‘Making Mischief’ is the title of Pete walker’s biography and it’s aptly named. Walker’s supposedly best 3 films (I can’t say if they are or not having not seen all his films... yet) are all designed to create controversy, or as he put’s it ‘to rub people up the wrong way.’ Thankfully there’s a bit more to them than that. Walker’s films are bleak grubby cynical affairs with black humour and over the top concepts that brilliantly capture the 70’s, perfectly in keeping with the decade that spawned the excellent UK comic ‘Action’ (Pete Walker directing a film version of ‘Kids Rule Ok’ would be amazing. In fact he’d have been perfect for the previously mentioned ‘Psychomania’ come to think of it) and the once excellent ‘2000ad’.
So far my favourite Walker film is ‘Frightmare’ which funnily enough is the least controversy courting film of his loose trilogy and does seem to be the best (although ‘House of the Whipcord’ is a close second). Plotwise the film seems to try and play things a bit coy by not coming out and saying what it’s about, yet Walker’s exploitation pedigree and his obvious affection for liberal amounts of blood mean that the hints are less than subtle and nothing else about the film or the marketing implies that there’s meant to be some great reveal. Which is a roundabout way of saying I’m going to tell you what’s going on, so consider this a spoiler. ‘Frightmare’ is about a cannibal old lady. There, the cat’s out the bag.
When Walker first cast Sheila Keith he must have instantly realised he’d found his muse, either that or she was cheap/available/game for a laugh, either way both found the perfect match. In ‘Frightmare’ Keith adds something a little extra to her creepy old lady act (and a fine act it is too!), gusto. The literally lip smacking relish she displays when she goes in for the kill, especially the bit with the drill, is over the top genius that must make even Tom Baker turn an envious shade of green. It’s all the more effective when juxtaposed with her scenes as a slightly confused old lady.
There’s a bit more to the plot than that and it’s actually quite a good one involving teenage kicks far too loving husbands dopey psychiatrists and Peter ‘Manuel’ Sachs, but I’ve already given too much away. ‘Frightmare’ is available as part of an Anchor Bay boxset and it’s very nicely put together, 5 films, a fair amount of extras and available pretty cheap on amazon and no doubt elsewhere..... it’s also got ‘Die Marianne Die’ which has a title sequence that features Susan George wearing a very skimpy outfit and giving it some serious go go dancing.... just thought I’d mention it.