In the centre of London lies the sleazy Midlothian Hotel. Its reception is governed by the shifty George (Brian Murphy, TV's GEORGE & MILDRED). He snickers on a daily basis at the lowlifes and prostitutes that use his establishment for their pleasures.

One such regular is obese businessman Mr Armstrong (Frank Scantori, WITCHCRAFT X: MISTRESS OF THE CRAFT). He likes to lie in his room dialling the front desk for an outside line. The staff take great delight in listening in as he either rings his missus to tell her how much he's missing her ... or calls the local brothel to arrange a girl for the afternoon.

On this occasion, Mr Armstrong has checked into room 36. On the same day, the sharp-dressed Mr Connor (Paul Herzberg, BLOOD) checks into room 38. Connor works for the government - in particular budding Prime Minister Mr Mitchell - and is a shifty character indeed. We learn early on that he is carrying a gun, a briefcase full of cash and some distinctly spy-looking electronic equipment.

After spying on a couple making love and getting a little over-familiar with the chambermaid, Mr Armstrong rings for his call girl. Mr Connor telephones a female agent (Portia Booroff, WARRIOR SISTERS) and arranges for her to meet him at the hotel with some delicate information she's been bribing Mitchell with.

Unfortunately, the tenants in the room opposite are having a lover's tiff at the time and as a result a shoe is thrown at room 38's door - chipping a section of the room number off. Suddenly, "38" looks like "36" thanks to a damaged door-sign.

And the inevitable happens. The hooker turns up and mistakenly knocks on Connor's door. Connor in turn believes the girl is the agent he has been waiting for ... and Armstrong, meanwhile, is getting restless after his chilled champagne runs out, while there's still no sign of the whore he ordered.

It's a simple conceit, one used to good effect in The Comic Strip Presents classic MR JOLLY LIVES NEXT DOOR (which itself stole the idea from Hitchcock, and many a British farce before it).

More so though, ROOM 36 recalls the melodramatic classic noirs of the 40s - from it's stark attractive black-and-white photography, through the skewed camera angles, right down to the hard-nosed hitman and deadly female. Not to mention the riveting orchestral score.

All of which give ROOM 36 an extremely agreeable and distinctive style - especially when it disperses with the fart gags and Benny Hill humour of the first third and settles into more satisfying thriller territory.

In terms of plot (which is silly, but amiable enough) the film recalls MR JOLLY and any of Hitchcock's espionage films. In terms of the film's look, the aforementioned classic-era noir thrillers spring to mind - as does SIN CITY at times, with it's occasional flashes of red gore standing out among the colourless print.

THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY and BOUND get visual nods too, at least to these eyes. And THUNDERCRACK! could even merit a mention, in line with the film's juxtaposition of standard classic Hollywood style (well-shot, well-lit black-and-white cinematography) with graphic nudity, violence and perverse characters.

In terms of acting ... East Enders! Or Minder! Seriously ... the accents could start to grate, were it not for the fact that they complement the bizarre, sleazy, quirky traits of the characters on offer. Every character is given their own peculiarity to lift them well above the usual one-dimensional fare.

But ROOM 36, despite reminding one of so many other sources, is it's own beast. Jim Groom has grown tremendously as a filmmaker since his frankly juvenile (though occasionally inventive) REVENGE OF BILLY THE KID. Although filmed on what looks like a shoestring budget, ROOM 36 is a considered piece that sustains pace and tension cannily - and despite the first 20 minutes being less than inspiring, builds to a comedy-thriller that keeps you watching right to it's obligatory twist ending.

Darker than you'd initially expect (although this is no doubt due to the fact the film took 11 years to complete and was plagued with production nightmares - the film processing lab burning down, stock footage going missing), ROOM 36 is ultimately much more restrained than Groom's famous splattery debut. It's actually an enjoyable, off-kilter thriller that is sure to attract a minor reputation thanks to its likeable quirkiness.

The film is dedicated to the memory of Norman Mitchell (who plays the politician Mitchell, and who died before the film was completed).

Originally prepared for DVD release in 2006, it's nice to finally see this quirky homegrown gem hit the shelves. And in a pleasing Special Edition too.

Presented in a highly attractive anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, the film looks agreeably clean and sharp. Great contrast and strong blacks ensure the visual splendour of the film is not compromised on DVD.

English audio is presented in English 5.1 and is a good, evenly balanced proposition throughout.

An animated main menu page has fun with Murphy's character, before leading into an animated scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 24 chapters.

To make up for the film's long haul towards domestic distribution, Groom has compiled some fantastic extras for the DVD release.

These kick off with the indispensable "11 Years In the Making" documentary. Clocking in at an amazing 85 minutes in length, this is a wonderful expose into a troubled production that begins with Scantori viewing a private cinema screening of the film and acting as our host, before going off on an incredibly comprehensive exploration of the film's life and gestation. Taking in just about everyone concerned with the film's making, this is a fascinating and sometimes funny piece that ranks alongside STREET TRASH's "Meltdown Memoirs" as a brilliant side dish that makes an already enjoyable feast even tastier.

"Behind The Scenes" offers 30 more minutes of highly engaging and informative "making of" footage.

10 deleted scenes follow, all accompanied by commentary from Groom explaining why they had to be excised.

3 theatrical trailers are interesting to view and each does a decent job of making the film look as wacky and stylish as it is.

"Revenge of Billy The Kid" is a 9-minute promo reel for Groom's earlier film, including previously censored footage.

"Room 36 - Recording The Score" is a 4-minute featurette looking into the set-up of the 67-piece Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra, who performed the film's impressively distinctive soundtrack.

Finally, and not advertised on the DVD's back cover (at least not on this screener copy), there are two commentary tracks - one from the cast, a second one from the crew.

It's delightful to see this excellent film finally surface on DVD courtesy of Ivory Tower Entertainment, and it's equally thrilling to see it being graced with such an excellent set of extras.

Highly recommended.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Ivory Tower Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 15
Extras :
see main review