Tag Archives: Pete Walker

The Comeback (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Singer hears weird noises.

Nick Cooper (Jack Jones) is a successful singer trying to revive his career after a 6-year hiatus. He travels to London to work on a new album under the guidance of his manager Webster (David Doyle), where the two share a hot-and-cold business relationship. Meanwhile his ex-wife Gail (Holly Palance) goes to their former apartment to collect her things, but is attacked by someone dressed as an old lady and brutally killed. After the murder Nick begins to hear noises at the mansion he is staying in that is owned by an older couple (Bill Owen, Sheila Keith) in which he hears the sound of a woman crying, but can’t detect where it is coming from.

This is another Pete Walker production who has in recent years received a strong cult following for the long line of British horror films that he directed during the 70’s and early 80’s before leaving the profession in order to start up a business where he bought and refurbished old movie theaters. While I’m not a big fan of some of his early work, which seemed kind of hooky, I felt this horror outing managed to deliver for the most part.

What impressed me most was the brutality of the murder where Gail not only gets stabbed many times, but has her hand cut off, which goes flying down the stairs. This was in the era of the Video Nasties, where the British government was banning all sorts of horror films brought in from other countries, so I was surprised why this one got a pass. What made it even more gruesome is that the camera keeps cutting back to the dead body at different intervals where the viewer vividly sees the decaying process. It starts by showing a close-up of the dried blood that covers the victim’s face, real blood was used that had been donated from a local hospital, then later on it cuts back to show maggots’ inside her eye sockets and mouth  and eventually even rats eating away at her face.

Having singer Jack Jones, who’s best known for crooning the theme song from the TV-show ‘The Love Boat’, cast in the lead seemed an odd choice. Apparently Walker was determined to get a singer for the part and first approached Cat Stevens and then Ringo Starr who both declined, so he had to settle for Jones, who isn’t bad. It’s refreshing to see a protagonist in a horror flick that isn’t a teen or college aged and instead in his 40’s, but since there is an element of teen idol worship in the story it would’ve made more sense having a younger singer cast that would’ve appealed more to the youth of the day.

David Doyle, best known for playing Bosley in the TV-show ‘Charlie’s Angels’, is surprisingly effective too and given a big role. Usually he would be relegated to small supporting parts in comical films, but here does well in a dramatic one and even seen at point putting on women’s make-up and wearing a dress, but the film never follows-up with this potential story thread, but should’ve.

The murders aren’t too prevalent, there’s only two and spread far apart, but they’re gory enough to leave a strong impression. The story moves a bit too slowly and while there is tension at times it’s not consistent. The wrap-up though is a complete surprise and pretty much comes out of nowhere, but I didn’t mind.

Spoiler Alert!

While the script is satisfactory there were a couple of moments that didn’t make much sense. One has Nick returning to the mansion after he’s seen the decapitated head of his ex-wife in a box there and tormented each night by her cries and screams, which is enough to send him to the mental hospital for awhile. If it were me I’d never go back to that place again and yet Nick does and just casually turns up the music on his radio when he again starts hearing the ghostly cries instead freaking out like anyone else would’ve. The scene where he takes an ax out of a victim’s body, who had been killed by someone else, and then is seen holding it over the dead body as someone else enters the room, made me believe he was going to be accused of committing the murder, but it doesn’t work that way, but probably should’ve.

Alternate Title: Encore

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 16, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Pete Walker

Studio: Enterprise Pictures Limited 

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Frightmare (1974)

cover up 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Mother likes eating humans.

After 15 years of being locked up in an asylum Dorothy and Edmund Yates (Sheila Keith, Rupert Davies) are freed, Dorothy was in there for killing 6 people and eating their flesh while Edmund helped cover it up from authorities. Now that they are deemed sane they are free to start their lives over. Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) is their oldest daughter and she secretly visits them on the side, but their youngest daughter Debbie (Kim Butcher) was just an infant when they were put away and does not know that they are out. Jackie tries to keep their parents past from her, but this proves difficult when Dorothy starts killing again and Debbie begins showing the same homicidal traits.

On the technical end this British made horror isn’t too bad. Director Pete Walker makes the most of his limited budget by keeping the story moving and never allowing it to get bogged down with endless dialogue. There is a surprising amount of gore that looks relatively realistic and the recent Kino Lorber Blu-ray transfer is excellent with sharp color and no graininess.

However, it’s not scary at all. Yes, the subject matter is a bit unsettling, but there are no shocks or surprises and no atmosphere or tension either. The twist ending might’ve been effective had the script not telegraphed it, so by the time that it does occur it’s a letdown since the viewer had already been anticipating it for quite a while.

The idea that anyone could ever be considered ‘sane’ after killing and eating 6 people is absurd as mental illness isn’t something that can be ‘cured’ and freeing anyone at any time after committing such a heinous crime is illogical. It made me wonder what test was given to see if Dorothy no longer had cannibalistic urges and had therefore ‘earned’ her freedom. Did they throw a human body in front of her and if she didn’t jump up and bite into it was she then deemed ‘normal’?

Although she doesn’t look anything like the drawing on the film’s promotional poster I did enjoy Keith in the lead especially the way she could quickly go from menacing to child-like. I also liked Butcher, who despite looking like she was way over 15, which was the supposed age of her character is fun as the rebellious teen particularly the scenes where she challenges the authority of her older sister.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: November 6, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 22Minutes

Rated R

Director: Pete Walker

Studio: Miracle

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video