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Sunday, 15 March 2009

Pete Walker at the British Film Institute

On Thursday 12th of March I went to the latest screening in the Flipside strand at the BFI ( www.myspace.com/theflipsidepresents ), who are on a mission, they say, to show the craziest, grooviest most far out films around ( words to that effect anyway...). Vic and Will Flipside really have shown some quite rare stuff over the years and they are great at dragging out of the woodwork some half forgotten or totally forgotten British film folk.
Pete Walker has been long overdue some reappraisal by the serious film community, although I fear that he, along with many other exploitation British film makers from the seventies will forever be overlooked in film history in favour of the usual suspects of Michael Powell, David Lean etc.
Pete Walker began his career making sex films of dubious quality but with great title such as 'School For Sex', which despite the great title is actually quite a chore to sit through and a personal favourite of mine, the 3D 'Four Dimensions Of Greta' ( see Robin Askwith's behind coming out of the screen!). He made his name in the seventies with a string of entertaining, thoughtful and sometimes quite gory horror film including House of Whipcord, House of Mortal Sin and tonight's first offering Frightmare.

Frightmare is a tale of mad cannibalistic, electric drill using parents and the hold that they have over their children. It is effectively made, and, unlike a lot of films of this nature from that period doesn't have too many scenes that looks ridiculous and cheesy to watch in modern times (one disco scene springs to mind, unfortunately nothing dates a film like a disco scene...). There are some genuine chilling moments and surprising gore. The cast is great, especially Sheila Keith and Rupert Davies as the parents. As with most Pete walker films there was also some smashing birds, particularly Deborah Fairfax as Jackie... I was also alarmed to note that the leading man, Paul Greenwood (Graham) looked a little like me...

Fred Karno and a lady, yesterday


So at the end of the film Vic and Wil welcomed Pete on stage for a short interview and audience Q & A. Pete walker answered the questions well, but he seems to have a habit of putting his work down and dismissing the thought that people should be interested in this stuff. It is clearly the case though, that he is proud of his work and the place it holds in the history of British Horror. For once the questions from the floor were thoughtful and intelligent, the resident BFI weirdo's failing to get their inane blabberings heard.
There was a rumour that the films writer, David McGillivray, was in attendance but afterwards he just seemed to disappear into the night...

As if this wasn't enough, there was another Walker film to come... a rare screening of House Of The Long Shadows. This film is the only one to unite horror legends Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, John Carrdine and Christopher Lee, the first three near the end of their long distinguished careers.

Michael Armstrong, writer and director of many a legendary seventies British sex and horror film, introduced this ( as writer of the screenplay) with some witty anecdotes on the perils of dealing with four big egos and settled down to watch the film that he was quite proud of.

The film itself is a bit of a curates egg. It uses every horror cliche in the book, but in a knowing manner, and celebrates the work of these four great legends, who have great fun gently sending up the genre that made them stars. Also of note in the film is the Walker stalwart Sheila Keith. A thoroughly enjoyable film, but the beginning is perhaps a little slow in introducing the main attractions and the double twist ending left me a tad confused.

All in all another top Flipside night, and I look forward to more nights of rediscovered British film fun....





Fred Karno and Pete Walker at Stringfellows, yesterday


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