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  What Became of Jack and Jill? Help The Aged
Year: 1972
Director: Bill Bain
Stars: Vanessa Howard, Mona Washbourne, Paul Nicholas, George Benson, George A. Cooper, Peter Copley, Angela Down, Patricia Fuller, Peter Jeffrey, Renee Roberts, Lillias Walker
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Johnnie Tallent (Paul Nicholas) lives as a companion to his grandmother (Mona Washbourne) in her suburban home, to all outward appearances a doting and loving grandson, or at least that's what she thinks. Except he's really not, he's biding his time until she passes away so that he can get his hands on her fortune, the problem being for him that she may be seventy-eight years old, but she's still in fine fettle. Johnnie schemes with his girlfriend Jill Standish (Vanessa Howard) about the most efficient method to send Gran to her grave...

Of all the Amicus movies, What Became of Jack and Jill? is possibly the most obscure; not a horror anthology like many of their better known works, it was more a psychological drama, and though listed in the horror genre by such sources which deigned to mention it, there was very little gore or scares. It was more a character study which tipped over into thriller territory on occasions, yet largely took the form of a fixed gaze at the cruelty of the title couple's attempts to bump off the little old lady by means of frightening her to death. As we are well aware of their machinations, the fear was not directed at us in the audience.

Which made for a slow, low key experience as Johnnie (or Jack, as he isn't called in the film) and Jill act perfectly beastly towards the innocent party, the chief weapon used against her being the threat the young have for the old. Johnnie has manufactured a belief in Gran that there's a war brewing in the streets as the youth cannot stand having to wait around and claim their just rewards from the older generation and are now going to take it by force. What an imagination, how ever did he conceive of an idea like that? Well, it's all too plain for us to see, but Gran falls for it hook, line and sinker, helped by Johnnie planting seeds of doubt in her mind.

So a riot she watches on television is connected to this upcoming revolt, but so is the "DOWN WITH THE OLDIES" graffiti which appears over night across the road, something actually written by Jill. While Washbourne elicited sympathy by dint of her being a helpless victim in all this, and Nicholas had his creepy moments as the conniving grandson, the acting honours were walked away with by Howard who illustrated why it was a real shame she never had the chances her acting career offered her. This was her last film, and apparently recognising she was putting in terrific performances that were going unseen she retired, married and moved to the States, never gracing the screen again.

With her doll-like beauty and a heart of stone, Jill makes for one of the more compelling villainesses of the late sixties-early seventies cycle of British psychothrillers, there's absolutely nothing to like about her once you can see past her physical attractiveness. This creates a tension in the first half of the movie that the second fails to live up to: basically, though it is not the fastest moving film in the genre it does build to its climax too soon, leaving the rest of it a gradual wind down to a violent finale which is less tragic and more overdoing it to fashion a memorable dose of just desserts for the wicked couple. Not a production that was throwing cash about, the restriction of the action mostly to the musty old house did concoct a claustrophobic atmosphere, with occasional trips to the graveyard or a more modern setting such as Jill's place of work at the travel agents, but the sense of frustration, even if you don't agree with what happens, was probably the main strength aside from Howard. Music by Carl Davis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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