Thursday, 8 March 2012

Re-evaluating the House of Whipcord



Perusing the Horror Channel tonight, I stumbled across an old Hammer Horror from 1974 called House of Whipcord, and I figure I'll throw a few words at it.


The film is basically a women in prison movie about a young French model who is brought to an old prison in the countryside under the pretense of meeting the parents of a man she has met. When she arrives, she is forced into a prison-like circumstance when a Mary Whitehouse-type brings her in front of a former justice and, explaining that they exhibit justice outside of the law, she is sentenced to captivity until she has no vanity and does not display herself in an appropriate fashion. She quickly learns that there is no escape, and the prison is run under a three strikes regime, where strike three spells death. We follow her progress through the prison and her attempts to escape, in parallel with her friends in London, who wonder where she has gone.


Also, there's boobs in it.

Allegedly, the film is notorious, but it lacks a Wikipedia page, so I'm inclined to think it might be a bit of a forgotten film. What I will say is that if there was ever a B-grade film from the 70s to hark back to, this is it. There is more than a passing resemblance to modern 'torture porn' films like Hostel, minus any actual real violence. 


The atmosphere and the harsh minimalist setting makes the film quite harrowing viewing, but well worth it. This is a film I could imagine being successfully remade sometime soon, as long as it stuck to the ring-wing fearing agenda this film clearly sets out with. The film is directed with artistic flourish, with some unexpectedly fancy camera work. Not exactly a masterpiece, but it seems to be punching above its weight with some success.




The downsides to the film are the very dated scenes in 70s London and some typically poor acting for a low budget feature, but once the film arrives at the old prison, the tackiness is left behind and a potentially timeless piece sets in to action. The former justice is also a fantastic character, and it is a shame more is not done with his character and his hesitance to use his court as a means to murder people. Unfortunately, the TV version I was watching was very muddy whenever it got dark, and I don't know if all prints are like this. I almost turned the channel off because of it, but bare with it, it passes.


All in all, you might stumble across this film on the Horror Channel, and you will be in for a decent time. You might find yourself more paranoid about the conservative type around you than you were when you went in.