Released on Doubleplay DVD/Blu-ray in the UK by Studiocanal on 30th October 2017.
"I'm going to find something that will mark her a little, and hurt her a lot."
Originally enlisted as the supporting half of a 1972 Hammer double-bill alongside STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING (accompanied by the lurid poster tagline: ‘Women in terror!’), Jimmy Sangster’s moderately effective little thriller has now been treated to a HD restoration.
The script, known under various guises, was originally conceived by Sangster back in 1963 before it finally saw the light of day (and fear in the night – ha!) with some alterations and a bit of spit and polish by co-writer Michael Syson. Recently married 22 year old Peggy (Judy Geeson) is still recovering from a nervous breakdown when she comes to live with her ‘schoolteacher’ husband Robert (Ralph Bates) in a cottage on the grounds of a remote boy’s school. Having already survived an attempted strangulation in her former bedsit at the (gloved) hands of an unseen assailant with a prosthetic arm, things don’t bode well for Peggy’s psychological recovery when the headmaster at the school, Michael Carmichael (Peter Cushing) just so happens to also have a prosthetic arm...
A relatively by the numbers rift on LES DIABOLIQUES (1955), director Sangster compensates for the minimalist script by wringing every last possible drop of atmosphere out of prowling through the deserted classrooms, dormitories and across the windswept school grounds after woman-in-terror Peggy.
Peter Cushing only appears in a couple of scenes, but he lends his customary consummate excellence in conveying the nuanced character of Carmichael, and his presence permeates throughout the film.
Ralph Bates struggles to convince in a role that requires a lot in order to sell the plot twists, but Joan Collins’ unblinking dispatch by rifle of a rabbit unsubtly sketches in her cold calculation as the wife of the headmaster.
There’s a strikingly effective use of school sound recordings which play at the flick of a switch and which rise to a shrieking cacophony during the film’s finale – mirroring the spiralling madness infecting the proceedings. The opening credit sequence cyclically foreshadows events to come, as does a scene in the gymnasium with a display of rope knots carefully framed behind headmaster Carmichael, and an unexpectedly open-ended conclusion helps negate the somewhat implausible and mechanical plotting preceding it, delivering if not quite fear in the night then certainly a shiver in the morning.
Extras: New 16min documentary and trailer
***(out of 5*)
This review was originally published on the FRIGHTFEST website.