There is something of the plot structure of early period Scooby Doo in Peter Walker’s pier-bound whodunit save for the talking dog, the Mystery Machine and copious amounts of blood and naked flesh: it does what it says on the tin in this respect. Walker’s stock in trade was oppressive horror featuring pretty young things in peril as in The House of Whipcord and Frightmare and here he takes a decent cast and makes a stab at a more considered tale.
In spite of some slow pacing and a perp so obvious even Scrappy Doo would have spotted him (although there is a twist…) The Flesh and Blood Show is redeemed by good performances and superb atmospherics. Any film with Ray Brooks, Luan Peters, Jenny Hanley and Patrick Barr can’t be all bad and they have plenty to get their teeth into.
The film opens with a comic foretaste of what is to come, as the boorish John (David Howey) knocks on the door of two female friends and pretends to have been knifed. It’s an ostensibly gory start and one that also provides an opportunity to marvel at the quite exceptional physical attributes of Luan Peters as she dashes naked from bed to help her idiot pal. You know where you are with this film but not necessarily right away…
|Only joking! David Howey makes sure Judy Matheson and Luan Peters get the point.|
Asquith’s Simon and Angela are among the early arrivals at this mysterious gig which has pulled together an eclectic bunch of actors and a director, Mike (Ray Brooks) in order to work up a production before transfer to London. The Agents involved are mysterious and, as in an Agatha Christie novel, the ten little actors (not a miss-count…) gradually realise how little they know.
|Seven characters in search of an author...|
Ah, free love and those innocent times… but this was 1972 and the tide was definitely turning on carefree expression. In the middle of the night a scream rings out and no one can find Angela. Mike sets off torch in hand – it’s all a bad dream surely she’s just gone off to find a proper bed? But, passing a row of wax heads he is shocked to find that one of them is blonde and covered in blood; she’s been decapitated in the surprisingly-functional guillotine back stage.
|Ray Brooks gets a shock|
Another actress joins them, and our cup over-floweth as the raven-haired loveliness of Candace Glendenning arrives as local thesp Sarah.
|Candace Glendenning, Judy Matheson and Tristan Rogers|
The actors head into town for a laugh at a café where they meet friendly old Major Bell (Patrick Barr) and his dog. They meet him again when staying over at Sarah’s aunt’s for a shower and tea (Elizabeth Bradley) and it’s here that they learn of an enduring mystery connected to the wartime disappearance of three actors from the theatre.
Julia heads off to the library to investigate and finds old newspaper reports of the last performance of Sir Arnold Gates whose Othello disappeared along with his wife, Lady Pamela’s Desdemona and their Iago.
All will be revealed in time but in 1972 more actors start going missing and soon the body count has included Sarah and even the lovely Carol (on “principle” I almost stopped watching at this point: let Luan live!!). Is it the creepy John or something else entirely?
The tension mounts but then we get a black and white flashback – one of the 3D sequences in the original screenings – that explains (almost) all as the loony tune toys in the attic are revealed… It’s not quite a tale of the unexpected but there’s more in store as a further twist is added at the death…
|In the spotlight|
There are good performances and Ray Brooks is excellent as always – such a fine actor from The Knack to Walford. There’s also a completely beguiling line up of seventies beauty from lovely Luan to the frankly flawless Miss Hanley not to mention Hammer regular Judy Matheson and Candace Glendenning: this is premier league pulchritude and Walker doesn’t hold back in maximising the presentation of their secondary sexual characteristics…
If that appeals and you like creepy stories set in run-down piers then this film is for you even if you may fast forward near the end.
The Flesh and Blood Show is now available in Blu-ray – as if to underline the enduring allure of period sexuality – but it’s also a proper film the appreciation of which should not be undermined too much by its sensationalism.