Extremely morbid (and stuffy), plus fake plot twists.
Right up through its hokey final shot (stolen from IN COLD BLOOD and executed purely film-textbook style), WALK A CROOKED PATH is a dramatic train wreck of a movie, the sort of misfire that ensures its director (John Brason) would not get another helming assignment.
I am a fanatical lover of obscure films (my excel file of films I've seen that are not listed at all in IMDb is now over 1,400, including short films), but temporarily I met my match with WALK. It is as morbid as any horror or sex film, but without their over-the-top fun elements. Instead Brason dishes up a deadly dull concoction that makes Basil Dearden's trailblazing VICTIM look like a delirious Ken Russell opus by comparison.
Picture starts disarmingly (and deceptively) like a routine drama in the THESE THREE vein, with nasty young student Philip (played with thoroughly unconvincing American accent by failed actor -turned TV writer- Clive Endersby) accusing his favorite teacher at a boys' school in Surrey of having tried to molest him on a walk home through the woods. Nobody believes his story, including classmate Mullvaney (my fave Robert Powell, in nearly his first film role).
The teacher, Tenniel Evans, in a dour, one-note turn (looks like he's frankly uncomfortable appearing in this project, and I don't blame him), has bigger problems, because his drunk of a wife (Faith Brook, in thankless role with a capital T) is belittling him for failing to get the headmaster job, passed over after 17 years of service. He's also having to deal with ultra-sexy, underage housemaid Elaine (Georgina Simpson, easy on the eyes, and briefly moving this stuffy exercise into entertaining sexploitation mode), who comes on to him to no avail.
After this standard setup, film goes way off the rails, and I would be handing out a sh-tload of spoilers to describe the thoroughly unbelievable succession of plot twists that follow. You could hurt yourself slapping your forehead "What the f--k?" style at the number of idiotic switches to come. Suffice it to say that when Philip's mum arrives, her character and behavior make no sense at all (except to keep this potboiler boiling); there is no end of treachery afoot by not only the principals but their neighbors too; secret conspiracies and counter conspiracies, possible suicide and all sorts of nonsense ensue, leading to melodramatic reveals and about as nasty a resolution as could possibly be derived from the starting point.
Unlike VICTIM, the treatment of homosexuality here is completely unsympathetic, and I was shocked to see according to IMDb that this sludge played at the Chicago International Film Festival (thankfully I didn't attend that year!). Filmmaker Brason had an apprenticeship working on a nudist camp film, and based on his non-achievement here, he belongs in the Pete Walker school of soft porn. But watching WALK is like watching porn with all the fun (naughty to you Brits) bits removed -sheer self-torture.
Apart from seeing Robert Powell for about a minute, and catching Miss Simpson in her only feature film role of any substance, this is unwatchable. I made it to the end and was in a sour mood for the rest of the evening - its downbeat finish is as morbid as the tackiest of horror or porn films.
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