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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'House of Whipcord' is one hell of a fun and deranged movie. As all of
Walker's films have a political or social undertone, much like George
Romero does with his zombie franchise, this particular film satirizes
corporal punishment and harassment in the workplace. The film starts
off at a lively office party where a young model Anne-Marie (Penny
Irving) was recently called to justice for showing her breasts in a
photo shoot she did. Her work colleagues find out about this and brush
it off as a joke and all have a friendly laugh about it.
Anne-Marie meets a guy named Mark E. Desade (I see what you did there.), whom has taken a liking to Anne-Marie, and the eventually go out. After their dinner date, Mark wants Anne to meet his mother and drives her out to the country to meet her, however once she gets out of the car, Mark speeds off leaving her in the cold. There is someone waiting for Anne, and leads her to a dreadful place which is an off the grid women's home that is supposed to cure women of their wicked ways.
The place is run by the evil Mrs. Wakehurst (Barbara Markham) and her husband Justice Bailey (Patrick Barr) who are not above brutally torturing or even murdering their kidnapped victims. Mrs. Wakehurst is helped by Walker (Sheila Keith) and Bates (Dorothy Gordon), a due of two old ladies who use whips to keep the ladies in line. Will Anne and the other girls get out alive?
This film could be compared to the 'women in prison' genre, but it is much more than that. 'House of Whipcord' is more sadistic than that and less sexy. It's also much darker and sinister than other films of that sub-genre. I enjoyed seeing how Mrs. Wakehurst had a troubled past as well and the irony of how these old ladies are quick to deal out brutal and serious punishment for small crimes like shoplifting or exposing yourself, but the old ladies in charge of the home severely beat and murder people. This is a great psychological horror film, one that some of the characters will stay in your mind for days after viewing.
This movie could have been typical 70's exploitation porn but director Peter Walker turns it around and makes it a grimy desadean attack on the ruling classes. The scene in which the blind judge continues making a solemn speech well after the prisoners have all left the room is worthy of Bunuel. It's all a bit heavy handed and obvious and it seems as though this movie should have been more shocking for it too really work but the bizzare grimy sepia tone of the whole thing really makes it much better than anyone could have expected.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'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
.' Penny Irving plays Ann-Marie Di Verney, a gullible
French model living in London. She is picked up by Mark E Desade
(Marquis Desade?), who shows absolutely no sign of being anything other
than a wrong 'un. As he drives her to meet 'his mother', she is
frightened by his wayward driving and he tells her to go to sleep
which she does! Her innocence is over-played, but Irving nevertheless
convinces as someone who truly does not deserve all the truly
appalling, and unlikely, things that happen to her ('First we will kill
your vanity, then the rest follows of its own accord,' she is told at
Of the Pete Walker directed 'sexploitation' films I have seen, this is my favourite. It is focused, features some great central performances (stalwart Sheila Keith is horrifyingly realistic as sadistic warder Walker) and contains a truly disturbing sense of growing hopelessness a feeling that turns out to be mostly justified.
She is taken to a private prison, a secret place run by Margaret (Barbara Markham) who was fired from her earlier job running an all-girls' school after one of her pupils - a French girl - killed herself (in truth, it was Margaret who murdered her). She and her warders are dangerously and passionately insane, and now run what they call this 'private clinic' away from the eyes of the public. As latest inmate Di Verney (guilty of flaunting her body) is also French, Margaret is intimidated by her presence and determines to have her killed.
To have people imprisoned and punished for lack of morals by 'respectable' authorities who turn out to be offenders on a far greater scale is too perverse to be taken seriously as a wholehearted statement ... or is it? It did cause some offence for its 'oppressive right wing tone' on its release. As a horror film, though, it all works terrifically well and superbly played by all. Having said that, Di Verney's friends (including 'The Flesh and Blood Show's Ray Brooks) who are desperately trying to track her down throughout are dwarfed by the larger than life prison staff.
Although the death toll is shocking, and the location throughout stiflingly austere, I maintain the most frightening thing is the sound of creaking stretched rope that accompanies each of the successive hangings.
A highly recommended low-budget feature.
I watched this back-to-back with Horror Hospital. It seems Brits in the
'70s had a thing for movies in which young people are locked up and
punished for the indulgent swinging hippie lifestyles the media loved
to portray them all as having.
The movie begins with a tongue in cheek dedication to those who wish for the return of capital and corporal punishment. The movie then gives you a bunch of such people as the bad guys - a retired judge and his underlings who believe the law has become too lax and as such seek to deliver their own brand of ultra-right wing justice, along the lines of flogging and death by hanging for crimes as slight as a model being photographed in the nude.
For a Pete Walker-helmed exploitation shocker, there is actually a lack of nudity or full-on violence; most of the movie shows the plight of the young girl who is abducted and forced to live in the demented Judge's makeshift prison. We never really get to know or care about her or any of the other characters - this is an exploitation movie, after all. But then again, there's barely any exploitation either. The movie is therefore not entertaining and hard to sit through. The performances of the bad guys are certainly chillingly effective, but the same can't be said for those on the side of good. That doesn't leave us with much to work with. Perhaps those tired of the drivel in the '70s papers from moral crusaders like Mary Whitehouse (parodied in this movie as, who else? one of the bad guys) found there point of view nicely summed up in this simple tale, but modern viewers might wonder what the point is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having found director Pete Walker's first "House" film House of Mortal
Sin to be a marvellous,daring Giallo,I began to get interested in
seeing Walker take on a sub-genre that I had never seen before:Women In
Attending the premiere of a naked photo that she secretly took with a photography,French model Anne-Marie Di Verney catches the attention of fellow party guest Mark E. Desade,who invites Marie to go to his "pad" so that they can continue the party alone.Driving to their destination,Di Verney's hope quickly grind to a halt,when she finds out that Mark's "pad" is actually a disused prison,which has been transformed into a "secret court" by a group of "moral guardians",who have decided to deal with indecent people in modern society,by sentencing them to death.
View on the film:
Despite director Pete Walker giving the disused prison a stylish low light appearance that gives the movie a good,grubby atmosphere,the first hour of David McGillivray's screenplay disappointingly drains the film of any nail biting tension,by making the ordeal that Di Verney has to face be ones that feel plodding and also lacking any sense of suspense.
Along with the screenplay,the film is also not helped by the performance of Page 3 model and Sitcom star (who had also been an extra in Walker's earlier Tiffany Jones) Penny Irving as Anne Marie- Di Verney,who makes the many scenes featuring Verney ones that are extra painful to watch,due to her giving the character a chalkboard-like fake French accent.
Thankfully for the last 40 minutes of the film,McGillivray and Walker break out of the prison confines to deliver a tense,wonderfully bleak,grim and gritty Thriller,as Walker (perhaps one of 70's cinema most under rated British directors?) builds upon the themes that he had started in House of Mortal Sin,by splattering all of the dreams that the "establishment" of secret courts and moral guardians have across the screen,by giving the film a strong dose of Black Comedy to show how justice is "blind",and cheekily naming one of the nastiest wardens after himself, (played by Walker's amazing collaborator Sheila Keith) as Walker shows lengths that the wardens are willing to go to,in order to create their "moral" society.
Here's another one of those darkly effective Brit thrillers, it's simple but interesting story, hitting home. Not surprisingly this offbeat horror, again stars the wicked, but great Sheila Keith as a sadistic guard in a faux prison run by twisted minds, including you know who, where immorality is the crime. English lasses, who've shown off their assets, publicly, in brazen fashion end up here, in this end of the road fate. Our latest beauty, a model, goes home with a guy she met at a party, the son of the twisted governess of this place. The first rescue scene is the same as the last, which effectively shows you the hopelessness of this girl's fate, in this bleak film, shot in drab color, our twisted characters in drab attire, our dark and dank house/prison, a well chosen and isolated setting (god knows where this was). I'm not gonna lie here, this is a very depressing film, with a couple of disturbing moments, but we get the suffocating air of this place and this hell of misfortune shared by this girls. A certain fact: None of these girls are getting out. The ones who escape are gonna end up statistics, or caught, and brought back, where of course they will suffer intolerable and some barbaric punishment. This film too, has moments that highly if, inavoidably have you recalling Horror Hospital, though of course this one is of better stature. This is one of the most bleak and depressing films I've seen, up there with Scum, and although I'm not a great admirer of this one, this horror truly excels as a nasty, unnerving scare piece of entertainment. Horror lovers, watch this one with the lights off.
An old man that lives in an old house conducts a correctional institute
Robert Firsching wrote, "Many viewers will be offended by the film's repressive right-wing tone, but its genuine scares and creepy atmosphere will outweigh its philosophical offenses for most horror fans." I guess I never noticed this right-wing tone at all. If anything, it seemed to be skewering that position. But what do I know?
I have not seen many of Pete Walker's films, so I cannot put this one in context, and cannot rightly say if it is one of his better or worse films. I suppose I liked it in a general sense, though it did not hold my attention as well as I wish it would have.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A retired, blind judge and his wife, a disgraced prison matron, along
with a few accomplices, have decided that the British penal system is
failing to prevent the degradation of morals in society, so set up
their own house of corrections in an abandoned prison. They use their
son to lure young women who have been convicted of offenses against
morality to their own private hell, where they are tortured and
executed by the insane and sadistic matron.
House of Whipcord is a fairly nasty women in prison flick, but not standard fare for the genre. First, you won't find any lesbian shower scenes though there is some nudity. And although there is torture, violence and death, it is mostly implied rather than in any graphic depiction. The feeling of this movie brings up images of boarding school bullying, corrupt officials and those in the population who are smug and self-righteous all together. It makes a delightful commentary on British society and popular morality.
One of the complaints I have about this movie though is its darkness. Not the darkness of the subject matter, but the actual darkness of the filming, which made it difficult at times to see the on screen action. That, and the phony French accent used by Penny Irving. But it's kind of a clever movie that has more to it than meets the eye.
An elderly ex-judge and his wife set up a kangaroo court to pass
'proper' sentence on wayward young women who they consider have been
treated too leniently by the law. Those convicted are forced to serve
time in their private house of correction, where any misdemeanours are
dealt with most severely: one strike gets a trip to solitary
confinement; two strikes results in a flogging; three strikes and it's
the hangman's noose!
In dedicating House of Whipcord to 'those who are disturbed by today's lax moral codes and who eagerly await the return of corporal and capital punishment', director Pete Walker and writer David McGillivray take a wry swipe at the self-appointed moral guardians of the day, people whose ultra-conservative values made them more dangerous than those they seek to persecute.
The undoubtedly deranged individuals who operate the prison in Whipcord are clearly intended to represent the religious right, the older generation, and the establishmentexactly the sort of people who would object to this kind of immoral entertainment; the result is a whole lot of sleazy Sadean fun, as Walker and McGillivray go out of their way to rile the easily offended, their liberal young females being stripped, degraded, tortured and killed by their crazy captors (whose number include Walker regular Sheila Keith) for the most trivial of transgressions.
Unsurprisingly, the film delivers lots of female nudity (scrumptious Penny Irving as sexy French inmate Ann-Marie Di Verney regularly gets naked, and Ann Michelle goes topless), although the film is remarkably reserved when it comes to depicting the actual violence, preferring to suggest its nastier acts rather than wallow in gore. Despite the lack of graphic nastiness, the film still possesses the ability to shock and upset, the film delivering a cruel twist and an unexpectedly powerful emotional wallop in its closing moments.
A not-too-bright French girl called Anne-Marie is taken unwittingly by
an odd man called Mark E. Dessart to a secret prison in the middle of
the countryside. This place is a correctional institute for amoral
women, and it's conditions are extremely harsh. Anne-Marie soon
discovers to her horror that no inmate actually ever leaves this
This Pete Walker film is not your typical women in prison movie. While it certainly ticks a few boxes associated with WIP fare, it's an altogether more heavy and serious film than others of it's type. It does have nudity and S&M but neither are particularly explicit or detailed. House of Whipcord is much too downbeat in tone to operate as a straight sexploitation flick. On the contrary, it has some strong performances, good writing and capable direction. The setting for the prison itself is agreeably gloomy and is used to good effect. While the film is not afraid to end fairly nihilistically.
Penny Irving isn't especially good in the central role of Anne-Marie, she is just a little too vacuous too much of the time. While Robert Tayman as Mark E. Dessart is at the very least incredibly creepy, although quite how someone who looks like this is a chick-magnet is best left unanswered. Much better are the personnel in the prison, with Sheila Keith a particular stand out. She was terrific in Walker's other 1974 film Frightmare, and here she is extremely impressive again as a scary and sadistic prison guard.
There's no doubt that this is a very solid bit of Brit exploitation. It's very well made all things considered. It's just not quite what some might think it might be with a name like House of Whipcord. There's not much erotica here at all, so be aware of that. But if you appreciate your WIP films with a bit more downbeat grimness then this one could be the answer.
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