Monday, January 15, 2018

Unnatural Born Killers


For CORRUPTION, Peter Cushing's trademark commitment and professionalism is tested in this notoriously nasty offering.

SHORTLY before making the lowest point of his filmography - THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR - Peter Cushing made his most controversial. This Titan production, directed by Robert Hartford-Davis, sees "The Gentleman of Horror" cast as respected surgeon Sir John Rowan. When his aging model fiancĂ©e Lynn (Sue Lloyd) starts an impromptu photo session with Mike (Tony Booth) at a swinging Sixties party, the photographer and impeccably suited surgeon's clash of personality boils over into a fight, where an arc light falls onto Lynn's face in front of horrified onlookers. Developing "an entirely new way of controlling the endocrine system to promote tissue growth," the doctor's yearning for pituitary glands to restore Lynn's looks leads him to murder, under the increasing demands of his wife-to-be. While at a Seaford holiday retreat a group of beatniks invade, and Rowan's colleague Steve (Noel Trevarthan) and Lynn's sister Val (Kate O'Mara) piece together the string of outrages. 

Dubbed "gratuitously violent, fearfully sick, but it was a good script" by Cushing, the posters to CORRUPTION stated that "no woman will be admitted alone to see this super-shock film." Rowan's murder sequences are still jaw-dropping today, amplified by the use of hand-held close-ups. With hair flapping around his sweaty crazed glare, the actor's slaying of a topless prostitute - stabbing her repeatedly on the floor before smearing his bloodied hands on her breasts then removing her head - is not only British horror's most shocking sequence, it also points towards the Seventies sleaze to come. The delirium is added another two layers with the arrival of Georgie and his gang in Seaford - an out of left field final act which sees a massacre by an out-of-control surgical laser - and amid production bickering, the "is it a dream?" ending.

Alice Lowe continues her outlandish comedic career with PREVENGE.

Written, directed and starring Alice Lowe, PREVENGE defies description - in a good way. Too easily labelled a sardonic, jet black comedy, it is also a meditation on loss and the mental process of pregnancy. Shot in two weeks to accommodate Lowe's real-life condition, and enveloped by an outstanding Goblinesque score by Toydrum, textures increase with subsequent viewings to reveal - almost - an art film. Ruth (Lowe) is a pregnant woman who goes on a killing spree, seeking revenge on the people she claims accountable for her partner's death on a climbing trip; struggling with her conscience and prepartum psychosis, the unborn child speaks to Ruth from the womb, coaching her to kill ("If you don't do as I say blood will be shed, one way or another.")

Lowe's performance flicks between deadpan, psychotic, angst and turmoil (possibly in equal measures). The casting is strong with numerous fan-favourites: DAVID BRENT LIFE ON THE ROAD's Jo Hartley as the Midwife, GAME OF THRONES' Gemma Whelan as Len, and THE WITCH's Kate Dickie as a businesswoman who succumbs to a throat-slitting straight out of Argento. One sequence is spontaneously filmed in Cardiff on Halloween night, and it is this ethic which makes PREVENGE seem consistently fresh in style if not always in content. The murders are effective, but the visuals seem to unfold in some other brooding universe, and Lowe has mischievously likened the feel to BLADE RUNNER. Yet you can see her thinking; in Ridley Scott's milestone, Vangelis' jazz-influenced score underpinned the yearning of remembrance, driving the narrative similarly to Toydrum's often thunderous electronica.