Brenda (Rita Tushingham) is a timid lass from Liverpool who lives with her widowed mother Margo (Claire Kelly). A working-class dreamer who spends her free time writing romantic kids' stories, she longs to meet a man who could be a father to the baby she so desperately wants. She decides that she has more chance of finding a suitor in London and, much against Margo's wishes, she packs her suitcase and moves to the city.
Initially moving into a grimy bedsit, Brenda soon finds work in a trendy boutique owned by the smarmy Jimmy (Tom Bell) and is quick to find a pal in sexy co-worker Caroline (Katya Wyeth). Caroline offers Brenda a room at her place and, seeing as though it's much nicer than her current digs, she swiftly accepts.
But Brenda's search for a man continues. She has her eye on Joey (James Bolam) for a short while, until Caroline beds him out of sheer spite during a house party. Back to the drawing board for Brenda it is, then.
That is, until she's taking a stroll late one night and happens upon a dog. She spies its owner, blonde Peter (Shane Briant), and takes a fancy to him. Inexplicably, this leads to her stealing his dog and taking home, giving it a bath.
Why? So she can turn up on Peter's doorstep the following day and return his "missing" dog to him.
"Cleaning up is a woman's job. There isn't a woman around, so ... I don't do it", Peter explains when Brenda surveys his messy pad. But this is the early 1970s and, rather than run a mile at the first hint of such chauvinism, Brenda sticks around. Not only that, she makes her intentions clear to Peter ... and agrees with him when he offers to give her what she wants, in return for her services as a housemaid.
So, Brenda moves in with Peter. But she's not privy to what we've known right from the start of proceedings: the fact that Peter has a very dark pastime indeed...
Unusually dark in tone for a Hammer film, this 1972 psychological thriller offers a rare meaty role for regular support-player Briant (FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, CAPTAIN KRONOS - VAMPIRE HUNTER etc). He's queasily convincing as a woman-hating monster who's manipulative and domineering on the one hand, smarmy and charming when needs be, and ultimately haunted internally by the transgressions he's committed.
Acting as a perfect foil to Bryant is Tushingham, an instantly likeable anti-heroine: a fish out of water in this London environment, and a moth to the flame when it comes to her would-be suitor's suggestions. We hope for the best for her, but fear the worst. Her anxieties are palpable, providing the film with a huge heart.
The supporting cast is both interesting and highly dependable, while Peter Collinson's direction is pretty flawless. In terms of tone, he's struck a perfect balance of melancholia and quietly mounting tension. Meanwhile, each and every scene is framed, edited and shot to within an inch of its life. Collinson was clearly a big advocate of juxtaposing images, and the gimmick works extremely well here.
Aided further by John Peacock's sharp, intelligent script - taking in observations on class culture, the North/South divide, and the maddening plight of loneliness - and a jolting score from Roland Shaw, STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING is a formidable British thriller which tips over occasionally into horror territory. A downbeat finale awaits.
Studiocanal are releasing STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING as a dual-format DVD and blu-ray package. We were sent a copy of the latter for review purposes.
The film is presented uncut and in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Housed as an MPEG4-AVC file and benefiting from a new full 1080p HD transfer, STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING looks extremely good here. A true filmic texture is to be enjoyed throughout, while colours are vibrant and detail is fine.
English 2.0 audio is a little muffled at times, but more spacious and consistent than it ever has been before on home video. Optional English subtitles are provided for the hard-of-hearing; these are well-written and easy to read at all times.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, a pop-up scene selection option allows access to the film via 12 chapters.
A small selection of bonus features are most welcome nevertheless.
The Marcus Hearn-directed "Dream Lover" compiles the thoughts of academics like John J Johnston, Kevin Lyons, Jonathan Rigby and Alan Barnes over the course of 16 enjoyable, informative minutes. We learn that the film was shot back-to-back with FEAR IN THE NIGHT and released theatrically alongside that title as a "Women in Terror" double-bill. Thematic similarities to CATHY COME HOME are mulled over, while the film's place in the Hammer pantheon is debated with intelligence.
The film's original trailer is an engagingly dated affair. At over 3 minutes long it's also pretty lengthy and spoilerific.
STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING retains its power to get beneath the viewer's skin, which is as much to do with Collinson's taut direction and refusal to compromise as it is with the sterling lead performances. The film looks great in HD.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Studiocanal|