express his feelings in mixed company!

As the curtain is drawn on this mecabre tale, Debbie is implored by her mother to make with the cleaver aided chop-chop on sister Jackie. To the final frame we're convinced that the sane-the-whole-time Mr. Yates will FINALLY step in to end the madness, but before he does the scene goes to a freeze frame and the credits role. There are no winners here, only more people-meat truly a frightening nightmare of an ending... One could say, a FRIGHTMARE!!!!

It may be due to the blog treatment, or maybe it truely is the Cadillac of this collection, but even before the everyone dies ending this was the cream of the Walker crop from the three movie collection. Truly an entertaining horror romp. Good show Pete!

3 comments:

CSD Julie said...

Very entertaining. Much better than watching it. Feel free to get as much horror on as you need to in my absence.

CSD Julie said...

I don't think we've ever seen his stuff, but this guy sounds like he made awesome movies:
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117998284.html?categoryid=13&cs=1&nid=2562

OCKerouac said...

Glad you enjoyed the writeup. I'm woefully under informed on exploitation directors, and rarely even recall the names of the flicks I've seen. That's the value of blogging about movies. It's a good reminder of what was what... :)

Either way, I'm always down for 70's exploitation flicks... unless you were thinking his porn work instead... not that I'd complain about that either... ;-)