The Flesh & Blood Show (1972)
Not quite a full on slasher film but an admirable attempt at one before they would overtake the horror genre in the late 70’s on into the next decade. The film with a catchy title is from cult director Pete Walker who had made the transition from low budget nudie pics to modern setting thrillers. Among them Die Screaming Marianne and Frightmare.
Drive-in enthusiasts will be sure to hurry back from the popcorn line before the opening credits finish rolling. The opening scene features a lovely looking blonde, Miss Luan Peters, answering her door in the middle of the night minus a single stitch of clothing. It’s all a gag when an actor friend, David Howey, is at the door bloodied with a knife protruding from his gut. Turns out he’s a practical joker and our blonde gal and her roommate, Judy Matheson, give him a good thrashing.
Yeah some guys have all the luck.
Our trio of thespians are off to an improvisation job with a group of other young actors at an old rundown theater that harbors a dark past. Joining in the act is the director Ray Brooks who took top billing, Robin Askwith, Penny Meredith, Tristan Rogers, Candace Glendenning and the second billed graduate of Hammer Glamour, Miss Jenny Hanley.
Sex is immediately in the air and that includes some sensual female to female petting. Yes this is a drive-in feature of the exploitation type. This includes what I can only surmise is a topless body double for Miss Hanley as there’s a noticeable cut before her character removes her bra allowing the camera to linger.
As a matter of fact there’s plenty of opportunity for the camera to linger with our leading ladies. Aside from the body double for Jenny, I’m pretty sure to be cast in this film you had to agree to being filmed topless and unafraid to let one and all see your backside.
Now let’s get on with The Flesh and Blood Show.
There’s a gloved figure prowling around the old cobwebbed theater with some point of view shots included. Murder is on his mind and it won’t be long before we’re treated to a beheading by way of the props located n the catacombs beneath the stage. When later on Miss Peters is groped and pawed by a hooded figure, our company director is sure that Howey has taken his practical jokes too far after his disappearance from the troupe.
Unlike the warnings of “Don’t go in the woods” that would become the norm for the slasher genre, in this early rendition we’re to learn at a tea party in town run by elderly Elizabeth Bradley and a former military man, Patrick Barr, that the theater holds a mystery. During the war years a well known actor was playing King Lear in a presentation at the theater and following a show during the Blitz was never seen or heard from again. Neither was his wife or the man rumored to be her lover.
So maybe these busty English gals and the actors who can’t avoid them shouldn’t be venturing into the old ….. Vic ….. or rather theater? Is that what we’re really trying to say here?
There will be another murder or two and if we include the 3D black and white flashback near the climax of the film I guess we might hit three or four deaths that are not quite up to the slasher killings we’d come to see in the near future. But then the quotient of nudity that prevails in this film which includes full frontal of both male and female would be heavily toned down in favor of the gore that would come to dominate the sub genre of the horror film. A trade off I suppose.
Refusing to play spoiler I must say the film as a whole is far better than it should be. The black and white bit that helps to solve the mystery is both effective and jolting considering the harshness it unveils. I suppose the 3D idea was gimmicky at the time to sell tickets. What the paying customers were to do was put on the old red and green glasses with the cardboard frames at the appointed time in the film. Hope they didn’t drop to the floor or slip under the cushion seat by the time the viewer needed them for that crucial plot point.
I had first seen this thriller back in those early days of the big boxed VHS tape on a weekend rental and here I am nearly 40 years later revisiting it for the very first time. Truthfully I hadn’t recalled much aside from the killer running amuck in an old theater setting. No I didn’t recall all the nudity so I might assume the VHS release was heavily censored at the time.
Some of the faces involved are familiar to me but I suspect far more so to those living across the pond judging by the television work some of the youngsters went on to do for the BBC. Miss Hanley will always have a minor cult following for her appearance as the virginal dish that Christopher Lee seeks to make his own in 1970’s Scars of Dracula. Remember the busty gal who has the bat pawing at her breasts to remove the golden crucifix that dangles between them? So boys, you have to ask yourself, “Who was luckier? The rubber bat on a string or the crucifix?”
Hippy haired, Robin Askwith, had already worked with director, Walker, on The Four Dimensions of Greta. A film I’d love to see for the title alone not to mention the leading lady Leena Skoog. Askwith looks familiar to me but I’ll be damned if I can place him from anything else I’ve seen except maybe the Carry On Film I noted on his list of credits.
I also found it ironic that Miss Glendenning (who recalls the beautiful Gene Tierney) appeared in a TV show titled Flesh and Blood. No I don’t think it was a series follow up to Walker’s thriller.
Ray Brooks as the group leader had already done plenty of work but I must say it’s the elderly Patrick Barr who brings a touch of class to the proceedings. His career goes back to the early 1930’s and you’ll find him in numerous well known films (The Lavender Hill Mob) or little known gems (Lady of Vengeance).
As for the director, Pete Walker, will always have one film to his credit I appreciate even if it is unfairly attacked at times, and that is The House of the Long Shadows. The film that teamed Price, Lee, Cushing and Carradine together for one final celebratory go around in 1982. It proved to be the final film that Walker directed.
Yes I do have a pair of Walker sets on blu ray from Kino and no I don’t have the one sheet for this thriller …. BUT ….. I’d sure love to add it to the collection.