David Cronenberg meets the ferocious whispering of Oliver Reed.
To start my mini fest of Oliver Reed films I thought it best to start with a film he made right here in my native homeland. It was produced in the Toronto area of Canada with one of our countries most acclaimed film makers.
Ollie stars here as a rather self serving psychiatrist of sorts who is dabbling in what is termed as psycho plasmics. He is utilizing people with severe mental hangups for his own gain in developing and proving his theories. When talking to his patients he takes on the being of those that have brought issues and conflicts into his patients past. It could be an abusive Father or lost lover. The results are that the patients experience physical defects of some sort as their distress or anger comes forward emotionally. Hence the book “The Shape of Rage” which is prominently displayed throughout the film.
In his care is Samantha Eggar who is married to Art Hindle. They have a small daughter and are separated while she lives at a retreat in Oliver’s care. While there we begin to learn that she had a tormented childhood with an abusive Mother and an alcoholic Father who turned a blind eye to the beatings. While these “therapy” sessions are going on both her parents are brutally murdered by a small disfigured childlike creature.
The police are not sure what to make of it and hubby Art Hindle believes that Reed is no good and hiding something. He then begins to seek out past patients and doesn’t like what he finds. When another bloody slaying takes place, Hindle is convinced that Eggar and Reed are somehow connected. To make matters worse his daughter has been abducted by two of these strange beings.
Following his instincts he heads right to Reed’s clinic where he confronts the good doctor. Oliver seems distressed himself and we the audience along with Hindle are about to discover why Eggar is Ollie’s star pupil. It’s all headed towards a gross out finale with a terrifying scene involving the little girl that Reed and Hindle are trying to save.
While I have never been a huge fan of Cronenberg films in general I have seen most of them. This is probably the first of his efforts I did see back in the VHS era. The reason at the time was it had Ollie leading the cast.
By this time Oliver was no stranger to being cast in films made in Canada. Just the year previously he had starred opposite Raymond Burr and John Ireland in Tomorrow Never Comes that had been filmed in Quebec. Both of those gentleman were of course born in Canada as well. He’d also appeared in the 1966 effort The Trap which had been filmed in B.C. He would once more return to the Toronto area to film a low budget shocker with Peter Fonda titled Spasms released in 1983.
This thriller represents a good look at a horror film from the era of it’s production and a definite departure from the typical plots of the day . It’s different therefore imaginative. Eerie and with the solid presence of Reed involved it’s well worth seeking out for not only the Cronenberg fans but horror fans in general who like the style that isn’t an upscale Hollywood slasher film. It has that George A. Romero feel to it at times if I can use that as a parallel. Slashers were about to invade the theaters in droves after the recent success of Carpenter’s classic Halloween. Along came Jason and the rest shortly there after.
The Brood, Cronenberg and Reed take us in a totally new direction in horror at the time. Give it a look if you already haven’t.