Kino Lorber and Redemption re-packages the single Blu-ray releases of four of Pete Walker’s best films for this collection which has an exclusive fifth disc featuring two of his rarely seen early non-genre works: THE BIG SWITCH and MAN OF VIOLENCE.
A seasoned British director of sex comedies such as COOL IT CAROL! and FOUR DIMENSIONS OF GRETA, Walker made a quick transition to exploitive horror, the genre he continued in for most of the 1970s. Walker’s first such authentic effort (after the suspense potboiler DIE SCREAMING, MARIANNE) was 1972’s THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW, a film which clearly spelled out its objective with its explicit title, also added a decades-old ballyhoo gimmick to usher in audiences.
In THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW, an elusive producer gathers together a troop of young actors to perform in a stage show titled “The Flesh and Blood Show” for a mysterious company called “"Theatre Group 40.” Rehearsing at an abandoned seaside theater, the young folks are under the direction of Mike (Ray Brooks, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD) who more or less is like a teacher with a schoolroom full of sexed-up brats. Early on, one of the female members of the troop is found guillotined, and when Mike and another actor bring back the police to the scene of the crime, all that’s found is a disassembled mannequin. Keeping the mysterious death a secret from the others, it is soon learned that the theater has a history of murder; during World War II, a Shakespearean actor killed his wife and her lover backstage, right in front of their infant daughter. The carnage that took place some 30 years earlier might be connected with the continuing misfortunes brought upon this acting ensemble in the swinging present.
Written by Alfred Shaughnessy (who directed CAT GIRL some 15 years earlier and had also scripted Hammer’s CRESCENDO), THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW plays like an Agatha Christie “whodunit” with Walker throwing in the expected exploitation elements of titillation and minor bloodshed, all balled up into a far-from-perfect yet admittedly entertaining little film. There a number of tease scare tactics (one which involves a woman answering the door in the buff to witness a bogus murder victim), some imaginative killings, and lots of bare breasts, mostly shot in awkward softcore style, obviously attempting to satiate the thrill-starved audiences of the time. But most of Walker’s direction is competent, making great atmospheric use of the theater/pier locations and creating a genuine feeling that someone treacherous is lurking behind every dark corner. Although Shaughnessy’s script is not as complex or laced with social commentary (like the Walker/David McGillivray collaborations which would soon follow) the motivation behind the murders is at least a credible one, leading up to a rewarding 10-minute black & white flashback scene originally shot in 3-D but shown flat here in the feature (Walker had dabbled with 3-D sequences earlier with FOUR DIMENSIONS OF GRETA), which is a highlight of the film; Walker regular Jane Cardew shows off her well endowed attributes to welcomed, if gratuitous measures (two separate recreations of the sequence in 3-D are included here in the supplements).
The cast of THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW is full of familiar faces, not only from other Walker productions, but also from British horrors of the period, and the starlets are not afraid to shed their clothes. Top-billed actress Jenny Hanley was just in Hammer’s SCARS OF DRACULA, and apparently has her brief nudity done by a stand-in. Doing their own bits of baring their bosoms are Luan Peters and Judy Matheson, who had both just been in Hammer’s LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and TWINS OF EVIL. Stunning Candace Glendenning was also in TOWER OF EVIL and starred in Norman J. Warren’s SATAN’S SLAVE a few years later. Male cast members include Australian-born Tristan Rogers (who also starred in FOUR DIMENSIONS OF GRETA and remains a popular U.S. Soap star to this day) and the ever lovable Robin Askwith (who had starred in several previous Walker films and of course, HORROR HOSPITAL). Jess Conrad (KONGA) has an amusing cameo as a vain pretty boy actor. The elder statesman of the piece is Patrick Barr (SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD) whose sinister presence is a good substitute for the absence of Sheila Keith (who wouldn’t start appearing in Walker’s films for another year or so), and it will be no secret to the uninitiated viewer that he is the main menace.
The Kino/Redemption Blu-ray of THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW looks very pleasing to the eyes, as it was mastered in HD from the original negative, presented in 1080p in a 1.78:1 anamorphic aspect ratio. Colors are wonderfully reproduced, black levels are deep, fleshtones look natural and textures are impressive, with darker scenes being easy to make out. The natural grain helps maintain the organic filmic look we expect from British movies of this vintage. The transfer does reveal some minor defects in the source material (such as speckling), but overall, the presentation is extremely satisfying and clocks in at the film’s fully uncut 96-minute running time. The mono audio has very clear dialogue and no distortions to be found, making for a very clean English track. The Blu-ray is of course free of the playback problems which plagued several minutes of the Media Blasters DVD.
The film’s black and white 3-D scene (10:14) is included as an extra, both in Stereoscopic 3-D (in which you need a 3-D TV to view properly) and Anaglyph 3-D, where you can use the red/blue 3-D glasses to view (this is how it was shown in theaters). We don’t have a 3-D TV, but were able to view the scene Anaglyph (though you have to provide you own glasses since they aren't provided in the package) and while not perfect, it does a decent job of recreating the theatrical 3-D experience, with a dagger pointed forward and a set of keys being thrown towards the screen being the best gimmicks (the Anaglyph 3-D scene was also featured on the Media Blasters DVD, but as a hidden Easter Egg). “Flesh, Blood and Censorship” (12:13) is a new video interview with director Walker produced by Elijah Drenner. Walker talks about his origins as a comic actor, how he made the directorial transition from comedies to thrillers, his intent to make horror films unlike the Hammer gothics, the 3-D portion of the film (which was an option depending on the print and where it was shown) and more. Trailers for this film and other Walker titles in the Redemption/Kino collection (THE COMEBACK, FRIGHTMARE, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, DIE SCREAMING, MARIANNE) round out the extras for THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW.
By the mid 1970s, the gothic affairs of Hammer had all but petered out to make way for a new era of grisly urban horrors. With HOUSE OF WHIPCORD (available on “The Pete Walker Collection Volume 1”), director Walker made the transition from frivolous sex romps to a more thought-provoking dark tale of moralistic fanaticism gone wild. With FRIGHTMARE, Walker again collaborated with talented screenwriter David McGillivray to create one of the most unconventional and original British horror films of the period. In making the film, Walker's intention was for the audience to leave the cinema feeling angry and frustrated after seeing it. You'll have to decide that for yourself.
The film immediately opens up with a black and white pre-credit sequence, taking place in 1957. It is there that we see a wayward fellow (Andrew Sachs, better known as Manuel on the classic 1970s Britcom "Fawlty Towers") seeking help at a trailer home. After being invited in by an off-screen character, we see the side of the man's head hideously devoured. An English couple, Dorothy (Sheila Keith, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS) and Edmund Yates (Rupert Davies, BRIDES OF FU MANCHU) are charged with the shocking crime and are sentenced to rehabilitation in a psychiatric ward until they can be positively cured.
Over 15 years later the Yates couple have been released and reside in an isolated country farmhouse. Meanwhile, their daughter Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) and her delinquent younger half-sister Debbie (Kim Butcher, THE CONFESSIONAL), who was given up for adoption while the parents were still imprisoned, are living together in a flat. Jackie can't control Debbie, who hangs out with a gang of leather boys and even gets involved with the murder of a barman (“The Benny Hill Show” star Michael Sharvell-Martin). Jackie tells of her troubled half-sister to Graham (Paul Greenwood, CAPTAIN KRONOS - VAMPIRE HUNTER), a young psychiatrist who she becomes romantically involved with. But she does not reveal that she is secretly delivering parcels of butcher's scraps to her stepmother in the middle of the night, or that Debbie believes her parents are no longer living. As Dorothy is still psychotic and still craves human flesh. Though her husband and her stepdaughter do everything to hold her in check, Dorothy is psychotic and still craves human flesh, and she has been advertising her services as a medium in order to lure unsuspecting victims. Even the young Debbie gets in on the act (like mother, like daughter), revealing a dysfunctional affinity in the family despite the generation gap.
FRIGHTMARE could be looked upon as a horror as a social commentary concerning skepticism towards the psychiatry field, but its a solid British horror film in the tradition of other shocking and acclaimed cinematic cannibal favorites of the time, namely Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and Gary Sherman’s RAW MEAT, which McGillivray saw before conjuring up the idea for the film. Aside from the clever story by McGillivray and Walker, what makes FRIGHTMARE so good is the performance by Sheila Keith as Dorothy. Keith, who appeared in a total of five outings for Walker, has an outward grandmother-like appearance, and she brilliantly plays it up as a seemingly sweet old lady ready to snap at any moment, as her character often does. Seeing her strike victims with a hot poker, a pitchfork and an electric drill is a sight to behold, and this is undoubtedly her finest hour. Rupert Davies (veteran of half a dozen 1960s British horror flicks including WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE and CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR) is also great in one of his final screen roles (he died in 1976), playing the enabling sidekick. As Edmund, he plays a cowardly, yet devoted husband who took partial blame for his wife's crime, and stays loyal despite her incurable madness. Victoria Fairbrother (aka Pamela Fairbrother) plays a young woman who goes to Dorothy for a tarot reading (Fairbrother had been one of the accused witches in Gordon Hessler’s CRY OF THE BANSHEE) and Leo Genn (who had a more significant part in Walker’s DIE SCREAMING, MARIANNE), has a "guest star" cameo as a doctor (screenwriter McGillivray also has a walk-on as a white-coated physician). Tigon Films founder Tony Tenser was the executive producer, and this would be last feature film he was actively involved with.
Previously available on DVD through both Image Entertainment (full frame) and more recently from Media Blasters, the Kino/Redemption Blu-ray is the definitive presentation by far. Mastered in HD from the original 35mm negative, the film is presented in 1080p in a 1.66:1 anamorphic aspect ratio. Colors are bright and well rendered, with natural, detailed fleshtones and excellent contrasts. The bulk of the presentation’s darker scenes are appropriately shadowy and grainy, and night-time scenes are clear, resulting in nice detail. Blemishes on the source material are minimal, with the image being clean throughout. The mono English audio has very clear dialogue and no distortions.
Carried over from the Media Blasters DVD is an audio commentary with Walker and director of photography Peter Jessop (who worked on numerous Walker films and later, THE MONSTER CLUB) moderated by Walker biographer Steven Chibnall who wrote the essential Making Mischief: The Cult Films of Pete Walker. Here, Walker and Jessop recall working with the cast members, the challenges of lighting certain scenes, and the rabid response of critics to their films. “For the Sake of Cannibalism” (11:56) is a new video interview with Walker produced by Elijah Drenner. Walker discusses his initial dislike of the cannibalism aspect of the story, but goes on to say he took a “lighthearted” approach while making the film, and that all involved had great fun, including Keith in her maniacal role. Walker also states that it was the intent to make the film controversial and he talks a bit about the critical reaction after its release. “Sheila Keith Profile” (13:53, standard definition) was originally produced for the Anchor Bay Pete Walker PAL DVD set released in the UK some years ago. Walker, McGillivray, Jessop, Walker fan Graham Duff (writer of “Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible” in which Keith appeared in), and actress Susan Penhaligon (who appeared with Keith in Walker's THE HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN aka THE CONFESSIONAL) all discuss how the actress was the antithesis of her screen personas, and rave about her acting talents with good reason. All of the five films she worked in for Walker are touched upon here. Trailers for this film, DIE SCREAMING, MARIANNE; THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW; HOUSE OF WHIPCORD and THE COMEBACK round out the extras for FRIGHTMARE.
With his roots deeply planted in sexploitation cinema, Walker became a horror film (or “terror films” as he likes to call it) specialist by the mid 1970s with HOUSE OF WHIPCORD and FRIGHTMARE. Both films were scripted by the talented David McGillivray, and the successful collaborations lead to THE HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN (aka THE CONFESSIONAL). Walker and McGillivray created something far removed from the classically structured efforts of Hammer and Amicus, amalgamating controversial and tabloid-ripped issues with the conventional gruesomeness that the decade was known for.
Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon, THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT) goes to a church confessional to converse with her old friend Bernard (Norman Eshley, THE LOST CONTINENT) who is now a young Catholic priest. Since Bernard is not there, Jenny ends up confessing to Father Xavier Meldrum (Anthony Sharp, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE) about her devotion to her constantly straying boyfriend and that she recently had an abortion. Obviously mad (and I mean cuckoo), Father Meldrum – who lives with his invalid mother (a 91-year old Hilda Barry, HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM) and sinister one-eyed housemaid Miss Brabazon (Sheila Keith, THE COMEBACK) – becomes obsessed with Jenny, and has tape-recorded her confession for blackmail purposes. His fanatical ideals lead him to a bloody trail of murders which he sees as deserved punishment, and to throw more fuel on the fire, colleague Bernard decides to leave the priesthood after professing his love for Jenny’s sister and roommate Vanessa (Stephanie Beacham, DRACULA A.D. 1972).
Basing the screenplay on a story by Walker, McGillivray’s script is full of inventive ideas which were obviously meant to shock and stir up controversy. Having the villainous murderer a repressed and crazed Catholic priest in modern times brought a new and different kind of monster to the catalog of British horror, and he’s marvelously played by Sharp. A lapsed Catholic in real life, Walker uses the film as a comment on organized religion, as extreme and satirical as it may be, with Father Meldrum mauling his victims via poison holy wafers, flaming incense burners and deadly rosary beads. The film’s characterizations are well thought out, and showing that there are two sides to every coin, Norman Eshley’s Father Bernard, and to a more fleeting extent, Mervyn Johns’s Father Duggan contrast Father Meldrum’s malevolence by being sympathetic and very human (Johns is probably best known as the actor who played Bob Cratchit in the 1951 version of SCROOGE, here in a memorable cameo). Susan Penhaligon is well cast as the assertive damsel in distress, and her desperate attempts at convincing everyone of Meldrum’s true nature is opposed with rampant disbelief, much like what Mia Farrow faced in ROSEMARY’S BABY. Stephanie Beacham, always the fetching scream queen, is effective as the concerned sister overcome with love for a man exiting the priesthood, and Walker’s frequent star, the incredible Sheila Keith, is properly menacing as usual. Since this is a Pete Walker film, the Grand Guignol type thrills are on display, as is the atypical unhappy ending which makes his genre efforts so unique.
Previously released in the U.S. as an underwhelming-looking DVD from Media Blasters, THE HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN is here given the HD treatment on Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p transfer. The film has been presented fully uncut in a fitting 1.66:1 aspect ratio in a picture that has nicely defined images, bright and bold colors and film grain is still visible but never obtrusive. The original English audio is presented in a LPCM stereo track, which is more than acceptable for the film, delivering dialogue cleanly and carrying out Stanley Myers’ score well.
The commentary on this Blu-ray was originally furnished for the “Pete Walker Collection” released on DVD in the U.K. by Anchor Bay Entertainment, and carried over for the Media Blasters Region 1 DVD of a few years ago. It features Walker and is excellently moderated by Jonathan Rigby (author of the essential book, English Gothic), which is chock-full of information about the film. The commentary never seems to run out of energy, as Walker reveals such things as originally offering the Anthony Sharp role to horror stalwart Peter Cushing, how he thought the film would have caused more of a stir than it did, and so much more. The new featurette “An Eye for Terror: Part 2” (11:00) is a continuation of Elijah Drenner’s conversation with Walker, who talks about how he got interested in cinema, and maintains that his best known films are more “thrillers” and he doesn’t think of them as horror movies. Walker mentions how he tried to make his pictures well paced and interesting, admitting that if he was to make the same films today, there wouldn’t be nearly as much dialog. Walker also touches upon the distribution as well as critical reaction to his films upon release. Trailers for THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, FIGHTMARE, THE COMEBACK and HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT round out the extras on HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN
With Walker churning out one horror opus after another, some controversial in nature, few American 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 (and 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 on screen 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).
The fifth bonus disc contains both THE BIG SWITCH and MAN OF VIOLENCE. From 1968, THE BIG SWITCH is about 30-year-old playboy John Carter (Sebastian Breaks, UNDERGROUND) in swinging Soho, who picks up a blonde bird (Erika Raffael, THE DEVIL’S WIDOW) for a one-night stand. She takes him back to her flat, as he first goes around the corner to pick up a pack of cigarettes, only to come back to discover her murdered. About to call the police, Carter quickly decides not to get involved and makes his exit. The next morning, Carter is fired from his advertising job (where he got to stand around and ogle naked models) and goes home only to find a woman and three men playing strip poker: the men beat him up over a gambling debt. Carter is then blackmailed by nightclub owner Carl Mendez (Derek Aylward, SCHOOL FOR SEX) into going to Brighton with a sexy woman named Karen (Virginia Wetherell, CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR) in a scheme which involves the couple being stripped and photographed nude. Worse yet, both Carter and Karen are trapped in a murder plot so that their identities can be assumed by a gang boss and his wife.
Walker’s second feature (following 1967’s I LIKE BIRDS), THE BIG SWITCH is also known as STRIP POKER and runs a mere 68 minutes due to 13 minutes of cuts to the original version as demanded by the BBFC (the U.S. version was reportedly the more explicit version and ran a full 81 minutes). Walker’s inspiration for this effort (which only dabbles in sexploitation) was American film noir crime thrillers, and although it begins with an interesting premise, the swinging 1960s yarn about crime lords and double crossing soon becomes a talky affair. There’s some fleeting nudity (and some gorgeous women) on display, but the performances are rather uninspired and leading man Breaks comes off as a second rate James Fox. Walker was still green as a filmmaker and learning his craft, but he does manage to deliver some good action sequences set in pinball arcade and a funhouse (the whole production was shot on location) and it’s nice to see Wetherell given a starring role, even if she is kind of wasted. Walker himself has a cameo ala Alfred Hitchcock. It would be nice to see the longer, longer explicit version of the film to find out if more meat and potatoes helped, but what’s presented here is in fact the 68-minute U.K. release print.
More interesting but far from perfect is MAN OF VIOLENCE. Also set in swinging London, slick private eye/hitman Moon (Michael Latimer, the hero of Hammer’s PREHISTORIC WOMEN) is hired separately by two rival shady businessmen, Sam Bryant (Derek Francis, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA) and Charles Grayson (Maurice Kaufmann, DIE! DIE! MY DARLING!), after a fortune in gold bullion has been stolen from the Middle Eastern state of Mentobar. Moon is supposed to supply information to both sides but ends up beaten up by tackless henchman and teams up with a shapely blond named Angel (Luan Peter, THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW), the ex girlfriend of Grayson who is kidnapped at one point. With all this opposition, Moon and Angel leave the country in search of the gold and are pursued by both Grayson’s and Bryant’s camps.
After the cheeky sexploitation hokum of SCHOOL FOR SEX, Walker attempted to go more “legit” with MAN OF VIOLENCE, which is somewhat more polished than THE BIG SWITCH, and much longer, clocking in at almost two hours. Also known as MOON (the on-screen title on the print seen here), the film was written by Walker and Brian Comport (GIRLY, THE ASPHYX) and although there are a few stick-out action scenes, the film is far too long, wasting numerous shots of characters standing around or talking on the telephone. With shooting started in 1969, the film came at a time when the British crime film was at an artistic high point (with the release of GET CARTER, PERFORMANCE and VILLAIN), and although Walker’s film begins with some “Avengers” (the TV show) type strangeness (such as Moon aiming a ketchup-filled water pistol at his half naked bed mate’s belly button), the hope of more of the same quickly disappears in favor of tedious espionage. It’s still great to see the incredibly luscious Peters in a starring role and often topless (as Hammer only used her as supporting eye candy in several of their vampire films) and Wetherell is also in the cast, this time as the baddie. This one also features many of Walker’s repertory actors of the time (including Aylward and Kenneth Hendel), as well as George Belbin, the bushy-eyebrowed bald actor from Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED and HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN.
With both THE BIG SWITCH and MAN OF VIOLENCE being subpar Walker efforts and will likely only appeal to completists, it was wise to include both features here as a bonus. Both films have been digitally mastered by the BFI (in full frame Academy aspect ratios), and the 1080p transfers for both films look beautiful and are flawlessly presented with excellent English audio tracks as well (no subtitle options are included, and they aren’t for any other features in this collection). The extra on this fifth disc (and also exclusive to this collection) is “Pete Walker: Man of Action” (14:58) which is a new interview with the director. On THE BIG SWITCH, Walker mentions that it was made at a time when there was market in the U.K. for shorter films (for double-feature purposes) and that it was written within a day’s time and was inspired by the film noir films he was fan of. At this point in his career, Walker felt he we was more of an independent upstart than a director (at a time when directors got far less praise than they would gather in the ensuing years) and that he was concerned with censorship problems when making MAN OF VIOLENCE, which he felt push the limits by having its hero experience a homesexual encounter, something very controversial in England at the time. In the interview, Walker admits that he’s no writer and that’s very clear as his films became much more interesting when he got outside writers to scribe his film projects. (George R. Reis)
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