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Three different horror films from three separate distributors recently opened in London on the same day, meaning there are three cinemas one third full. They are:

  • Dracula AD 1972, directed by Alan Gibson; starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Distributed by Columbia-Warner.
  • Dr Phibes Rises Again, starring Vincent Price; directed by Robert Fuest. An AIP release, distributed by Anglo-EMI.
  • Tales From The Crypt, starring Peter Cushing, Sir Ralph Richardson, Barbara Murray et al; directed by Freddie Francis, Released by Cinerama Releasing (UK).

In terms of horror, the most convincing and chilling is Dracula, in which the celebrated Count is brought back to life, amidst a present day Kings Road, Chelsea setting. The Dracula blood sucking scenes are as erotic and eerie as ever, while the Kings Road background enables the film to make some cynical comments on the plastic Chelsea scene.

Tales From The Crypt is composed of several short tales involving the evil thoughts of five very English, bourgeois people trapped with a shaking Sir Ralph (dressed in monk’s habit) in an underground crypt. The evil people are all very obviously money mad, wealthy and establishmentarian, and the film is really an attack on these values. In a way the philosophical ideas are so subtle that they might in fact escape the average cinemagoer, and this is really the reason for the introduction of the horror sequences, which are nearly all irrelevant to the ideas of the story, and grossly over-edited. A good film if you can quietly absorb its leftish ideas which are very subtly transmitted.

Dr Phibes Rises Again is a veritable farago of very camp 1930s pastiche, art-deco sets, trippy colours and eccentric characters, all of whom land up in and around Egyptian mummies, searching for the elixir of life. Sarcastic and very entertaining.

Real horror and reality returns with a jolt in Johnny Got His Gun, starring Jeff Bridges and Donald Sutherland; written and directed by Dalton Trumbo (one of the ten Hollywood writers blacklisted by McCarthy) and distributed by the Rank Organisation. A stern, bleak and very upsetting anti-war film about a young American who while fighting somewhere in the trenches in Europe during the first world war, loses his legs, arms, sight, hearing and the parts of his brain which help him to speak. A maniac doctor decides to keep him alive as a kind of scientific curiosity, and locks him up in a small dark room. But he hasn’t lost his feelings or his memory, and he spends his time thinking back to his life in small town America, which seems as futile as war and the vegetable it has made him. He eventually manages to communicate with one of the nurses by tapping his head on a pillow in morse code. The words “Kill me. kill me.”

A sad poignantly, horrific film. Not to be missed.

Up The Creek

DELIVERANCE, Produced and directed by John Boorman, written by James Dickey from his own novel. With Jon Voigt, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronnie Cox. Panavision, Technicolor. Distributed by Columbia-Warner Distributors.

Deliverance has been sold — to a certain extent – as the latest commercial product to hit London’s West End to contain a strong ‘gay’ content.

But after Stephen Murphy and Warner Communications have put away their scissors, there isn’t much of the famous male rape scene left — it’s a scene that got past the censors in every other country, in America and Europe but it’s one that’s lost 40 seconds in Britain.

Echoes here of what Warners did to Performance before showing it to John Trevelyan, the then-secretary of the British Board of Film Censors, and even then it was still cut some. The scene that we never got to see was James Fox and Mick Jagger making love, the scene that drove Fox into the arms of Jesus.

But the movie I’m supposed to be discussing is Deliverance. It’s a fine movie, but I just can’t bring myself to like it. And I don’t think it’s because I feel cheated at the rape scene. In fact, I didn’t feel at all cheated by that.

My main gripe (and that’s all it is) is that there’s a strong feeling of deja vu about Deliverance. Especially for those of us movie-buffs old enough to have seen The Misfits.

Deliverance is about a group of men trying to make the last canoe journey down a rapid-packed river (which is about to be turned into a reservoir). But they come to this confrontation with nature as city-bred men. The cruellest clash comes when two rough mountain men grab two of the party of four. They tie one up and bugger the other.

The city adventurers kill them both and hide the bodies under the rapidly rising waters of the reservoir.

I went expecting great things of Deliverance and felt a little cheated. Go with less expectations and you’ll probably enjoy it more.

One thing’s for sure, it’s a powerful statement about the degrading quality of American life. Perhaps the all-male cast does something to expose the phoniness of the wife-and-kids-at-home syndrome.

There’s a marvellous bit where Voight drops his wallet which contains his Diners Club Card and photo of his wife and kids, a photo that’s exactly like a credit card.

All the same, it’s a bit like the Misfits-On-lce-Under-Water.

Peter Holmes

More Deliverance

DELIVERANCE is one of the truly fantastic films of 1972, an explosion of the violence some of us feel about the way in which our world is being raped of the greenness, wildness, and the ways of living, which enable us to use some form of ingenuity and inventiveness, and to some extent, none of the four middle class, superficially stereotyped American suburban males, who go on a life-risking canoe trip down a rapid ridden river in cosy hamburger-ridden America’s last wilderness, accept this condition, albeit in some cases only semi-consciously. The men who live in desperate poverty in all ways except spiritually, in this wilderness, associate all outsiders with the bastards who are going to build a hydro-electric dam across their river and flood their valley, their 1920s idyll of undeveloped technology — rusty cars, straw hats, blue denim overalls and fishing. The now famous rape scene reverses the process; the man who gets raped is the one in the canoeing party who most symbolises the suburban horror. He’s fat and balding, working for an insurance company, looks like an oversized french fry.

Like all overtly realistic films. Deliverance is a mass of conflicts as it manifests Man’s dilemma. The leader of the canoe party who seems the one most anxious to return to Life, uses all his urban male chauvinist aggression, as he treats the locals like shits while remorselessly spearing fish and loving the river The guy who claims he’s been dragged along, doesn’t know why he’s there, would rather be home playing golf, is the one who finds it most difficult to spear and shoot.

This is a desperate film. Man is running round in ever-decreasing desperate circles. See it — you might find you are too.

David Seligman

An Apt Title

Endless Night. Starring Hywel Bennett and Hayley Mills. Directed/Produced by Launder & Gilliat. Based on the novel by Agatha Christie. Cert. ‘AA’ Distributed by British Lion.

Launder and Gilliat, the director-producer team of many successful British films were ill advised. Someone obviously thought of the long success Agatha Christie has had with THE MOUSETRAP must have dug through her novels in hopes of finding a suitable new film subject and they came across ENDLESS NIGHT.

The first twenty minutes are spent establishing the character of Hywel Bennett playing a chauffeur to the rich. He is seen first bidding for an expensive painting and a few moments later donning his working hat – the first ‘surprise’ twist, proving he is merely a working man after all. Soon after he is admiring the landscape somewhere in Southern England and taking photographs there. Enter our heroine, an American girl played by, of all people, Hayley Mills. She attempts an American drawl for a few moments and then gives up the game, going back to her arch accent.

Courtship follows by long distance and soon after our hero and heroine are wed. It is then established that Hayley is one of the richest girls in the world and of course her step mother is much against her marrying a chauffeur. But love overcomes all and they duly move into their dream house built on the site where they first met by a dying Swedish architect. No sooner have they begun to settle down to wedded bliss than Hayley’s former companion-secretary arrives, played prettily but without any talent by Britt Eckland.

The in-laws move into the district and Hayley’s step father is often seen riding a horse in the grounds. Also an old girl keeps appearing from nowhere with mysterious threats about the ground being unlucky. By now an hour has parsed and very little has occurred.

It wouldn’t really be fair to divulge what does occur without giving the plot away, but I can say that Miss Christie has one of her last-minute twists up her sleeve which manages to give an opportunity for some of today’s in-style violence to be shown. Hywel Bennett manages fairly well but Hayley Mills seems a bit stumped by her role, accent and dubbed singing voice. Poor old George Sanders makes a farewell appearance as the family lawyer and Per Oscarson does the best he can with the dying architect. The running time is around 100 minutes but for me it certainly seemed an endless night.