Director: Pete Walker
Cast: Ray Brooks, Jenny Hanley, Luan Peters
Length: 96 min
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: LPCM 2.0
- “Flesh, Blood, and Censorship,” an interview with Pete Walker, by Elijah Drenner
- 3-D sequence in the stereoscopic format (3-D television system required)
- 3-D sequence in the anaglyph format (requires 3-D glasses: not included)
- Original theatrical trailer
The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) is the second Pete Walker release by Redemption/Kino to get the Blu-ray treatment. The film represents Walker at a time of transition in his career; a time when he started to make the move from sexploitation to the horror for which he became so well known for, and it shows. Unwilling to abandon his successful formula at this point in his career, the film is littered with the voyeuristic shots of naked young women, familiar to his early work. As a result, this feature represents one of his sleaziest horrors. Given the amount of flesh on show, compared to other features made around the time (for example by Hammer), the film can be considered quite graphic for its day.
Headed by a production manager named Mike (Ray Brooks), a group of young actors are invited to an abandoned seaside theatre to put on a show by the mysterious Theatre Group 40. With no script available, they are expected to improvise. It all seems like jolly good fun, that is, until people start disappearing and Mike thinks he has seen a dead girl in the basement. From here the story takes the form of a less graphic protoslasher/giallo, with most of the killings occur off camera. The story also has a nice air of the conventional British whodunit. The mood is initially upbeat but quickly changes when the action kicks in. In line with most other Walker horror pictures, The Flesh and Blood Show has a gritty air and depressing tone, demonstrated in the dingy cinematography and locations Where it differs is a lack of social commentary and poking at institutions, which came later on in Walker’s career.
In amongst the killings, we have this terrific British air of ‘keep calm and carry on’: Someone is killing the staff, what do we do? Pop around to old Mrs. Saunders (played by Elizabeth Bradley) and have a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake. What it lacks in violence, it more than makes up for in vintage British charm: the police are described as ‘the fuzz’, copious use of the word ‘bloody,’ and lines like (when asked the whereabouts of a missing girl) ‘she’s probably just turning on in the loo.’ Despite the nudity, it’s all very polite and everyone has good manners. Although there do seem to be a lot of hormones floating around in that ‘creative energy’. It seems as if almost all of the female cast members do a full strip down, apart from old Mrs. Saunders that is!
Walker puts together an ensemble cast, something he started to move away from later on when he brought in the likes of Sheila Keith. Stand out players include Ray Brooks as Mike, playing his part as the concerned manager with ease. Jenny Hanley shines as the snooty ‘I am quite a big deal’ actress Julia Dawson. Other noteworthy cast members include British sex-comedy legend Robin Askwith as Simon, and Satan’s Slave star Candace Glendenning as Sarah. Finally, Patrick Barr pulls out the charm as Major Bell in a performance that rivals his portrayal of Justice Bailey in Walker’s House of Whipcord (1974).
In terms of plot, The Flesh and Blood Show does follow a traditional formula up to a point. Although, it must be noted that it reaches the realms of the fantastical in its climax. It is slow burning with plenty of dialogue heavy scenes. On this basis some people might find it a little dreary. However, the payoff is worth investing some patience. Walker’s cinematographer, Peter Jessop, does a fantastic job building up atmosphere, especially in his use of chiaroscuro lighting on dimly lit sets. Overall, the film is by no means flawless. The pacing is uneven and there is a lack of graphic kills. As a result, some of the energy present in Walker’s later work seems to be missing here. Nevertheless, it still plays out as a solid thriller murder mystery.
In assessing the visual quality of this release, one has to consider several factors: the state of the 35mm film elements and the original cinematography vs. the restoration and digital transfer to HD. What we are offered here is a vintage print, complete with age-related damage, such as scratches, specs, etc., though none of these are too distracting, and frankly give the film a sense of history. This is the way you would see a film like this, projected at a movie theater in 35mm. The cinematography too is of the period and betrays the film’s low budget. There is a certain amount of black crush, and not everything looks sharp (some shots look downright fuzzy), but that’s the effect Pete Walker wanted. The restoration and digital transfer are pretty straightforward. The restoration is minimal and presents the film truthfully, without digital filtering, save perhaps some color balancing. Micro Center probably won’t be using this as a demonstration disk to sell big-screen TVs, but on the other hand, this kind of “as is” presentation is far preferable to the sort of degraining and oversharpening we sometimes get from major studio releases.
Like the video, the 2.0 mono track gives a truthful representation of the original audio track, without digital “enhancement.” Dialog is clear and easy to understand, and everything is well balanced. Age-related anomalies like hiss and pops are minimal and not distracting.
The extras on this release are a bit short-measure, compared with previous Pete Walker releases from Kino and Redemption. The main item is a 12-minute video interview with Pete Walker called, “Flesh, Blood, and Censorship,” in which Walker discusses the history and production of the film, and the poor reception it originally got. Other than that, we are offered an original theatrical trailer and two supplementary 3D versions of the black & white flashback sequence (in a stereoscopic format and in a anaglyph format—glasses are not included). It would have been nice to have an audio commentary track as well, but the interview is so filled with fascinating tidbits that the commentary’s omission is not as painful as it could have been.
Not one of Walker’s best efforts, but still a worthy contender for the ranks of classic British horror Sleazy and packing bags of vintage charm, The Flesh and Blood Show is a must for all those who love their classic horror with a gratuitous edge and gritty undertone.