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Fright (1971)

Fright - written by the improbably monickered "Tudor Gates", doesn't have the most auspicious of starts, as we are treated to some bird called Nanette caterwauling an awful song called "Ladybird".

What this has to do with the resulting 90 minutes of barely restrained hysteria is anyone's guess… perhaps British Lion had entered into some kind of Satanic contract with a bad song company - after all, The Wicker Man was full of 'em.

Once Nanette's faded into the background, there's a lot to look forward to. Susan George is a busty teenager babysitting for George "Minder" Cole and Honor "Pussy Galore" Blackman.

All is not well at the house - Honor ladles on the meaningful looks before departing for the evening… what can be going on?

Of course, having put the audience on edge with this dodgy acting, the film then provides to wring as much tension as possible out of the 10 minutes Miss George ends up being alone in the house.

Every drawer she shuts sounds like a firework going off, normal taps gush like waterfalls, and the boiling kettle makes a noise like a cat trapped in a lift shaft (if you can imagine such a thing).

Then she sees a face at the window… She goes out to investigate and gets hit in the face with the washing on the line - prompting the first (but by no means last) human scream.

But the biggest shock (for me, at least) comes when the lights go, and she distinctly says "Oh, fuck." Real swearing - in a British horror film! Who would have thought it?

Up pops Dennis Waterman in pink flares and chunky knit cardigan as her boyfriend, who reckons he's on for a bit of "the other" (as they called it in the 1970s). You've got to admire his chat-up line anyway… "Oi reckon you've got a lovely pair of Bristols." Gets 'em every time.

Of course, he doesn't get very far (although he undoes her blouse and she spends the rest of the film showing a lot of chest) before he gets booted out. As Miss Goerge repeats her "performance in front of a window" from Straw Dogs, Dennis has a quick perv before being brutally assaulted by a mystery assailant. Who is the mystery assailant? Well, it's no real mystery - it's Honor's husband (played by the psychotic-looking Ian Bannen), who's been confined to the local nuthouse for trying to kill his soon to be ex-wife.

He's escaped and come back "home". Oh dear.

Where Fright scores is in being one of the first of its ilk - it's pretty much a blueprint for every Halloween and Halloween rip-off made ever since. It even comes across as a mini Scream, Dennis Waterman remarking "You could make a horror film in here" and the babysitter watching Plague Of The Zombies on the TV, the noises from the telly becoming the soundtrack to the nutter attempting to break in to the house. Well I never.

The film even has the most ineffective police force you're ever likely to see, greeting a doctor worried about his escaped mental patient with a pile of paperwork, telling him "It'll be quicker in the long run…"

Things go tits up in the last 20 minutes when the obligatory stand-off at the house goes on just too long. But that's a minor niggle in an otherwise superb and ground-breaking film.

Director: Peter Collinson Writer(s): Tudor Gates

Credited Cast: Honor Blackman - Helen, Susan George - Amanda, Ian Bannen - Brian, John Gregson - Dr. Cordell, George Cole - Jim, Dennis Waterman - Chris, Tara Collinson - Tara, Maurice Kaufmann - Inspector, Roger Lloyd-Pack - Constable, Michael Brennan - Sergeant


Last updated: February 23, 2010

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