|Page 1 of 3:||  |
|Index||29 reviews in total|
"This film is dedicated to those who are disturbed by today's lax moral
codes and who eagerly await the return of corporal and capital
punishment". So reads the foreword at the beginning of "House of
Whipcord". With a title like that, it's pretty obvious what the viewer
is in for. Right? Wrong. Although this film was promoted as a standard
women's prison sleaze-fest, there is much more to it than that. In a
way, the dedication (which is very tongue-in-cheek) is as good a
description of the plot as any. Young French model Anne-Marie Devernay
(Penny Irving of "Are You Being Served?" fame) is nominally fined for
posing nude in a public place. At a party, she meets a charismatic
stranger named Mark E. Dessart (Robert Tayman) who takes more than a
passing interest in her. Because Our Heroine is rather dim-witted (to
say the least), not only does she disregard his oddly familiar-sounding
name and puts up with his very weird mind games, she agrees to
accompany him out of town to meet his parents. No sooner is she in the
car than he takes off like a bat out of (or headed for) Hell. Upon
arriving at his parent's VERY ominous country home, he disappears,
leaving Anne-Marie at the mercy of two formidable middle aged women,
Walker and Bates (Sheila Keith and Dorothy Gordon) who appear to be
prison guards. And indeed, it's not long before the girl is thrust in
front of Mark's father, retired Justice Bailey (Patrick Barr) and his
mother (Barbara Markham) a former prison warden dismissed for her
cruelty to the inmates. These four demented individuals (and Dessart,
their "procurer") take it upon themselves to punish any young women
whom they feel have escaped the law, and have set up their own "House
of Corrections" for that purpose. Anne-Marie is promptly sentenced and
thrown into a cell, where she is informed by another luckless inmate
that nobody ever leaves and three strikes against you and you're dead.
Things quickly get tougher from there.Meanwhile, Anne-Marie's roommate
Julia (Anne Michelle) and her boyfriend Tony (Ray Brooks) are searching
for her. This serves as the premise for an atmospheric and chilling
British film which is also a parody of the repressive former Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher (the warden's name is Margaret Wakehurst)
and her ilk. Producer/director Pete Walker, known for his string of
low-budget horror/suspense films, does an excellent job invoking the
nightmarish prison and he has gotten fine performances from his cast,
especially Keith, (a Walker regular) as the creepiest guard.
Unfortunately, Irving, sporting an incomprehensible French accent(a
plot device which could easily have been dispensed with), tends to be
more laughable than sympathetic. Nevertheless, the grim story and
pervading atmosphere of doom render the picture eerily convincing. The
film was originally released in England in 1974, and it was spottily
distributed in the US by American International Pictures a year later.
But, other than a few television showings in the late '80's, it has
gone largely unseen in the States.
"House of Whipcord", which was previously available on a DVD from Image Entertainment, has been recently re-released by Media Blasters/Shreik Show. Their DVD not only adds trailers, a photo gallery and a truly fascinating commentary from producer/director Walker (who has a cameo as a bicyclist) but a greatly improved anamorphically enhanced print. Though the prison scenes are still dark, this is the way the picture was made, and the bigger the screen it is viewed on, the better it probably looks. The score by Stanley Myers ("The Deer Hunter", "No Way to Treat a Lady") perfectly matches the brooding visuals and the title theme is memorable. Sadly, no subtitles have been added which really would have been a plus when listening to Irving babbling in Faux-French. Nevertheless, the picture is highly recommended and if it's still regarded as a "women's prison movie" it's one for a more discriminating viewer.
An old, blind judge, his crazy wife who once was a wardeness of a prison but dismissed for her complicity in a girl's death, two guards from said prison as retainers of some type, and a son with a "CLOSE" love for his mother who goes out in public as Mark E. Dessard(something like that)round out the antagonists in this interesting, exploitative, misogynistic treatment by British director Peter Walker. The protagonists are, of course, scantily clad girls being flogged, humiliated, and hanged in an old run-down prison in the English countryside. The girls are brought there by the son who finds girls of an indecent nature(flashing in public and the like)where they are then sentenced and mistreated. Boy, would there really be prison over-crowding today! The film has a very dark edge to it without any humanity. The brutality used toward the women is cold and has a decidedly anti-women flair to it. What I did like about it was its obvious atmosphere. Walker has some skill as a director to be sure. His tense scenes in the prison with the veiled lighting and austere setting propel this feature from just another female prison movie to something quite different. Whether that is good or not is for you to decide. I am really not sure how I feel. The acting also helps as everyone involved is at the very least adequate. Ms. Irving, as the French girl, is quite fetching and does a credible job in the lead. The girl playing her roommate is an even brighter highlight(very lovely!). Barbara Markham makes as cold a wardeness as I have ever seen. For me the acting highlight belongs to Shelia Keith as the primary guard. She is able somehow to add a relaxedness to her role while even a touch(admittedly a rather small touch) of sympathy(the scene where she goes to get some lotion for the wounds she inflicted).
I didn't go into this film with very high expectations because I didn't
like Pete Walker's Frightmare very much; but House of Whipcord is a
vastly superior film and, to be honest, I'm shocked that this doesn't
get mentioned more often! Pete Walker's film is both a sleazy seventies
exploitation classic and a striking indictment of the justice system.
The film serves as a warning against what would happen if private
institutions were given the power to decide what is apt punishment for
certain crimes, and the dedication of the film to all those who believe
in capital punishment shows Pete Walker's love for controversy. The
plot takes place in an old house, which doubles up as a private
institution ran by a senile judge, his unforgiving partner; the female
warden of the prison and two equally vile female orderlies. They punish
girls for crimes committed that weren't, in their eyes, properly
punished by the corrupt British courts. We pick the story up when a
young French girl is inducted into the institution.
The atmosphere of the film is brilliant; Pete Walker always ensures that the action is sleazy, and yet oddly erotic at the same time. The film is very matriarchal, and it's the female characters that are the protagonists while the men exist in background roles. However, the film isn't feminist; and, in fact, is the exact opposite; as the director ensures that none of the women are portrayed in a favourable light. The film benefits from a handful of great performances; the best of which coming from Barbara Markham, who gives a powerhouse performance in the role of the head of the institution. Frightmare star Sheila Keith, and Dorothy Gordon are the orderlies, while Patrick Barr is brilliantly understated in his role as the ineffective Justice of the prison. Penny Irving is the young French victim at the centre of the story; but her performance is brought down by her ridiculous French accent! The story is another major strong point for this film, as Pete Walker ensures that it always moves well and although you wouldn't expect it from a Euroshock movie like this - he also makes it easy to care about the characters and what happens to them. On the whole, this is a vastly underrated and under seen seventies gem that must be seen by anyone who gets the chance to see it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The not exactly subtle director Pete Walker triumphs here with a very decent sexploitation gem about a well-hidden prison, serving to re-educate naughty young girls and ruled by an elderly couple. They (he's a judge, she's an ex-warden who resigned due to her share in a suspicious suicide case) found the British law-system to be ineffective and therefore order the handsome son Marc to bring pretty girls who committed small felonies back to the prison. Even though the blind and senile old judge doesn't realize it, the girls are humiliated, tortured and eventually executed. The script centers on a French nude model (with an atrocious accent) named Marie from the moment she gets seduced by Marc to when she faces true misery. Walker's idea is great and the film is overall very well-scripted, with an eye for black humor and imaginative perverted undertones. Our daring director clearly aims for controversy and goes for the shocks (the opening sequence ironically states that this film is dedicated to all those who wish to see the return of capital punishment in Britain) but yet he doesn't stuff his movie with gratuitous sleaze or explicit violence. No, he merely reaches this effect by suggestive disturbance (the vicious hanging scene!) and especially the grim and ominous characters. Barbara Markham, otherwise a relatively unknown actress, is terrific as the sadistic and quite insane "head" of the prison and she receives excellent feedback from Sheila Keith as the charismatically cold warden Walker. Just as they would repeat it in the equally surprising successor "Frightmare", scenarists Walker and David McGillivray portray the women as the depraved lunatics while the men are weak and unable to interfere. Details that prove that Walker unquestionably was the most gifted independent British filmmaker of the early seventies and his twisted world perspective make him a favorite among cult-horror fanatics. Slightly negative aspects include that many, many scenes are underexposed and far too unclear to follow. Walker also could have made more out of the potential Gothic theme and bleak prison-surrounding. But now I'm just splitting heirs "House of Whipcord" is an essential euroshock film, often regretfully mistaken for depthless sleaze. I highly recommend it to horror lovers that look for original and unusual stories.
This early 70's classic from Pete Walker is essentially a classic
sexploitation exercise wrapped in a horror packaging.
A dark and disturbing piece, this film is set in a creepy and foreboding house where a couple are running an illegal and immoral correction centre. Young females seen by the old school as sluts are lured to the house, imprisoned and eventually flogged and hanged for their sins.
There is no gore on show here; instead the unsettling feeling is delivered by the cold green filtered scenes and the real underlying menace that Walker manages to inject into the film. The plot is pretty good with some nice twists throughout.
Ultimate fear is slightly diminished by the fact that one of the lead characters is familiar for being the narrator of the 70's childrens TV programme, "Mr Benn".
One of Britsploitation master Pete Walker's most infamous films, House of
Whipcord is a highly disturbing project that may be too unpleasant for
casual viewers to enjoy. The plot finds enigmatic writer Mark E. Desade
(Robert Tayman) taking a beautiful, slightly dim French model in funky
platform shoes (Penny Irving) home to meet Mum. She discovers too late that
Mum is the deranged, moralistic Mrs. Wakehurst (Barbara Markham), and that
the family mansion is really an unauthorized private prison for girls that
Mum considers wicked sluts. What follows isn't as explicit as you might
expect, but the proceedings are so horrifyingly cruel and oppressively
that it's often hard to watch.
The acting is top-notch all around, especially Sheila Keith as a whip-wielding barbarian guard. Pete Walker slowly wrings every bit of clammy tension out of the unsavory story. For instance, despite an attractive cast, interesting fashions, and potentially gorgeous locales, everything is presented in a damp grayish tone that makes you want to put on a sweater. He keeps things very unpredictable; when you least expect it, you're hit by an oh-my-God twist that leaves the situation even more hopeless. The pace is slow, there's some unobtrusively clever editing to be found, and the color looks appropriately filthy. This babes-behind-bars horror amalgam really is powerful, but don't make Anne-Marie's mistake: Know where you're heading before you set out.
A young French model (Penny Irving), resident in London having just completed a controversial photo shoot for a men's magazine, is approached at a party by a charismatic oddball calling himself Mark E. Desade (geddit?) whose dating techniques are strange, to say the least. He invites her to meet his parents, and she foolishly agrees - turns out the old couple (he's blind and senile, she's a sadistic retired prison warder) are running their own private prison in the middle of nowhere with the aim of punishing 'immoral' behaviour with beatings, solitary confinement, humiliations and compulsory Bible lessons. A couple of equally deranged guards are on hand to guide these wayward young things back onto the straight and narrow, along with several menacing rats. Don't ask. HOUSE OF WHIPCORD poured napalm on troubled waters with its original release in 1974, when the hang-'em-and-flog-'em brigade were at their most vocal and the likes of Mary Whitehouse and Lord Longford ("Lord Porn", according to Private Eye magazine) were keeping a beady eye on the increasing amount of sex, violence and bad language on television and in the movies. Pete Walker's bleak and disturbing take on vigilante justice gets the flesh crawling and the nerves jangling like precious few British horror flicks before or since, offering little comfort to the viewer as a series of ghastly coincidences, shocking deaths and unexpected twists take us ever closer to the resolutely downbeat ending. Ironically (hopefully) dedicated to the vocal minority who find sentencing too soft and the law largely impotent, WHIPCORD isn't for everyone - the faint of heart should steer well clear - but offers an upsetting glimpse into the heart of darkness for the curious. Ann Michelle and Penny Irving are surprisingly good in their dramatic roles, but the film is stolen by Barbara Markham, Patrick Barr and Sheila Keith, chewing the scenery as the governess, the helpless judge and the most zealous warden respectively. Ray Brooks (the voice of MR BENN) has a few good scenes as Michelle's sex-mad boyfriend.
Grim, knowing, literate, uncompromising little dig at the British establishment and even sections of the population and it's tabloids' fascination with moral standards and the nasty little deviant punishments thought appropriate - in particular a good thrashing and if really necessary a good hanging. Hang 'em and flog 'em indeed, especially if they are pretty naked girls. WIP, I suppose this could be described as, but how misleading. No pretty shots of a dozen naked girls being hosed down or lesbian sisters kissing or indulging in cat fights. This is English boarding school style bullying and worse dressed up as 'correction'. A very powerful and dark tale of old and not so old England. Some say this is slow in parts. I didn't notice it let up for a minute. Excellent
A disgraced prison governess and a retired judge decide that the
English court system has become too lenient so they turn their isolated
country estate into a brutal prison that seems to exclusively house
sexy young women who have violated "the public morality". The couple's
bastard son, using the very unsubtle pseudonym "Mark E. DeSade", lures
the unsuspecting girls to the house where they are stripped, whipped,
and eventually hanged for committing even the most minor infractions.
This seems like an especially nasty WIP flick, and it is in many
ways--it includes, for instance, one cruelly ironic scene where a dumb
lorry driver brings a delirious girl who has just escaped the prison
estate BACK there thinking it is a private hospital.
But this film is much more darkly intelligent and effectively crafted than any WIP film. It has much more on its mind than crass titillation. It is no less than a thinly veiled attack on the reactionaries and right-wing moralists that were rising to power in Britain (and later America) at the time the film was released. Like the Mary Beth Whiteheads and Margaret Thatchers who railed against public immorality while having tea and crumpets with mass murderers like Chile's Augusto Pinochet, the moralistic couple in this movie are enraged by minor moral transgressions but apparently have no qualms at all about torture and murder. They're also blatant hypocrites--their own son was born out of wedlock and the mother's creepy relationship with him is Oedipal to say the least. As in "Frightmare" the wife/warden is the especially insane one while the judge/husband is weak-willed and so senile he thinks he's signing release orders when he's actually signing death sentences.
What's most fascinating about this movie though was the way the people it attacks reacted to it at the time. While all Pete Walker's earlier sexploitation and horror movies had been virulently attacked by censors and conservative film critics, this movie was well-reviewed and very successful (even though it has just as much nudity and even more violence than other Walker films). Perhaps, the moralists enjoyed seeing promiscuous young people get their comeuppance, or perhaps they just didn't grasp the irony (and it delicious irony--the lead character is basically sentenced to death for appearing naked in public for monetary gain, a "crime" pretty much every young actress in THIS movie is guilty of!). This movie shows just how warped, hypocritical, and above all stupid censors and right-wing moralists really are. Yet they apparently liked it! That is quite an accomplishment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"House of Whipcord" is a truly great film so don't be fooled by its
appearance. Criminally underrated director Pete Walker lends his
amazing hand (and indeed eye) to a premise that could've been a recipe
for cheap sexploitation disaster (ie: a group of nubile young girls are
stripped'n'whipped) yet instead ends up as an exercise in atmospheric
intensity, surreal political allegory and surprising restraint on the
blood and nudity front.
To elaborate a tad on the strippin'n'whippin' premise, our heroine is a young French girl called Anne Marie (Penny Irving) who has come to London to do some modelling work for the 'arty' w*** mag Escort. One night at a party she meets a tall, dark, handsome stranger by the name of Mark E. Dessard (pronounced like Marquis De Sade, geddit?), who purports to be a writer and swiftly seduces our heroine in a series of quite moody sequences, including an edgily erotic and actually rather tense scene in which the two go out for a meal together and Mark tests her levels of trust for him. It doesn't take long for him to talk her into coming out to the countryside with him to meet his Mother and before you can say "wasn't the name a dead giveaway?" he's driven her out into a vast Gothic mansion in the middle of Nowhere and abandoned her... Trouble is afoot, especially when she's greeted by the cruel yet almost childlike Bates (portrayed with an unnerving dementia by Dorothy Gordon) who takes her into the grimy, unpleasant depths of the house and demands that she strips. Obviously, Anne Marie is shocked by the request and quite unwilling to do as Bates suggests. However, it doesn't take long before the far more sinister and sadistic warder, Walker (played with supercharged and scary androgynous sex drive by the excellent Sheila Keith) shows the young model the price she has to pay for disobedience.
As the superbly scripted plot unfolds, we learn (don't worry, no severe spoilers) that the house is ran by the clearly very unhinged Mrs Wakehurst (who is Mark E's mum) and the partially blind, senile ex-high court judge Justice Bailey, both very strict puritans who believe that even the slightest breach of 'the law of the land' (in Anne Marie's case, doing "shameless" nude modelling in public) deserves an appropriate punishment.
I know what you're thinking, this all sounds like a surefire recipe for a constant barrage of cheap lines and bad set-ups for explicit sex or OTT scenery chewing. You couldn't be further from the truth however. Walker directs "House of Whipcord" with a very dark, fearsome intensity that appears to come from the heart and a distinct lack of either unpleasant gore, extended whipping sequences or even much nudity. Instead, he concentrates his attentions on the mood, which is bleak throughout most of the movie, framing beautifully Gothic shots through the eyes of nooses (hanging plays a very macabre and unsettling role in the story as it develops) and using his camera to fire up the viewer's mind into imagining far worse atrocities than those actually being committed on screen.
Walker also manages to extract tour-de-force performances from the majority of his cast, not least of all Barbara Markham, who's insane portrayal of Mrs Wakehurst begins by being horribly effective and ends at the point of absolute mania - the final sequence in the film is horrifying, utterly unexpected and genuinely tragic, playing heavily on the deterioration of Wakehurst's mental state that has been building up from the first moment she appears on screen. To compliment the ferociousness of the performances, the mood of the direction and the tragedy of the storyline, David McGillivray's screenplay (based on Pete Walker's original ideas) is loaded with sharp exchanges of words, psychological abuse and, at times, damn near poetic speeches that make the characters believable and, in many cases, downright scary.
"House of Whipcord" goes far beyond your average sexploitation movie of its time and is clearly the work of a man with intentions stretching way beyond his form, or possibly just a man wanting to subvert the conventions of it. Bursting with barbed assaults on the British justice system and attacks on organised religion that would make De Sade himself proud, "House of Whipcord" stands the test of time as an engrossing, beautifully filmed and fierce piece of angry, heartfelt film-making. Highly recommended.
|Page 1 of 3:||  |
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|