Director: Peter Collinson
Script: Tudor Gates
Cast: Susan George, Honor Blackman, Ian Bannen, John Gregson, George Cole, Dennis Waterman, Maurice Kaufmann, Michael Brennan
Running time: 87.5 minutes
Amanda (Susan George) is a teenager who agrees to babysit at the Lloyd residence so that Helen (Blackman) and Jim (Cole) can leave Helen’s son for the night to meet up with friends at a local inn. Not long after the two adults leave, Amanda’s wannabe boyfriend, Chris (Waterman), turns up wanting to crack on with some heavy pettin’, as it were. Chris starts frightening Amanda though by telling her some of the history of the family that she’s babysitting for so, in a panic, she throws him out.
It turns out the boy’s biological father, Brian (Bannen), has escaped from the local nuthouse, where he was sent after trying to kill the mother, Helen, some years previously, and is now heading back for a family reunion, which we know is likely to end badly.
After assaulting Chris, Brian calls at the house with Chris’s nearly dead body and worms his way inside where he begins to initially try to befriend Amanda. However, the girl soon susses out that all is not well with batty Brian and tries to get him to leave, which is the catalyst for Brian’s sane mask to slip and for the real ‘crazy’ Brian to be revealed. What follows is a battle of wits between the two, and, later on, the returning Lloyds.
Peter Collinson, who’s probably best known for directing The Italian Job, has a decent stab (deliberate joke there) of staging a ‘terrorized babysitter’ horror flick several years before John Carpenter’s seminal classic, Halloween, reared its ugly head. Sadly, although the film has its moments, it suffers with also being let down by a script that feels more like a satisfactory episode of Tales of the Unexpected extended well beyond its natural running time.
As with quite a few British horror flicks from this period there’s a nice mix of the cosy and transgressive, and Collinson generates a pleasingly cloying sense of the claustrophobic, having set most of the film in just one location. Unfortunately, much of the sense of menace and momentum is lost as the film switches back and forth between the growing plight of young Amanda and the soap opera dramatics developing between the adults down the inn a few miles away.
What saves the film are some good performances, especially from Ian Bannen as the friendly neighbourhood nutter, and the eye candy that is the lovely Susan George. Sadly George isn’t served well by the script here and is frequently pushed into over-acting whilst performing her terrorized shtick a bit too much. Waterman has some of the funniest lines and it’s a shame he’s not in it more, and the likes of George Cole and John Gregson, (as Brian’s doctor), are wasted. However, Honor Blackman gets more to do and has a few meaty scenes, but is let down by some rather tepid dialogue.
The film is reasonably well shot with some excellent shots of the killer being reflected in various objects, including in the pendulum of a clock, and some nice general framing of shots. The music, by Harry Robinson, is unimaginative, but kinda works, underlying the, at times, disturbing visuals, with probably the most effective segments being the music box-like stanzas.
Overall, then, Fright is a decent enough psycho horror-thriller, but one that is let down by being it being based on a good idea stretched to breaking point, and with a script that does the actors few favours.
Studiocanal is distributing Fright on Blu-Ray as part of its on-going Vintage Classics label. As per usual Studiocanal provide some decent special features including:
- Interview with Kim Newman (5 mins) – Film critic and author Kim Newman shares his appreciation for the film saying that it reminds him of Gaslight and some of the other earliest of thrillers, although he feels that it’s essentially a short-story idea stretched out to feature-length. Newman also reckons that Susan George probably only got the part as Judy Geeson rejected it.
- Interview with Susan George (17 mins) – Susan makes for a good interviewee and admits that she didn’t have to audition for the role. We learn that she rated the director very highly (it sounds like she had a bit of a crush on him too) and was, in reality, quite frightened of actor Ian Bannen, who stayed in character throughout the shoot! We also learn that the little boy in the film was actually the director’s own son, and that Dennis Waterman had to lie on the floor for most of the shoot!
- Behind the scenes stills gallery – Nine, mostly black & white, images