Monday, 17 August 2009

Fright (1971)

Fright is the second movie included on the DVD with Demons of the Mind. It’s a relatively obscure 1971 British horror film that I’d never even heard of. I wasn’t enthusiastic about watching it, but when I saw that the cast included Susan George and Honor Blackman which seemed like an interesting combination, I decided to give it a go.

It’s actually a rather competent psychological thriller. Susan George is Amanda, a college student earning extra money by baby-sitting for Mr and Mrs Lloyd. They appear to be a nice enough couple although perhaps a little on the middle-aged side to be parents of a three-year-old. And Mrs Lloyd (Honor Blackman) does seem awfully nervous. And she becomes very uneasy at the mention of ghosts. We will later discover that she has reason to be worried about ghosts, although not in the supernatural sense. More in the ghosts from the past sense.

At first it seems that Amanda’s only problem is going to be her annoying boyfriend (a very dorky-looking pre-Sweeney Dennis Waterman) turning up on the doorstep and practically begging her for sex. She isn’t interested, and really you only have to take one look at the cardigan he’s wearing to see why he isn’t getting any, and isn’t likely to be getting any for the foreseeable future. One of the harsh lessons that men must learn early in life is that girls don’t sleep with guys who wear cardigans like that.

It turns out that there are a few things Mr and Mrs Lloyd hadn’t told Amanda about. Like the fact that he isn’t her husband, and the present whereabouts of her actual husband. Or possibly ex-husband as it’s suggested she’s either divorced or in the throes of a divorce, and a very messy one considering the circumstances that led to it. Circumstances that might lead Amanda to be feeling somewhat nervous about what the evening has in store for her.

The biggest problem facing Fright for a modern viewer is that there have been about 2,000 “beautiful female babysitter stalked by psychotic axe-murderer” movies made since, so it doesn’t have quite the impact it would have had in 1971. It still manages to be surprisingly frightening. The script by Tudor Gates is perhaps a little bit too predictable at times, but director Peter Collinson proves to be exceptionally skillful at suggesting menace and producing the require number of scares.

Its greatest strength is in the acting department. Ian Bannen makes a splendidly deranged psycho killer. Honor Blackman is superb as the mother, her hysteria never far under the surface and ready to go over the top at any moment. Susan George is likeable and does an exceptionally good job at communicating terror. She’s particularly good in the scene in which the knife-wielding maniac is under the delusion that she’s his wife and decides they need to make love. She’s not afraid to pull out all the stops and go for broke with her performance, but remains convincing and never becomes annoying.

There’s no gore, not a huge amount of graphic violence and no nudity. But it delivers some genuine chills. Fright is no masterpiece, but it does an admirable job at achieving what it sets out to do.


venoms5 said...

This was a great little horror thriller. The lengthy sequence where Susan George is stalked by the killer is extremely well done, IMO. This was definitely a hidden gem for me. Great write up, D.

dfordoom said...

There are all sorts of hidden treasures among 1970s British horror films. Most are overshadowed by the better known films from studios like Hammer.

Randall Landers said...

I think the weirdest thing to me (as an American) is the fact that the police are all excited about having to get a gun to deal with the killer. And then all this care is taken to deal with the gun, even involving a policeman trained in its use (yet he's too chicken to take a shot), but after the killer is subdued, Susan George somehow manages to get his weapon and blow the killer away. Now with all the precautions being taken with the gun, it seems unlikely that the armed policeman would just set the gun down for her to get it unnoticed and then proceed to get in position (unnoticed) to take a clear (and fatal) shot at the killer.

Other than that flaw in story logic, the movie is terrifying. Susan George did a phenomenal job, as did Honor Blackman. The poor chap playing the psychiatrist did a terrific job at being totally inept at the end.

Definitely a must-see, especially for the killer after the babysitter approach.