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The Flesh and Blood Show / Frightmare (Blu-ray review)

By Kate Davis

The Flesh and Blood Show (1972)
Kino Classics / Released 3/18/14

A maniac is on the loose and the only thing that can sate his appetite is sweet, sweet murder! Or at least, he thinks so anyway. A group of young actors, hired by an unknown producer, come to a seaside theater only to be killed off one at a time. After the murderer is revealed, we are treated to a 3-D flashback as to what caused him to lose his precious marbles.

Honestly, that’s pretty much the entirety of the plot.

Unless, of course, you count innumerable scenes of nudity as plot points.

This film served as director Pete Walker’s transition from sexpolitation comedies to thrillers. It’s so clear that he wanted for The Flesh and Blood Show to be so many things at once, but by doing so was unable to achieve any one clear direction for the film.

Although titled The Flesh and Blood Show, there’s surprisingly very minimal blood or onscreen violence. It probably would have been more beneficial to call it what it really was, which was The Flesh and Bazongas Show. Due to restrictions, he was unable to really show outright gore, but apparently had the go ahead on the full frontal nudity.

Go figure. Walker himself said that, “The Flesh and Blood Show holds back simply because of censorship at that time.” Which leads the question of, “Why not then shelve it temporarily?”

Made in the heyday of Hammer Films, Walker very nearly crosses the line of pseudo Hammer-esque filmmaking. On the new Blu-Ray release by Redemption Films, Walker states in an interview that he, “didn’t want to be the guy who was making independent versions of Hammer movies.” When initially watching this, I had a serious Hammer vibe, but it’s evident Walker was indeed trying to attempt something different. Albeit sometimes hokey, it’s a more contemporary attempt for its era.

It may have been an obvious transition piece for Walker, but there are some golden moments. My personal favorite is when the killer walks on stage and declares, “They’re all the same, young actors. Filthy and degraded lechers. All of them! And the females? Flaunting their bodies! Offering their thighs and breasts. Scum! EXCREEEMENT!!”

I had a serious belly laugh at this proclamation because the movie seemed to be aware of itself and its ludicrous nudity. I won’t say anything more about the maniac because I believe that spoilers are to Satan as elves are to Santa. Now, I must say the only part of the film I audibly groaned at was the last minute and a half. The remaining, living actors literally sit in a circle and explain what the hell just happened in the previous 96 minutes. I’ve always found it insulting when a movie chooses to spoon-feed you a conclusion rather than show you.

Redemption’s Blu-Ray release of The Flesh and Blood Show is a lovely transfer from the original 35mm print. The audio and visual are both spectacular. Although there aren’t many bells and whistles (or 3-D glasses), the interview with Pete Walker about this 1972 flick is eye opening, if not anything else.

Overall, this film is a must own for any fan of Walker’s. However, if you’re coming in cold, perhaps it’s not the best place to start. The Flesh and Blood Show acts more as a stepping stone to his later works, rather than being a solid standalone movie to begin with. It’s all context, baby.

Frightmare (1974)
Kino Classics / Released 3/18/14

In the two years between The Flesh and Blood Show and Frightmare, Walker most assuredly found his stride.

This film details the lives of a semi-cannibalistic family who massively fail in trying to overcome their sadistic past. A mother who murders and feasts, a father who turns the other cheek, the eldest daughter who brings her mother “snacks” to quiet her, and the youngest daughter who is most deviant in her own unique way. These parents spent their due time in a mental facility and were deemed fit to rejoin society.

Swing and a miss there, doctors. A clear, well-written plot leads beautiful, strong shots. That being said, this film is not for the faint of heart or for the fan who wants fast paced scares.

Unlike The Flesh and Blood Show, there is not one boob to be found in this flick. Lesson learned there, ay, Mr. W.? “If you’re not looking for (whispers) sex in a movie, you’re going to look for something sexy to hang your coat on,” says Walker. And how does one make cannibalism sexy, you ask?

It’s no easy feat. There is an air of sexiness with the goings-on of the two daughters and their respective boyfriends, but it’s far more subtle than in that of The Flesh and Blood Show.

Although it received scathing reviews from critics for being so over the top in its gruesome murder scenes, it’s had a lasting effect as a British cult-horror classic. There are some crystal clear undertones in Frightmare.

First, there’s the sort of backwards, crazy, girl power thing going on. You have two murderous women, one who abets them, and a man who will do anything to keep his wife happy. In other words, he’s a serious pushover and the women are are powerhouses in their own rights. And God forbid you ever cross the youngest daughter, you’ll probably find yourself all kinds of messed up in a car trunk.

Walker, in the Redemption Films interview, jokes that one of the criticisms he received of this film is about how, “the women are strong and the men are weak. That’s not so…. he was sympathetic. But, at the end he was weak.” The second undertone is that of mental health and how we “deal” with it. (Slightly spoilery) After the final murderous spree, we end on a still of the father, mouth agape at what’s become of his family. Over this image, we hear, what we assume, is the doctor responsible for releasing them back into society and how they’re fit enough to carry on normal lives. Not so much, doc.

Again, Redemption Films’ Blu-Ray release of Frightmare is well done. There are more extra-features on this one including a commentary, another interview, the original trailer, and a profile of Sheila Keith; the hungry mommy.

Out of the two Pete Walker films just dissected, if you were to walk away with one, let it be Frightmare. It’s a solid movie with clear direction. Oh, yeah, and it’s utterly f-cked up. So, if you’re into that, you should probably get busy and pick this odd little gem up!

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