Peter Collinson (director)
14 October 2019 (released)
17 October 2019
Not much to be frightened about in this ‘home invasion’ psychological horror from 1971, though admittedly it does have its moments.
When college student Amanda (Susan George) signs up to babysit for Helen Lloyd and her partner Jim (Honor Blackman and George Cole respectively) she has no idea what she’s in for… Arriving at the couple’s large estate in the woods she finds their young son Tara (a girl’s name, actually) already asleep. Sharing a glass of sherry before their departure, Helen Lloyd in particular seems anxious and nervous, advising Amanda to call in case of an ‘emergency’. As Amanda settles down on the couch to watch some telly she hears noises and spots a male silhouette at the window. Minutes later the doorbell rings and her boyfriend Chris (Dennis Waterman), with whom she seems to have a strained relation to put it mildly, enters. Amanda isn’t quite sure whether to be pleased or annoyed over the unexpected intrusion and it’s not before long when the pair begins to quarrel. Amanda is particularly annoyed about Chris creeping around the house before ringing the doorbell, upsetting his easily scared girlfriend. When Chris assures her it wasn’t him creeping about the house he steps outside to look for possible intruders when suddenly he is attacked by an unseen person and badly beaten over the head.
Meanwhile, in a pub-restaurant in town, Helen and Jim celebrate their new beginning together – as it turns out Helen also celebrates her divorce from hubby Brian Lloyd (Ian Bannen) – a dangerous psychopath held in a mental institution for attempting to murder her. Celebrating with the couple is Brian Lloyd’s psychiatrist, Dr. Cordell (John Gregson). Back in the estate, Amanda grows uneasy because Chris has not returned and she continues to hear strange noises. Suddenly Chris appears at the door, blood streaming from his head. Panicking, she rings Helen in the pub to inform her someone is lurking in the woods though Helen senses straight away it might be Brian… A quick phone call to the institution confirms that Brian has indeed escaped.
Also appearing at the doorstep of the Lloyd residency is a man who claims to be a neighbour. He shows concern for the badly wounded Chris. Amanda lets him in, unaware that the neighbour is in fact a dangerous schizophrenic.
With Helen, Jim and Dr. Cordell on their way back, Amanda is now left to her own devices and quickly realises the only way to keep the demented man at bay is by playing along with his delusions. It seems to work, though only for a little while…
The climax is admittedly a satisfactory one and we see Amanda, who up till then had little else to do then scream and scream again, come out tops.
With a screenplay by Tudor Gates, who was responsible for such Hammer classics as TWINS OF EVIL and who co-wrote the cult films BARBARELLA and DANGER: DIABOLIK one must wonder what went wrong here: the pace is rather disjointed and too much emphasis is given on Susan George becoming increasingly hysteric – what a difference to Jamie Lee Curtis in the later HALLOWEEN. In fact, Susan George isn’t given much scope here at all and her part in the Sam Peckinpah nasty STRAW DOGS (made the same year) was considerably more satisfactory. Other points ought to be addressed too, for example the state of the Lloyd’s kitchen. We are talking about a wealthy estate with a gloriously decorated entrance hall and so on, yet the ramshackle state of the kitchen suggests a couple in poverty. Surely if they can afford a babysitter they can afford a cleaner? The performances by the other leads are competent throughout though occasionally wasted thanks to an uneven script.
FRIGHT is available fully restored in Blu-ray format for the first time, including bonus features such as interviews and still gallery.