STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING ***
Directed by: Peter Collinson, Starring: Rita Tushingham, Shane Briant, Katya Wyeth. Horror, UK 1972, 96mins, Cert 18.
Released on Doubleplay DVD/Blu-ray in the UK by Studiocanal on 29th January 2018.
Originally released by Hammer as a ‘Women in terror!’ double-bill with FEAR IN THE NIGHT, Peter (THE ITALIAN JOB) Collinson followed up his 1971 babysitter stalker FRIGHT with this decidedly unpleasant little thriller set in groovy early 1970’s London.
Instantly dispensing with any hint of Hammer gothic, Collinson opens with a gloomy pan across a vista of kitchen-sink Liverpool where innocent (naive) young Brenda (Tushingham) is leaving home in order to travel to London to seek a man who will give her a baby. Unfortunately, the man she first bumps into in a newsagents in Earls Court Road, and with whom she will unwisely move in with is Clive (Shane Briant). Clive will turn out to be rather less of a fairy-tale knight in shining armour and rather more of a psychopathic cherub blonde Lost(toy)Boy who fancies himself as Peter Pan, and has a very nasty tendency involving a Stanley knife triggered by the concept of beauty. But our Brenda isn’t considered beautiful to Clive, nor is Clive’s shaggy doggy Tinkers (ring any bells- geddit?), so they’ll both be alright won’t they...?
A disconcerting barrage of quick edits fill in Shane Briant’s lethal toy boy past right from the off so there’s no doubt he’s a wolf in 1970’s sheep clothing. The only questions Peter Collinson’s disturbingly queasy kitchen-sink PEEPING TOM poses are therefore ones of plausibility. Surely Brenda, an ex-librarian and amateur wannabe children’s author, should pick up on the Peter Pan references, not least of which being Clive-call-me-‘Peter’ insisting on calling her ‘Wendy’ (alarm bells!). But it seems we’re actually in a 70’s London version of never-never land where even a decidedly underwhelming work colleague (James Bolan) seems to fit Brenda’s criteria for potential father material – that is until he ends up sleeping with her sexy landlady!
To be fair, Rita Tushingham does a splendid job in keeping the viewer on her side; despite the cringe worthy awkwardness and innocence she wears on her sleeve – not to mention her decidedly questionable choices such as kidnapping Clive’s dog and bathing poor old Tinker in fairy liquid! (Hang on, is that a visual pun?) And then there’s a scene where, in a moment of supreme ill-judgement, she goes for a beauty make-over and comes home bedecked in a preposterous wig resulting in her resembling a cross between Marie Antoinette and a French poodle.
Shane Briant’s floppy blonde hair is much nicer, even if he is decidedly not. Although the narrative lays his disturbed cards out on the table face-up, his playing proves grimly fascinating and he conjures up a portrayal of conflicting torment - murderous and lethal - and yet contrastingly, child-like and whimsical. In those moments of pure exposed vulnerable innocence, he is like a mirror image of Tushingham’s character – both of them trapped in their own fairy-tale existences and daydreams – albeit one far more dangerous than the other.
Director Collinson left us with a literal cliff-hanger of an ending in THE ITALIAN JOB. Here he doesn’t present a definitive resolution either, but as Shane Briant reclines on his bed, the state of disrepair of his sock gives enough of a pointer as the camera then proceeds to pull back and almost apologetically tip-toe away from the bleakness of that little mews flat.
Bonus points are awarded for the cameo from legendary actress/singer Annie Ross (Granny Ruth from BASKET 2/3!) who also weighs in with the hauntingly melodic title song.
The HD transfer delivers exceptional detail and those 70’s fashions and effective art decoration such as Clive’s green-tinged sky-light are suitably vibrant and appropriately garish, whilst the protagonists’ close-ups are unflinching and disconcertingly sharp.
Extras: New featurette and trailer
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STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING ***