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  House of Whipcord Flogging's Too Good For Them
Year: 1974
Director: Pete Walker
Stars: Barbara Markham, Ann Michelle, Penny Irving, Sheila Keith, Patrick Barr, Ray Brooks, Dorothy Gordon, Robert Tayman, Ivor Salter, Karan David, Celia Quicke, Ron Smerczak, Tony Sympson, Judy Robinson, Jane Hayward, Celia Imrie, David McGillivray
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is a dark and stormy night and truck driver Jack (Ivor Salter) is taking a nap in his cab until the bad weather passes. Suddenly he is shocked awake by a distressed young woman tapping on the window, so he climbs out and helps her into the passenger side. She is wearing a sackcloth and shows signs of having been flogged, much to Jack's surprise, and he drives off to take her to the nearest hospital. And just who is this woman? She is Ann-Marie de Verney (Penny Irving) and a few short days ago she was living the life of a model. At a party, she was embarrassed that she had been photographed nude in a park as part of work and been caught by the police; following a fine she had been let off. But there were those who were not satisfied with that punishment, not satisfied at all...

During the heady days of the nineteen-seventies, some believed that British society was going to hell in a handbasket - how very unlike these days - and at the forefront of the British moralists was the self-appointed judge of what was decent and what was not: Mary Whitehouse. This climate didn't pass film director Pete Walker and his writer David McGillivray by and with House of Whipcord they set out to send up the Whitehouse brigade by portraying them as the villains in their compellingly grim horror movie. Ann-Marie is the innocent dragged into this ethical minefield when she strikes up a conversation with a mysterious young man, Mark (Robert Tayman), at the party, and they get on pretty well, with Mark inviting her out to dinner the next night, an offer she accepts.

After telling her flatmate Julia (Ann Michelle) that she's going to visit Mark's parents in the countryside, Ann-Marie zooms off in his sports car, but oh dear, she hasn't left any details of exactly where she is heading. We already know that doom is right around the corner after seeing the prologue, and Ann-Marie gets suspicious when her new boyfriend starts driving along country lanes at high speed until, darkness falling, they arrive at their destination which looks worryingly like a prison. That is because it is a prison, an establishment privately (and secretly) run by a group of middle aged women and a decrepit, blind judge. They have set this up to punish those who they believe the law have behaved leniently towards, and this includes Ann-Marie. She and a group of other women have been kidnapped by this lot, whose moral codes and worry at the state of the nation have sent them round the bend.

It gets worse. Ann-Marie finds out from another inmate (when she has the chance to speak) that they operate a "three strikes and you're out" rule here: break the rules and first you are put into solitary confinement, then flogged, and if you transgress a third time you are hanged. It all seems a bit harsh, and it's difficult to accept that Mrs Whitehouse would have been keen to execute women for petty crimes, but Walker is taking her sense of outrage to its natural conclusion: the more you seek to control society, the closer you get to fascism. Back at the plot, there's a horrible, nightmarish inevitability about Ann-Marie's fate as when she tries to escape she always ends up back where she started, even the helpful truck driver isn't as much help as he thinks he is. Meanwhile, Julia and boyfriend Tony (Ray Brooks) grow concerned about her whereabouts, but will they reach her in time? House of Whipcord may not be an incisive attack on the moralists (the type of people who would complain about Walker's films, in fact), but by holding them up to dark ridicule it is effective, and a solid shocker into the bargain. Music by Stanley Myers.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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