It seemed like just another day for the Hammond family, father Martin (James Kerry) went off to work at the bank, mother Wendy (Sylvia Syms) was left at home to tend to the housekeeping, and children Nicola (Donna Evans) and Jamie (Matthew Haslett) were set to leave for school when there was a knock at the front door. Not expecting anyone, the young boy went to answer and was confronted by a man in a ski mask, accompanied by another similarly attired, who barged their way into the house and demanded the family keep quiet and stay where they were. Wendy was indignant but unable to stop this invasion as further into town her husband was about to meet with a nasty surprise...
If this is sounding familiar, it would be because writer, director, producer and editor Donovan Winter essentially lifted the premise of the Humphrey Bogart thriller The Desperate Hours wholesale and applied it to the Britain of the late nineteen-seventies. It would receive an official remake in the nineties under the Desperate Hours title, starring Mickey Rourke that time, but there had been variations on the plot over the decades, from the Johnny Cash vehicle Five Minutes to Live to the notorious video nasty Fight for Your Life. Winter's efforts were not quite as trashy as that unlovely item, but he did include his trademark sexploitation elements along with his social commentary, as interested in the former as he was the latter.
This meant you had the chief crim Ron (Derren Nesbitt), with teenage accomplice in tow (unnamed Alan Guy), lording it over the Hammonds by stinging them with crude quips and observations, then delivering pointed political commentary about the state of the nation, a crunching gear change Winter attempted over and over for the ninety minutes it took for a siege to develop as the suspicions of the police are raised. Much of that was down to Ron's cohorts at the bank who relieve it of its notes and as a literal parting shot, they gun down the assistant clerk on the way out (he looked as if he was going to do something stupid). This does offer Martin the chance to rush home, and our director the opportunity to edit in lengthy point of view driving sequences.
That opening half hour came across as almost entirely consisting of such suburban travelogue footage, which you imagine must have been pretty patience testing to audiences of the day, but now affords nostalgia hounds a chance to drink in all those vintage cars on the streets and the shops that may be long gone (the locations were filmed in Orpington, Kent), and just overall a lingering sight of yesteryear of the seventies worth a thousand mentions of Spangles or platform shoes. However, once Winter opted to ramp up the claustrophobia, we hardly left the confines of the Hammond home where Ron was putting them all under terrible pressure as he initially waited for his buddies to telephone him, then realised he was stuck there with the coppers surrounding him and no apparent escape route.
But what, I hear you ask, of the sexploitation? Don’t worry, Sylvia had nothing to do with that bit, or maybe do worry, as the teenage daughter did when Ron persuades the gormless henchman (henchboy?) to take her upstairs and deflower her. Parents are suitably horrified, but Winter wanted his sex scene, and that's what we got, though he had already seen Nicola take the anonymous gunman, er, gunboy, to her bedroom and change out of her school clothes in full view, discussing her breasts in a manner that nobody ever did ever. Even when the deed is underway, intercut with The Horse of the Year Show on TV, we are served up voyeurism as we eavesdrop on the girl - "Harder! Harder! I always wondered what it would be like!" - that takes the edge of any undercutting of the bourgeoisie the rest of the movie insistently contained. Indeed, the whole thing left you with misgivings in that way that only a British seventies trash flick can, which may be enough reason to watch it for aficionados; unlike Winter's other projects, this didn't drag, so it's a pity it was last. Well, sort of a pity. Music by John Fox.