Now, here’s a thing, I had no idea that the composer Eric
Rogers was no relation to Peter Rogers despite their working together dozens of
times mostly on Carry on films, all but two had Eric’s scoring. Born in
Halifax, Eric’s real name was Eric Gaukroger although he later hyphenated his
surname to Gauk-Roger. As with Peter though, Eric diversified and this thriller
was one of a number of a number of more “adult” crime thrillers they worked on
including Vengeance (1971) and the excellent All Coppers Are
(1972), also available on Network Blu-ray and also directed by Sidney Hayers.
I've started off with the Rogers as I’m always slightly
surprised to find them away from comedy and especially Eric as clearly, he’s
more evident in the films than the Producer. His score here very effectively
contributes to the brooding menace and the sense of threat that powers the
narrative. In terms of visual subtlety, Hayers is more efficient than inventive
but it still works as an unsettling watch albeit one reliant on the male gaze
and sexualised threat to femininity. Is it exploitation, probably but it’s well
acted and sincere entertainment of its time…
We start off at a posh all-girls school as an array of period cars arrives to collect the slightly mature looking young women. If you like classic British motors, then you will not be disappointed with the films deployment of Morris, Triumph and Jaguar cars; art-teacher Julie West (the divine Suzy Kendall) drives a Morris Minor estate, Det. Chief Supt. Velyan (Frank Finlay) has a Morse-type Jaguar and Freddie Jones’ nasty reporter has a sporty model I’m yet to identify, possibly and MGA Coupe? That plus all of the Morris Minor Panda cars…
|Shouldn't you be studying for your A-levels Lesley-Anne?|
But the real story starts with one of the girls, Tessa Hurst (a 17-year old Lesley-Anne Down in her first starring role) taking a short-cut home through the woods which leads to her being viciously assaulted under the shadow of an electric power station, it’s unsettling to watch, a bit too voyeuristic for me, but thankfully not overplayed. The result leaves Tessa catatonic with shock and unable to talk as she’s taken in to care at a mental hospital by Doctor Greg Lomax (James Laurenson) who along with specialist Mr. Bartell (Anthony Ainley, famously The Master in Doctor Who after Roger Delgado).
The police launch an investigation under the command of Chief
Super Velyan and Det. Sgt. Beale (James Cosmo, evergreen as he is and still
performing!) and from this point on we will be introduced to a series of
characters who are all a bit suspicious to some extent, the game of cat and red
herring is afoot!
Obviously, it’s not going to be the lovely Julie who is as down with the kids as anyone in this rather odd school. Headmistress Mrs. Sanford (Dilys Hamlett) is so strait-laced it’s rather unlikely that she’s married to Tony Beckley’s creepy Leslie Sanford but that’s the point. Whilst she looks after the girls’ spiritual well-being he keeps an unblinking eye on their more earthy qualities, greedily eying them up in the playground or touching them up in the library (Janet Lynn, definitely over 18 and who played Carol Thatcher – no, not that one - with Robin Askwith in Cool it Carol! the year before).
|Under suspicion: Tony Beckley, James Cosmo and Frank Dinlay|
Then the situation gets even worse as another girl, Susan
Miller (Anabel Littledale, aged 19) ignoring instructions and common sense,
takes the same short-cut and this time the crime escalates to murder, with accompanying
fleshy details. Julie, driving four other girls home, spots the missing pupil
and drives her Morris into the woods, only to arrive just too late as she
glimpses the killer, face lit by her red break lights in a demonic glow…
She cannot escape the image she saw nor explain it to the
police and is all but laughed from the inquest when she describes her vision. Luckily
for her Doctor Greg is on hand to support the very beautiful young woman in her
hour of need, he has ulterior motive alright but is there anything more…?
Certainly, of ill-intent is reporter Freddie Jones, playing a blinder as the
grubby tabloid hack pushing for an angle and any salacious detail right to the
point of pestering Julie at home.
The police assign Sgt. Milton (Patrick Jordan) to protect
Julie as she paints the image she remembers and, in collusion with the
reporter, puts a story in the papers that she can draw the face of the killer
she recalls… it’s a very high-risk strategy and one we know will bring her into
danger. But who will it be, one of the good guys or one of the obviously bad
|James Laurenson and Suzy Kendall|
Dusty Verdict: Assault is an entertaining thriller
that gets the job done with the aid of some very good performances especially from
Frank Findley, who’s always so nuanced he could be one of the suspects… maybe
he is, and Suzy Kendall who made a career out of playing female febrility, a
Derbyshire Julie Christie!
The set pieces are well executed and the villain is a
genuine mystery for long enough… And, apart from the classy, classic cars,
there’s some fab cameos including Mr David Essex as the leather-jacketed Man in
Chemist Shop looking for help for his girlfriend’s nosebleed. It’s definitely
You can order the Blu-ray direct from Network and at a great price, there’s so much on their website, you’ll probably come away with more than you budgeted for!
The car section...
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