Who is Pete Walker? Honestly, I had no idea. I’d never heard of him or his films. I wasn’t alone in that either. Even well versed film buffs I mentioned the name to had no idea who he was, so I didn’t really know what to expect from this collection. The back of the box says that he used to give the British censors fits by pushing the limits of the censorship board with "a string of gruesome and erotic thrillers." I still didn’t know what to make of it. That is, until I watched them all, and I have to say, I’m sorry there were only four films in the collection, because I really dug his stuff a lot!
Since this is a collection of four of his films, I’m going to run through each one, with a description of the film, followed by a short review.
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Die Screaming, Marianne (1971)
Description: Marianne has been on the run for a number of years, living by her wits and working as a go go dancer in various places. When she finally meets a man who wants to marry her though, she chickens out at the last moment and marries his best friend instead, leading him to go to her father, an ex-judge in Portugal who was kicked off the bench for corruption, and tell him where she is. He wants to find her because when her mother left him (and ended up dead), she had taken a very large sum of money with her along with numerous records detailing her husband’s corruption. She has the number of the safety deposit box it’s stored in, but can’t get it until she turns 25. The judge wants his daughter back, and he wants to get his hands on that evidence, but once he finally does meet her and her new husband, his feelings soften and he wants to make things good again. Unfortunately, her half sister, who also has the hots for her father, has other ideas. She just wants to get her hands on the money and get rid of Marianne once and for all.
Review: This film was my third favorite of the four in the collection. Not because it’s bad, but because it can get a little confusing at times. For example, she was on the run all those years, trying to avoid her father, but then she suddenly goes there with her new husband, and sticks around, even after it becomes obvious that her half sister is trying to kill her. Susan George plays Marianne, and she is VERY cute, but she’s also not very likeable at times, despite the fact that we’re supposed to be pulling for her to live through it all. She does become better once she leaves the guy she was supposed to marry and gets with his friend, whom she did marry, but even then there were bits of her personality that just made her not all that likeable. The acting in this one wasn’t too bad. It was typical of the 70’s style of acting, as was the whole look of the film. Typically I’d say this one was the type of film that you would probably throw on as background noise if you were doing something else, but this film, as do all of Walker’s films in this collection, rise above that and actually hold your interest. Even though I said this one was my third favorite film in the collection, it really isn’t bad at all.
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House of Whipcord (1974)
Description: A young French model (Penny Irving) is arrested for indecent exposure at some sort of an outdoor event, and is let off with a slap on the wrist and a fine. Later, at a party, one of her friends blows up a photo taken of her just as the cops nabbed her. She’s embarrassed by the photo, but finds sympathy from a mysterious, handsome stranger she meets at a party. They date briefly, and then he says that he’d like to take her away for the weekend to meet his mother. She happily agrees, and he does take her to his mother, but it’s not at all what she expected, as it seems that his mother, and old, blind judge and two matrons run a prison that’s outside the law to punish the moral crimes that the real law doesn’t seem to want to punish properly, using mental abuse, beatings and even executions. No one leaves this prison alive, even though the mother, who is basically the second in command, tells the blind judge that the reformed girls are set free once they’ve served their sentence. Now it’s up to the girl’s best friend and her boyfriend to find her and get her out of there before its too late.
Review: This film was far and away the least plausible of the stories and was my least favorite of the four films. As I said though, there were no films in this collection that I hated. This one just happens to be my least favorite of the four. Much of the reason for this, is that the main character’s reactions are so clueless and unrealistic that it makes the story difficult to believe. There’s little to no fight in her at all. Another thing that makes little sense is that the matrons don’t have any weapons, and there are several girls at the prison, so why didn’t they just jump the matrons, kill them and escape? Even when there is an escape attempt made, it’s so inept as to be laughable, and because they didn’t kill the matrons, the warden (the mysterious stranger’s mother) is able to re-capture them easily. Still, all in all, it’s not a bad film and it does have its good points, but the unbelievability of it all just makes it hard to swallow.
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Description: A young woman seems to have a wonderful life ahead of her. She just got married and everything seems to be going her way, but when a man from the past, the man who she saw kill his mother when she was seven years old, begins to stalk her relentlessly, she has to find a way to stop him before it’s too late. Or maybe it’s not him that needs to be stopped…
Review: I deliberately kept this description short, because both this film and the final film in the collection, The Comeback, are mysteries that both do a really nice job of keeping secret until near the ends of the films. I was really impressed in fact by how both films did such a great job of keeping the mystery going. It’s so easy to just reveal something early on and let your audience watch the characters try to figure it out for themselves after the viewer already knows, but to keep the mystery going, that takes talent as a writer and a film maker, and Mr. Walker did that admirably in both films. This one is my second favorite in the collection, and would have been my first if The Comeback hadn’t have been so good.
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The Comeback (1978)
Description: A popular singer gives up his career after getting married to a manipulative socialite, but then divorces her six years later and attempts to make a comeback album. The head guy at his record company arranges for him to stay at this large manor in the English countryside, which is taken care of by a somewhat creepy old caretaker couple. The manor is fully equipped with music and recording gear so he can work on his new songs in peace. Unbeknownst to him, his ex-wife is murdered in what used to be their penthouse apartment, and her corpse is left there to rot. As he finds new love with the head of the record company’s assistant and tries to get his new album done, he’s suddenly haunted by voices, visions of a corpse, and even his ex-wife’s severed head. Now he has to figure out what’s going on, to not only save his sanity, but to also save his sanitiy, as well as his own life, and that of his new love as well.
Review: This was far and away my favorite film in the collection. It was extremely well done and the mystery was held right up until the end. Jack Jones, who’s probably most famous as the singer of The Love Boat theme song, plays the singer making the comeback, and is very likeable in the role. He comes off as a really nice guy who’s just looking to put the past behind him so he can get on with his life and career. Tom Bosley, of Charlie’s Angels fame, plays the head of the record company, who also happens to be his friend, and someone who cares about his well being…but does he really? The singer’s engineer and assistant is a very, very strange chap. Could he be behind it all? What’s really going on? You won’t know until the end of the film, and the way Walker handles keeping it all a secret is just brilliant. This is what a mystery should be, and it makes me even more baffled as to why I’ve never heard of Pete Walker. He made some really great films, and on relatively low budgets as well. Again, this is the best film of the bunch, but you should watch these films in chronological order, so youc an observe his progression as a film maker.
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Now for some general comments…
Pete Walker liked to reuse certain cast members in different films. This is typical of certain directors, especially in the independent film world where you’ll see them bringing back certain people in different roles. For example, one of the matrons in the House of Whipcord is also one of the caretakers of the manor in The Comeback. Penny Irving, who starred in House of Whipcord, also makes a small appearance in The Comeback as a background singer who is looking for her big break.
Now, speaking of Penny Irving, here’s the fun part. Fans of the long running British comedy, Are You Being Served? will instantly recognize her as Mr. Grace’s secretary, but she’s not the only one from Are You Being Served? that appears in Pete Walker’s films. There’s also a small appearance by the woman who played Captain Peacock’s wife in the show, and small appearances by two guys who played customers in different episodes of the show. So fans of the show will have a fun time spotting them in the different films.
Three of the films in this collection include audio commentary with Pete Walker, along with others, and also include the theatrical trailers for the films. Only Schitzo doesn’t have commentary or a trailer. All the films also include interviews with Pete Walker, and The Comeback includes Jack Jones in the interview as well.
All in all, The Pete Walker Collection is a really great release from Kino Lorber, and one that I can highly recommend adding to your collection. I had no idea who he was before I watched these films, and now I’ll never forget.
If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray only release from Amazon here, or from any of the other usual outlets.