Tag Archives: Britt Ekland

What the Peeper Saw (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Child could be killer.

Elise (Britt Ekland) marries wealthy author Paul (Hardy Kruger) and then after the nuptials comes into contact with his 12-year-old son Marcus (Mark Lester) still grieving over the death of his mother 6 months earlier. Elise had the understanding that the mother, who died from drowning in her bathtub, was accidental, but as she gets to know Marcus she suspects that he may have had something to do with it. She then speaks to his school’s headmaster (Harry Andrews) and learns that Marcus has been having disciplinary issues including that of torturing and killing animals. When Elise tells Paul of her suspicions he refuses to believe it, which pits her against both the father and boy.

While the story may have intriguing elements, though it does sound too much like The Bad Seed, the execution is poor. It starts out right away with Elise meeting Marcus, no backstory scenes showing how Elise met Paul are shown, and right away he acts weird and creepy. There’s no nuance or layers to the story, just one long ‘is he a killer, or not’ scenario that ends up being highly talky with no real thrills. The producers, apparently realizing the proceedings needed some spicing up, hired Andrea Bianchi to come in and add some sexually tinged moments including a scene where a nude Lester, sitting in a bath tub, begins fondling Britt’s breasts, who is sitting outside the tub fully clothed. If that wasn’t shocking enough there’s another scene later where she strips fully naked in front of him, but neither of these moments, as sleazy as they are, makes this otherwise tired and placid plot any more intriguing.

The film’s only real selling point is to see child star Lester playing against type. He shot to fame in the starring role in Oliver!, but all of his roles after that couldn’t capitalize on his talents and like with this one were weak and pedestrian that didn’t give him much to do. Watching him play an evil kid, instead of the angelic lad like we’re used to seeing, is interesting to some extent and he does it surprisingly well, but he’s not in it enough.

As for Britt she’s quite beautiful and the camera focuses on her lovingly, and the male viewers certainly won’t mind her nude scenes of which there are plenty, but her character is poorly fleshed-out. It’s hard to understand why she married Paul as he treats her in a callous way and clearly favors the kid over her, so why stay in a relationship if she’s just going to be the spare tire especially with a psycho kid that’s just going to put her life more and more in danger? Any sensible person would pack-up and leave and the fact that she chooses to stay in such a bad and uncomfortable situation makes her seem as nutty as the rest.

Things pick-up during the final 10-minutes which gets filled with a lot of wild imagery though some of this should’ve been sprinkled though out the film, which is too cardboard otherwise. The final twist is a bit of a surprise, but the whole thing could’ve been better paced. Everything hinges too much on the provocative overtones while the characters are one-dimensional and fail to resonate and thus causing the viewer to remain pretty much detached emotionally from everything that goes on and the twists that do occur fail to deliver any punch.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 14, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

Rated R

Directors: James Kelley, Andrea Bianchi

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

The Wicker Man (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Pagans on an island.

Police sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) receives a letter stating that their daughter named Rowan Morrison (Gerry Cowper) has disappeared and it compels him to travel by plane to an obscure island village off the coast of Scotland to find her. Once he arrives he finds nothing but resistance from the people and everyone denying that she even exists. He also learns that the people practice a pagan type of religion and begins to suspect that the girl’s disappearance may have something to do with the upcoming harvest celebration and decides to infiltrate the proceedings in order to weed-out the culprits and find the girl.

The film, which was inspired by the 1967 novel ‘Ritual’ by David Pinner, manages to be quite intriguing despite being material better suited for a short story. The whole concept is woven around the big twist that occurs at the end and everything that occurs beforehand is simply a lead up to that, which could’ve been a stretch for feature length but director Robin Hardy’s tight editing and deft use of atmosphere keeps things permanently lodged in the creepy and compelling even though I did figure out at around the 60 minute mark where it ultimately was headed. The film’s original length is supposedly longer than the 1Hour 28Minute release that is currently available, but to be honest I felt this was a perfect runtime for this type of story and stretching it out further would’ve simply been diluting it.

Edward Woodward, who later became familiar to American audiences with his starring role in the TV-show ‘The Equalizer’, is terrific in the lead and I liked that fact that the character wasn’t a completely ‘nice guy’ either, but instead rigidly entrenched in his Christian religious beliefs and arrogantly convinced that his spirituality was superior to anyone else’s. Christopher Lee again makes a good nemesis even though his mod hair style looks a bit goofy. Britt Ekland is on hand as well singing a weird song and even doing a provocative dance although the nude scenes of her from the waist down were done by a body double.

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The only issue that I had with Anthony Shaffer’s script is the fact that the sergeant must go back to the mainland to get more men from the force to help him search for the girl, which to me was a bit of a loophole because I would think he could’ve just gotten on a phone and called in for more backup without arduously having to travel back. The facts that no one else knows where he is seemed a little implausible as well as most people working on the force have a supervisor that they must report to and who is at least somewhat aware of what case they are working on and where they are traveling to do it.

The ending though, which features an actual giant wicker man made of wood is an amazing site. When it gets set on fire with the victim and even some animals trapped inside of it is quite exciting and I liked how the point-of-view shifts between the people who view it from the ground as well as the victim seeing the people on the ground from inside the burning structure.

I remember seeing the 2006 remake starring Nicholas Cage in the theaters. While the details of it are vague I do recollect coming away from it finding grossly inferior in literally every way to this one and something that should be avoided at all costs.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 10, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robin Hardy

Studio: British Lion Film Corporation

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube