The Night Digger AKA The Road Builder (1971)

It's been done a hundred times before - miserable old widow keeps middle aged daughter at home far too long (a bit like Timothy Lumsden in classic 80s sit com Sorry) and creates a bitter, twisted old maid. Luckily, the script for this was breathed on by none other than Roald Dahl, so it does mean that although the plot is hackneyed, the women are frankly annoying and the deaths are few and far between, The Night Digger does occasionally spark into darkly comic life (usually when Graham Crowden's waspish old gossip appears on the scene).

The plot (as it is) involves the mother and daughter taking on a young biker to look after their crumbling family pile, but what they don't know is that he's also a serial killing nutter. That's it.

Both mother and daughter take a shine to the young fella (although it's hard to see why), and begin competing for his attentions as he makes a pretty fair job of tarting the old place up. But it's not long before he's up to his old tricks, tying women up, raping them (or maybe not - his sexual inadequacy is sledgehammered home so perhaps he gets his jollies in the act of murder, who knows), murdering them and burying them under the nearest half-finished road. In an unexplored avenue of his perversion, he also removes their clothes, which means we're treated to the site of Bridget "Likely Lads" Forsythe as nature intended (but dead). This is not as interesting as it might sound - the sight of Bridget norks-out is akin to witnessing a loved maiden aunt covered in treacle being rogered enthusiastically over the kitchen table by the local vicar. That was a Christmas to remember, I can tell you.

But enough about my family life. What I'm trying to say is that although Bridget's melons may be surprisingly large, it's an eyeball searing experience. Anyway, after a couple of murders, people get suspicious (but not as suspicious as they should) and we're given an insight into the young chap's sexual inadequacies - in a couple of black-and-white flashbacks we see him raped by gipsy women on his way home from school and later abused by a girlfriend for not getting it up. Unfortunately, it's taken a very, very long time to get to this point, and no amount of 70s retro Commer vans and red telephone boxes are going to save the day. At some point near the end it appears that Dahl packed up his typewriter and went home, so we get a frankly ludicrous and open-ended finale which seems to say that it's okay to murder a bunch of girls and bury them under concrete as long as you find the love of a solid, middle-aged woman. It then adds that the love of a solid, middle-aged woman is enough to give any young lad his libido back and enable him to shag younger women without killing them and burying them under concrete afterwards. And finally, we're told that driving your motorbike off a cliff into the sea is a very, very silly thing to do. But then again, you probably already knew that.

Director: Alastair Reid Writer(s): Joy Cowley (novel), Roald Dahl

Cast: Patricia Neal - Maura Prince, Pamela Brown - Mother, Nicholas Clay - Billy, Jean Anderson - Mrs. McMurtrey, Graham Crowden - Mr. Bolton, Yootha Joyce - Mrs. Palafox, Peter Sallis - Rev. Palafox, Brigit Forsyth - District Nurse, Sebastian Breaks - Dr. Robinson, Diane Patrick - Mary Wingate (as Diana Patrick), Jenny McCracken - Farmwife, Bruce Myles - Bank Clerk, Zoe Alexander - Stroke Patient, Christopher Reynalds - Young Billy, Elaine Ives-Cameron - Gypsy Sibylla, Kay - Whore


Last updated: February 25, 2010

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