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  Whirlpool Don't Go Into The Woods
Year: 1970
Director: José Ramón Larraz
Stars: Karl Lanchbury, Vivian Neves, Pia Andersson, Johanna Hegger, Andrew Grant, Edwin Brown, Ernest C. Jennings, Larry Dann, Alan Charles, Barry Craine, Sibyla Grey
Genre: Drama, Sex, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Aunt Sarah (Pia Andersson) has a nice little racket going with her photography business. She will invite young, female models out to her home in the countryside, something of a small mansion house, and have her adopted "son" Theo (Karl Lanchbury) take pictures of them, purely artistically of course. Then, when they're not doing that, Sarah will play games of psychology to get these young women into bed; Theo can be useful in that respect, as she can persuade him to do some of the seduction, but some are more willing than others. There was one recent girl, an Irish lass called Rhonda, who had visited the country house for this treatment, but she seems to have disappeared. Where could she be?

Whirlpool, not to be confused with the Gene Tierney thriller out of Hollywood of the nineteen-fifties, was a rather different proposition. It also managed to spoil its entire ending on its poster, complete with snarky tagline to rub salt in that wound, so you would be advised not to seek out the advertising if you wanted to be surprised by the conclusion in any way. Not that it was a huge surprise, you can pretty much tell where it was heading from about ten minutes in, but debuting Spanish director in Britain José Ramón Larraz had a somewhat relentless approach that made this compelling almost despite being utterly bleak and dejected. Even the scenes intended to be lighthearted were heavy with the atmosphere of doom.

This was a trademark of Larraz's seventies films, often horrors, along with a keen use of rural locations, which were implemented in abundance here. It had to be said, for a film with so much nudity, the scenes where characters stripped off (or were stripped by others) under oppressively grey skies amid unwelcoming-looking woodland looked bloody freezing, and if you were looking for eroticism then you would be better off seeking it elsewhere. Sarah and Theo's latest conquest, when we catch up with them, is Tulia, played by a popular nude model of the day Vivian Neves who would be known to certain British audiences (or certain men in those audiences). She was no actress, but then again nobody here really gave a convincing performance, falling back on a general air of awkwardness or creepiness that served the film with an eerie, not all there tone.

Tulia wonders about her predecessor (Rhonda, not the one we see at the start who wisely pulls on her underwear and makes a swift exit) and dabbles in turning detective, wishing to investigate Theo's darkroom. Another reason you don't get films like this now: in the next century Tulia would simply scroll through images on Theo's phone, or PC, and the movie would be over in about half an hour. But the discomfiting air of the enterprise is its strongest suit - it's certainly not the acting - with Tulia nearly raped by Theo's sleazy pal from the pub (where everyone drinks cups of tea – weird detail) and characters smoking cigarettes and downing whisky like it was going out of fashion, leading to a strip poker session which is simply no fun at all. It was difficult to recommend to anybody but the real aficionados of seventies trash cinema, but even that genre category did not quite do it justice, there was such a serious mood to Whirlpool (which features no whirlpools) that it appeared to be demanding to be taken more sincerely than perhaps it deserved. Still, there's nothing quite like Larraz's seventies films. Music by Stelvio Cipriani.

[Available on Arrow Player. Click here to join the Arrow Player website - there's a free trial available.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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