CONTAINS AS FEW SPOILERS AS I CAN GET AWAY WITH
Two Sidney Hayers films have drifted my way recently: both 1970s British suspense thrillers with a gallery of familiar faces in their casts.
First up was 1970's Revenge, a neat little tale in which a pub landlord (James Booth), having just lost his daughter at the hands of a sex fiend, kidnaps the local perv (Kenneth Griffiths) with the intention of getting a confession out of him. But things don't go according to plan: Booth's wife (Joan Collins!!!!!) isn't keen on the situation, the police are sniffing around, and Griffiths might not actually be guilty after all.... As things unwind and unravel, the movie loses its way somewhat in the last third, as Collins departs the scene in frankly ludicrous circumstances, but for the first hour or so it's not too bad and builds up the suspense quite nicely.
Much better, although sleazier and more salacious, is the following year's Assault, which is that most bizarre of treasures: a British giallo. A sex fiend is operating in the woods near a girls' school and there's a healthy list of suspects all equally flagged up as the maniac: the local journalist (Freddie Jones), the handsome doctor (James Laurenson), the dominated husband of the school's headmistress (Tony Beckley), even the copper on the case (Frank Finlay). In the best giallo tradition, it also features something seen at the scene of the crime that's mirrored later in the film that provides the key clue, while Suzy Kendall, a semi-regular in giallo movies, is at the centre of it all. To be honest this isn't anywhere near the heights of the genre (the best of Argento, for example) but it's engrossing and enjoyable and nicely shot, and manages to twist audience suspicions from one character to another. The worst part is the villain's demise which is frankly silly and doesn't belong.
The 1970s (and on up to about 1983) probably stand as my favourite years of cinema and it's those years which I'm most keen on filling in the gaps, particularly in the horror, fantasy and thriller genres and especially British ones. While Revenge isn't bad at all and a more than acceptable time-passer, Assault is easily the better of the two films and I'm really glad I've managed to finally see it.