Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Straight on till Morning

An oddity in the Hammer canon Straight on till Morning was released in 1972 and is an unsettling little film that I suppose fits into the category 'psychological thriller'.  The acting is impressive: Rita Tushingham plays a naive Northerner coming down to the Big Smoke hoping to meet a charming Mr Right and prospective father.  Unfortunately she runs into 'Peter' played by Shane Briant an affectless serial killer living in squalid luxury in a Kensington mews house.  It's all a bit of a downer and probably about 20 minutes too long but I liked the period evocation, especially the interiors: the boutiques and her clumsily painted psychedelic room from which she moves into his 'tastefully' decorated bachelor pad with Hogarth prints (The Rake's Progress, appropriately, certainly the debauched scene in the Rose tavern Covent Garden) and scenes from executions on the walls.  I'm pretty sure these were from Jacques Callot's Les Grandes Miseres de la Guerre published in 1633 and depicting the horrors of war, looting, pillaging and summary execution (I think I saw the image reproduced above on his wall). There's a great scene filmed in the early hours at the deserted South Bank looking hugely impressive in its newly-created Brutalist splendour, before it was toned down so as not to frighten the horses.

There are a number of rather obvious Peter Pan references and Tushingham's character is rechristened 'Wendy' - towards the end she has an ill-judged makeover, emerging, I have to say, looking remarkably like the young Shirley Collins.  Filmed mainly around the Earls Court area - famously home to London's transient population - it supposedly starts in Liverpool although I immediately recognised Sarf London - in fact not far from where I grew up - see here for some atmospheric stills - much of The Sweeney was also filmed in this area.  Also enlivened by the appearance of the gorgeous Katya Wyeth, you can also find James Bolam, frizzy haired John Clive (the director Peter Collinson - died young - also made The Italian Job in which Clive features) and an unrecognisable Tom Bell.  The editing initially is very much of its time, rapidly cutting forwards and backwards, but soon settles down; there's also some very disturbing use of the type of reel to reel tape recorders that many households had in those days.  How did he manage to so easily dispose of all that blood and all those bodies?  It's well worth watching if you like to see the fag-end of the optimistic 'swinging' 60s as it slides remorselessly down towards Thatcherism in 1979.  Would make a great double bill with Dracula AD 1972.  See also here and here.

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