British cult director Pete Walker spent most of the 1970s churning out one horror opus after another, some controversial in nature. But few Stateside fans acknowledge his last film of the decade (and his second to last before retiring altogether), a touching drama involving yet another controversial subject matter. Well written and proficiently directed, HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT turns out to be one of Walker’s finest and entertaining efforts, despite the fact that it’s not an exploitation film.
One morning, pop music writer Mike Beresford (James Aubrey, THE HUNGER) picks up a pretty brunette hitchhiker named Ginny Wilshire (Alison Elliott, KILLER’S MOON), setting up a dinner date for later on that evening. Impressing her with his social status in show business, Mike easily lures the attentions of Ginny, bedding her that night and soon forming an agreeable relationship which appears to be true love. Much to his astonishment, Mike then discovers that Ginny is a mature-looking 14 year-old – she is not only half his age, but their sex romps are prohibited by law. After the revelation, both seem perfectly okay with it, seeing each other on a regular basis for a number of weekend getaways. Soon Ginny’s outwardly liberal parents (British television actors Mark Burns and Juliet Harmer) realize that she has been frequently sleeping with this older man, and the police are brought into the picture. Mike finds himself with a rape charge brought against him amidst a flood of unwanted media attention and the growing loss of friends and business associates.
Walker (whose previous effort, THE COMEBACK, also concerned a tormented lead male character in the music industry) and writing collaborator Murray Smith concocted a screenplay ripped from the British headlines of the era, but a tale of a prominent individual having a big black career-threatening mark against him is still very prevalent in today’s tabloid obsessed world. Although female cheesecake nudity and at least one gratuitous shower scene is on display, the film strays from being an exploitation piece, but rather a poignant social drama which uses its somewhat lengthy running time quite well. The storyline (leading up to a brief but effective courtroom scene) and the characters are thought-provoking, rounded out by two excellent leads in Australian-born Aubrey (from Norman J. Warren’s TERROR) and Alison Elliot, who was closer to 20 despite her character’s pubescence. Mike is a rather nice guy who becomes a victim of circumstance, not knowing his lover’s true age at first, but falling too deeply in love before he can follow through on his initial hesitance. Ginny too is overcome by love, but shows her immaturity with her confusion and being easily swayed to accuse Mike by her parents, the police and the teachers who surround her.
Representing the pop music angle is Mick’s younger (an almost look-alike) brother Chris Jagger as rock singer “Nick,” front man of the band, “Bad Accident.” Although the younger Jagger had a singing career in addition to acting (he starred opposite Joan Collins in THE BITCH and THE STUD), he doesn’t sing or perform here. The band Jigsaw (remember the 1975 top-ten smash “Sky High”?) plays the backing band onscreen and scored the rather fluffy soundtrack tunes. Playing Ginny’s even more promiscuous friend is Debbie Linden, a blonde bombshell whose young life was cut short by a heroin overdose in 1997. American Britcom fans will recognize her as Old Mr. Grace’s sexy secretary in the 1981 season of “Are You Being Served?” Also on hand in a small role as a lawyer is film legend Richard Todd (who would also show up in Walker’s final film, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS) and as the opposing attorney, Edward de Souza, star of Hammer’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE. Showing his sense of humor, Walker cast Patrick Barr as the judge in contrast to his demented turn in HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, which also questioned the legal system.
Previously released on DVD in the U.S. through Media Blasters, HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT is now given an attractive Blu-ray disc through Kino Lorber/Redemption. Presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the 1080p pictures boasts good detail, fine textures and mostly well saturated colors. Flesh tones also look very natural. The original source materials show some speckling, but the image looks quite nice and clean overall. Audio is rendered in an English LPCM 2.0 track which is also clean, with an occasional pop detectable.
"Promiscuous Behavior," an interview with Pete Walker, by Elijah Drenner (11:09) calls HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT a return to the kind of films he did a decade earlier, and kind of a sequel to COOL IT CAROL. Walker sees the film as topical for its time, discusses the casting of his young lead actress and the other actors in it, cameraman Peter Jessop’s work on it, and believes the courtroom scenes to be the highlight of the film. Walker also holds that HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT was the wrong film for him to make at the time, but he’s certainly not sorry he made it and thinks it’s not at all a bad movie. The original full frame trailer is included (“a bittersweet love affair set against the background of the rock music scene”) as well as additional Pete Walker trailers (DIE SCREAMING, MARIANNE; THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, FRIGHTMARE, THE COMEBACK). (George R. Reis)
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