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Kim Newman

Blu-Ray Review: And Soon the Darkness (1970)

There is an unexpected amount of talent involved in And Soon the Darkness, which could easily otherwise be considered a throwaway exploitation B-picture from late 60’s/early 70’s cinema, yet makes it a surprisingly effective piece of suspense.

The script is co-written by Brian Clemens and Terry Nation, for a start. Clemens was one of the key producers involved in developing cult 1960’s TV series The Avengers and would go on in the 70’s to develop horror and suspense tales on ITV with his successful series Thriller, becoming a major producing name in the process. Nation, famously, would create not just Blake’s-7 but also the legendary Daleks, Doctor Who’s most iconic race of villains who have become a key popular culture touchstone in science-fiction television over the last half century. Composer Laurie Johnson also created the well-known Avengers theme while director Robert Fuest was also ported over from the same show.

And Soon the Darkness therefore benefits from an array of talented individuals putting their talents to use on what otherwise is quite a stripped back, simple concept. Two young nurses on holiday, Jane & Cathy, played by Pamela Franklin (previously nominated for an BAFTA for her role in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) and Michele Dotrice (daughter of Shakespearean stage actor Roy, sister of Disney child darling Karen, and eventual sitcom star as Betty Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em with Michael Crawford), are cycling through the empty, northern French countryside and when one of them disappears, the other finds herself alone and surrounded by mysterious, shady locals in her efforts to discover the truth about what may have become of her.

Though not quite Hitchcockian in its construction and thrills, And Soon the Darkness uses this pedigree to construct a tale which steadily and quite skilfully unfurls.

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Blu-Ray Review: Fright (1971)

Peter Collinson is one of the lost, potentially great cult British directors who never was, for various reasons (principally his death at a young age), and while Fright is a flawed piece of work, you can see and feel the influence it had on 1970’s exploitation cinema, particularly in Britain.

Collinson is best known for 1969’s legendary crime caper The Italian Job, but that is a picture which most people primarily associate with Michael Caine as a key cultural touchstone of the Swinging Sixties, not to mention the iconic Mini Coopers. Unlike other pictures of the period, 2001: A Space Odyssey, say, which first and foremost people would associate with Stanley Kubrick, Peter Collinson was a mere component of The Italian Job’s success in the eyes of many and found his talent as a helmsman overshadowed by the colour and style of that picture. Had things turned in a different direction, Collinson’s follow up might have ended up more anticipated as well as venerated.

As befits someone who was prone to experimentation, Collinson completely changes tack with Fright, a picture about as distant from the Europe-hopping caper of The Italian Job as you could probably imagine. Susan George as a teenage babysitter looking after the young child of middle class couple George Cole and Honor Blackman in a big, old fashioned house, who finds herself terrified and menaced by Ian Bannen’s escaped psychopath. Collinson probably didn’t realise it at the time but Fright is, unexpected, a British forerunner of the American slasher sub-genre in the broader horror context that would be mainstreamed and popularised by Halloween at the end of the same decade, before spawning a legion of imitators and sequels that would define 80’s horror.

Why, in that case, is Fright not better known within both the annals of cult, horror or British cinema?