“House of Whipcord” (1974)
Studio: American International Pictures (AIP)
Starring: Penny Irving, Barbara Markham, Patrick Barr, Ann Michelle, Dorothy Gordon, Sheila Keith
Directed by: Pete Walker
Running Time: 102 min.
Synopsis: Young women are being held prisoner by a crazed group that believe they are the true justice of the land.
The British have produced many great horror films throughout the years. One Brit that contributed to some of that great horror of the 1970’s is director Pete Walker. He has directed such films as Frightmare, The Flesh and Blood Show, Schizo, and this film that I am about to review, House of Whipcord. All of Walker’s films have two main elements that are present in all of his films, which are an eerie story and a creepy atmosphere.
House of Whipcord starts off with a model, Ann-Marie (Penny Irving) who meets a mysterious man, Mark (Robert Tayman) at a party. The two hit it off and Ann-Marie decides to go away with him for a weekend, but Mark ends up bringing her to a prison run by his crazy parents. The parents who are former workers of the justice system of London were cast out years ago and decided to take the law into their own hands and imprison young women who they thought were immoral. So, their son brings them young girls like Ann-Marie and locks them up, tortures them, and eventually kills the young women.
The film itself is very creepy. This old castle that is the prison is eerie looking on the inside and out. Probably some of the best scenes that have a great creep factor are the parts where Ann-Marie faces the judge and the scenes where the women are whipped. The scenes are done very well in the way they are shot and lit. The set up for their make-shift court room has Ann-Marie and the guards on one end of the room and the judge and his wife way down on the other side with the lighting on the actors only and the long hallway completely dark.
The evil characters of the film are the big standouts. The judge played by Patrick Barr who is blind and is very eerie in some parts. The judge is actually the compassionate one of the rest and believes that his wife played by Barbara Markham is releasing the girls after they have served their time and learned their lesson, but she is really executing them by way of hanging. The two female guards, Walker (Sheila Keith) and Bates (Dorothy Gordon) play good mean bitches. Walker is the more evil of the two and the strongest one as well, where Bates seems to be weaker and can be fooled easily by the prisoners. Sheila Keith who plays Walker is in other Pete Walker films like The Comeback and Frightmare. I am also wondering if their character names were homage to the director himself for Walker and Norman Bates for the Bates character.
Other things that stick out in this film are the great score by Stanley Myers who captures the mood of the film. Myers also did music for other Pete Walker films, the Academy Award winning film The Deer Hunter and he did music on Doctor Who in the 60’s. The two lead actresses of the film that fall victim to the evil clutches of the wicked prison are very memorable and very beautiful. Penny Irving who plays Ann-Marie plays her role well as the young girl trying to break out of the prison anyway she can. Also Ann-Marie’s roommate Julia played by the beautiful Ann Michelle is trying to find out what happened to Ann-Marie and ends up tracking her down to the prison. Both Irving and Michelle are no stranger to horror. Irving also starred in The Comeback and Michelle starred in Virgin Witch and Haunted.
One of the things that I did not like about the film was there were scenes that were much too dark where you could not see a thing. Not sure if this is the filmmakers fault or just a bad transfer of the film, but the rest of the film looked really good and looked like a good quality transfer, just the scenes that were shot outside at night were very dark and you cannot make out anything. Other than that, House of Whipcord is a good horror film from Pete Walker and a good example of classic British horror from the 1970’s. The film is worth checking out and so are other films in the Walker collection.