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I hadn't seen this movie for decades because it hasn't been shown on
terrestrial TV for years, but I decided to buy the Region 1 DVD release
(there's no official Region 2 UK release as yet) and I thoroughly
Well it's difficult to dislike Rita Tushingham in any film, but it's directed in such a great style by the late/great Peter Collinson (director of The Italian Job (1969)fame), with a bleak beginning that could only be Britian of the 1960's/1970's and with a real snap shot of how things were in London back then.
This is a very different type of film from Hammer, when compared to their usual offerings and must have been truly shocking back then with it's level of cruelty, but it's a classic movie you simply have to own and the fact it's unavailable in the UK (the very place it was made & with an all British cast) is scandalous.
If, like me, you like your Hammer films to feature vampires and things
that go bump in the night, you're likely to be disappointed with this
film. After the first few minutes, I wasn't expecting Straight on Till
Morning to be any good, but things do pick up; and once they do, the
film does become interesting and represents a more than decent
seventies offering, even if it isn't what we've all come to expect from
Hammer studios. The film is set and shot in London and features a
typically British seventies style, as the fashions and set design are
very true to the period. The film plays out more like films such as 10
Rillington Place than your average Hammer Horror fare, and focuses on
Brenda; a shy, irritating and naive girl who goes to live in London
after telling her mother that she's pregnant. She moves in with the
pretty Caroline, but begins to feel lonely and while out walking one
night, spots a dog that she decides to kidnap. Upon returning the dog
to her owner, the rather odd looking Peter, and telling him why she did
it; he asks her to move in and she accepts. However, she doesn't
realise that her new housemate is actually a vicious psychopath...
Straight on Till Morning isn't particularly violent or bloody, but that isn't to say that the film isn't disturbing. Most of the film's nastiness is implied, and while I wouldn't have minded seeing Shane Briant's silly hairstyle psycho going on the rampage with a Stanley knife, the way that director Peter Collinson ('Fright', 'The Italian Job') goes about implementing these scenes does give the film more of a poignant edge. The lead role goes to Liverpudlian actress Rita Tushingham, and for me she's just a bit too irritating. She fits the film perfectly by the way she looks and acts, but I found it very difficult to care about what happens to her due to the fact that I had to cringe during her every scene. Shane Briant is the other side of the offbeat central duo, and the most memorable thing about his appearance in the film is his haircut - which is ridiculous to say the least! This does, however, make his role all the more intriguing...as I never thought that someone who looks so silly would be capable of murder! The ending is a bit forced, but its fun enough getting there; the atmosphere is claustrophobic and the relationship between the leads is never boring. Overall this isn't a great Hammer film - but it's a different one and I enjoyed it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Perhaps the least formulaic film ever released by Hammer, Straight On
Till Morning is a bleak and unforgiving "kitchen-sink" horror flick
that doesn't quite come off. It is undeniably refreshing to find the
studio veering away from the usual period chillers with which it built
(and then subsequently bludgeoned) its reputation. However, Straight On
Till Morning has not dated particularly well and seems somewhat stuck
in a time capsule of music, costumes and attitudes (other controversial
movies of that era Straw Dogs, Performance, Deliverance, Frenzy, etc
- have all aged much better). Also, director Peter Collinson's busy and
fragmented narrative style proves just a bit too wearisome for the
film's own good.
Ugly duckling Brenda Thompson (Rita Tushingham) lives in a terraced house in Liverpool, where she spends hours writing children's' fairy stories and dreaming of a perfect life. She lies to her mother that she is pregnant and heads off to London, claiming that she wants to find a nice man to raise her baby (when, in reality, she thinks she will find her perfect prince with whom to live happily ever after). Brenda is incredibly naïve and inexperienced, and it isn't long before she is literally throwing herself at men in desperation. When she fails to woo a work colleague named Joey (James Bolam), losing him instead to her beautiful room-mate Caroline (Katya Wyeth), she runs off into the dark London streets in despair. Whilst out wandering, she comes across a stray dog and takes it back to her lodgings to clean it up and make it look pretty. Later Brenda returns the dog to its rightful owner, the handsome yet day-dreamy Peter (Shane Briant). He seems to like her and offers her the chance to move in with him, but later while Brenda is away collecting her things he stabs his dog to death with a knife. Seems that Peter is psychologically messed-up and has a real problem with "beauty" . in fact, he is behind the disappearance of various beautiful girls in the Earl's Court area of London, all of them brutally murdered by him because of their good looks. Blindly, agonisingly, Brenda allows herself to walk into the life of this dangerous psychopath .
There are no characters in the film with whom we can empathise. They range from psychotic (Peter) to promiscuous (Caroline); from stupid (Brenda) to cruel and cold (Joey). To share an hour and a half with such mean-spirited people is fascinating in some respects, yet very unpleasant in others. (This is certainly not a film that encourages repeat viewings). The pacing is slow but deliberate, and the shocks are fairly infrequent (but powerful and disturbing when they come). The film ends on a typically bleak note no great crescendo of action at the end with the villain getting his just desserts; instead a painfully realistic conclusion which cruelly refuses to play to genre expectations. Straight On Till Morning marks a major departure for Hammer and is interesting, challenging stuff. Sadly - having set up its grim tone, style and themes - it doesn't make a terribly good job of shaping them into a great film.
The swinging sixties are coming to an end in swinging London but there are still some hang overs from the 1950s and still plenty of odd ball characters. Pregnancy outside of marriage was still much looked down upon and under the guise of the 'flower children' it was perfectly possible for even homicidal maniacs to not seem out of place. Rita Tushingham is as great as ever and this much under rated actress puts in one of her more endearing performances. Shane Briant is eerily convincing as the psycho and the rest of the cast including James Bolam are all fine. Some decent location shooting is always appreciated around this time and here we get a couple of boutiques and some very moody stuff around the then recently completed South Bank complex. Plenty of surprises and well worth catching as one of the most unusual hammer movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I say it is one of the most memorable Hammer films for me because I
remember watching this film as a child. However, I didn't know its
title, the actors/actresses names nor remember that it was a Hammer
film, only that it was a rather tragic tale of a plain girl seeking a
After a week or so searching via a movie guide book I stumbled upon the title and acquired the movie to watch it all over again.
It is an early 1970s film and not one that I would associate with Hammer, but is very good. I think of it as a tragic tale really. The serial killer, Peter (Shane Briant) is obviously a deeply troubled individual bothered by things of beauty which he feels he must kill. The "Plain Jane" tells her mother she is pregnant and goes off to London to search for the man who can make her pregnant, she finds him in Peter unfortunately for her. She's infatuated with him and both live in a fantasy world.
She kidnaps his dog in order to get to know him. In its time this film was quite different from all the other films I've seen and I suppose it still is. Shane Briant is a very good looking actor, extremely blonde and it is easy to see why "Wendy" would become besotted with him.
The ending is very sad and the tape recordings disturbing. The ending was probably a necessity to the film but nevertheless had Peter not decided to play the tape to her the ending wouldn't have had to be the way it turned out.
In short I found the film remains one of my most memorable childhood memories, but isn't in the usual Hammer Horror league. It's difference is what makes it unique.
Straight on Till Morning is certainly one of the most atypical films
that Hammer Studios ever produced. It begins like a social realist
kitchen-sink drama, replete with fragmented snapshot montage editing
similar to Ken Loach's Up the Junction incidentally, a film remade by
Peter Collinson the director of this film. And for the first third of
the film it seems like this is going to be another such gritty drama,
however, it takes an unexpected detour when it suddenly turns into a
psychological thriller. It's an extremely unusual combination that
isn't entirely successful but definitely interesting. In actual fact
it's one of Hammer's more intriguing efforts in my opinion because it's
The story is about a naive young girl called Brenda who moves to London to try and find a man. She winds up staying with a very strange foppish man called Peter who is in fact a serial killer of women.
The social realism and montage heavy editing is entirely at odds to anything else Hammer ever put out. This is a film that has way more in common with the British New Wave than it does with anything previously produced by the famous studio. None of the characters are particularly likable, with the men in particular very creepy and/or deeply unpleasant people with appalling haircuts. The central relationship between Brenda and Peter is, to put it mildly, bizarre. It's difficult to see what either of them sees in each other; while Peter's strange issues with beauty are a little hard to fathom. Nevertheless, I thought this one was not bad at all. It wasn't predictable in the way that most Hammer films tend to be. It was pretty bleak and overall a commendably uncommercial offering. Definitely worth a look if you like downbeat psychological dramas.
When this was up on The Horror Channel, it was Rita Tushingham's name
that caught my eye, her brilliant acting and intensity laying down an
With Radio Times not even giving a review, or even a rating, I was worried that it might be dreadful and true, many could see some parts as such, especially if they had taken them out of context and not watched it all the way through. However, from its opening, it was obvious that this was a well-made and directed (by Peter Collinson) little movie.
Not only is it a good and interesting snapshot of swinging London, it is also a warped fairytale about a reclusive serial killer. Who's the beauty and who is the beast? Should we and can we be loved for beauty alone?
Describing the story is unnecessary; it is a shortish film and it's the issues involved, often psychological and deeply sinister plus the often imaginative directing that are the pluses. The acting of the leads Tushingham and Shane Briant are very good with just the right amount of every emotion going. The popular James Bolam also co-stars.
There is often a sense of unease, even during the less intense parts. Oddness also often takes a lead but never enough for us to dismiss them. The most intense, X-Rated (still certificate 18) scenes are disturbing rather than graphic but they still shock.
Unlike many Hammer Horror's, it remains memorable, the ordinariness mixing with the oddness plus the central characters making for an unusual and compelling mix. I enjoyed it.
Incredibly bleak psychological thriller from Hammer really captures the darkest side of the sexual revolution. Imagine a girl running away from home just to find some fop to "give her a baby"! And what a fop she finds! Tushingham is excrutiatingly naive as the beleagured mouse-child, Briant impossibly fey as the brooding beast-man, and the whole drama is absurdly lighthearted and gruesome at once. As in Bergman's PERSONA, the lines of personal and sexual identity between victim and victor are so blurred that one literally becomes the face of the other. (At one point, Rita even dons a foolish wig to look more like her captor, to honor him, as it were.) More than mere sado-masochism, this nightmare fairy tale vividly depicts the brutal destiny in store for those who know not themselves, nor what they want. (The schizophrenic editing also aptly illustrates the fragmented psyche of the times.) By far the best thing Hammer ever churned out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Many people cite "To The Devil, A Daughter" as being Hammer's attempt
at modernising, but this title does a pretty good job of it, too. While
watching it I was struck by the similarities with other kitchen sink
dramas (most of which would have been made 5 years before this). Star
Rita Tushingham was in a couple of those earlier films herself. Aspects
of "Billy Liar", "Peeping Tom" and "Poor Cow" meld into this bleak,
nihilistic morality tale for the early 70s.
Tushinghams character (she uses three different names throughout the movie) leaves humdrum Liverpool to find a father for her baby. Falling in with a trendy boutique crowd in London, she ends up moving in (very quickly) with a shady stranger. It turns out he hates beautiful things, and this is why he likes Rita (and he kills his own dog when Rita adds a pretty bow).
The movie is fast paced and low on gore (but has a lots of disturbing scenes of psychological intensity). It is very unlike the other, more famous Hammer films - it's set in modern times and plays on modern sensibilities; it does away with mythos and superstition and has a very real and very human "bad guy"; the villain in question will get away with it because of his looks and charm and - oh, yeah, this is definitely not a film with a happy ending . . .
Although Hammer's output from the 60s and 70s was dominated by splendid
Gothic horrors, their filmography from that period also contained a
number of lesser known psychological thrillerstitles that were no
doubt produced to cash in on the success of films such as Hitchcock's
Psycho and French chiller Les Diaboliques.
One of the last such efforts to be produced by Hammer (before they turned their attention to making TV comedies into full-length features) was the intriguingly titled Straight on Till Morning, which somehow managed to combine murder with the more mundane elements of a 'kitchen sink' drama.
Rita Tushingham stars as Brenda, a desperate, dowdy young woman who leaves her home in Liverpool to try and find love and happiness in London. After finding herself a job in a trendy boutique, and a room to rent at a work colleague's groovy pad, Brenda begins her search for a man, but finds attracting the attention of the opposite sex much harder than she thought it would be.
When Joey (James Bolam)the one man with whom Brenda might have had some luck withwinds up in bed with her blonde nympho flat-mate Caroline (the lovely Katya Wyeth), the distraught girl flees into the night where she chances upon a lost dog that belongs to Peter (Shane Briant), a wealthy young man who could be her Mr. Right. If only he didn't have homicidal tendencies, a bizarre hatred of beauty, and a very sharp Stanley knife...
With this interesting story, exploitative content, and talented cast, Straight on Till Morning could have been superb, but the film's iffy editing (which irritatingly intercuts rapidly between scenes), combined with director Peter Collinson's frustrating decision to suggest his nasty violence rather than show us the goods, ultimately means that the film doesn't fulfill its potential.
Still, even though the film isn't classic Hammer by any stretch of the imagination, it's worth checking out for the hilariously horrible 70s fashion and fun scenes of swinging London, Briant's incredible mop of blonde hair that steals every scene it's in, the hysterical moment when Tushingham goes into town to glam herself up only to return looking like a bad drag queen, and a couple of genuinely disturbing moments that include a surprisingly bleak finalé.
5.5 out of 10, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.
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