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House of Whipcord
IMDB Rating: 5.9/10 from votes
Release: 19 April 1974 (UK) /

House of Whipcord

Genre: Horror
Director: David McGillivray,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: An old man who lives in an old house conducts a correctional institute for girls. But he does not realize that the date is the present as he's been cooped up in the house. He is assisted by a matron who likes to get the girls into trouble and present them in front of the old man who thinks he is the law and passes out punishment. Afterwards the girls are tied to a cross and whipped. Meanwhile the matron's son falls in love with a girl at a party and brings her to the house. Written by Fredrick Miles

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Critic Reviews

"This film is dedicated to those who are disturbed by today's lax moral codes and who eagerly await the return of corporal and capital punishment". So reads the foreword at the beginning of "House of Whipcord". With a title like that, it's pretty obvious what the viewer is in for. Right? Wrong. Although this film was promoted as a standard women's prison sleaze-fest, there is much more to it than that. In a way, the dedication (which is very tongue-in-cheek) is as good a description of the plot as any. Young French model Anne-Marie Devernay (Penny Irving of "Are You Being Served?" fame) is nominally fined for posing nude in a public place. At a party, she meets a charismatic stranger named Mark E. Dessart (Robert Tayman) who takes more than a passing interest in her. Because Our Heroine is rather dim-witted (to say the least), not only does she disregard his oddly familiar-sounding name and puts up with his very weird mind games, she agrees to accompany him out of town to meet his parents. No sooner is she in the car than he takes off like a bat out of (or headed for) Hell. Upon arriving at his parent's VERY ominous country home, he disappears, leaving Anne-Marie at the mercy of two formidable middle aged women, Walker and Bates (Sheila Keith and Dorothy Gordon) who appear to be prison guards. And indeed, it's not long before the girl is thrust in front of Mark's father, retired Justice Bailey (Patrick Barr) and his mother (Barbara Markham) a former prison warden dismissed for her cruelty to the inmates. These four demented individuals (and Dessart, their "procurer") take it upon themselves to punish any young women whom they feel have escaped the law, and have set up their own "House of Corrections" for that purpose. Anne-Marie is promptly sentenced and thrown into a cell, where she is informed by another luckless inmate that nobody ever leaves and three strikes against you and you're dead. Things quickly get tougher from there.Meanwhile, Anne-Marie's roommate Julia (Anne Michelle) and her boyfriend Tony (Ray Brooks) are searching for her. This serves as the premise for an atmospheric and chilling British film which is also a parody of the repressive former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (the warden's name is Margaret Wakehurst) and her ilk. Producer/director Pete Walker, known for his string of low-budget horror/suspense films, does an excellent job invoking the nightmarish prison and he has gotten fine performances from his cast, especially Keith, (a Walker regular) as the creepiest guard. Unfortunately, Irving, sporting an incomprehensible French accent(a plot device which could easily have been dispensed with), tends to be more laughable than sympathetic. Nevertheless, the grim story and pervading atmosphere of doom render the picture eerily convincing. The film was originally released in England in 1974, and it was spottily distributed in the US by American International Pictures a year later. But, other than a few television showings in the late '80's, it has gone largely unseen in the States.

"House of Whipcord", which was previously available on a DVD from Image Entertainment, has been recently re-released by Media Blasters/Shreik Show. Their DVD not only adds trailers, a photo gallery and a truly fascinating commentary from producer/director Walker (who has a cameo as a bicyclist) but a greatly improved anamorphically enhanced print. Though the prison scenes are still dark, this is the way the picture was made, and the bigger the screen it is viewed on, the better it probably looks. The score by Stanley Myers ("The Deer Hunter", "No Way to Treat a Lady") perfectly matches the brooding visuals and the title theme is memorable. Sadly, no subtitles have been added which really would have been a plus when listening to Irving babbling in Faux-French. Nevertheless, the picture is highly recommended and if it's still regarded as a "women's prison movie" it's one for a more discriminating viewer.

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