Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

December 26, 2013

Movie Review: House On Straw Hill (1976, Blu-ray/DVD combo, Severin)

Review By: Rob Sibley

Let me start off by saying I've been trying to track this film down since I was thirteen years old. I was twelve when I first saw "Blood for Dracula" which started my love for all things Udo Kier. I searched and searched for this film with no luck. Thirteen years later, finally the film sees the light of day in the U.S. on glorius Blu-ray no less from Severin. Which is a company run by fans for fans of cult cinema.

This release was easily the most anticipated release of 2013 for me. I mean waiting and searching 13 years for a film and then finally to see it announced I was nothing short of amazed. Now thirteen years is a lot of time to build up hype and expectations. Did the film live up to it's name, was it deserving the video nasty label and being banned? No, it should have been banned. Despite some violence and an abundance of excellent nudity, the film is directed with pure class by James Kenelm Clarke. Who's only film I was familiar with was "Let's get laid" starring sex kitten Fiona Richmond.

The flick starts out peaceful enough. A nice subtle piano score, nice night shots of straw waving back and fourth through the breeze and a slow pan over to "The House On Straw Hill". After a very laid back opening title sequence we almost immediately jump into a sex scene. Between Udo and his girlfriend in the film played by Fiona Richmond. It's all pretty hot and heavy until are mentally unstable novelist (Udo) starts having visions and blood drips onto his face while fucking. Recalling a bit of the infamous blood shower sex scene from Angel Heart (made much later, but maybe Alan Parker saw this film?).

Udo is disturbed sure... but not Jack Nicholson in "The Shining" disturbed. But Udo keeps having visions of holding a bloody knife, slitting his wrists and dead bodies. Does this foretell the future or is this just some sort of pent up aggression manifesting itself via disturbing waking nightmares? Well this somewhat happy couple figure the house in the English countryside will do them both well.

It does to an extent until the mysterious Linda Hayden (Of Blood on Satan's Claw fame) shows up. If you've ever watched any horror film or thriller. A mysterious women showing up to get into the middle of a highly sexed up couple leads to trouble.  But Linda Hayden's character doesn't show up at the blue. She is hired by Keir's character as his secretary! Not to self, never hire an attractive maid or secretary... those things never seem to work out do they?

Almost immediately when Udo picks up the secretary from the train station trouble starts. With Udo having two kick the ass of two men who want a piece of the secretary and are harassing him. Somehow this disturbed author is able to knock the gob-shite outta these two punks in 10 seconds flat. I don't see Stephen King or Jack Ketchum going all Billy Jack but hey this is a movie.

To say much more about the film would spoil the bloody good fun. Plenty of sex and violence fill the short but perfect 84 minute running time. The film never get's boring and always something is happening. Either Linda is pleasuring herself, or pleasuring Udo's girlfriend. Or Udo is screwing someone while wearing latex gloves? Or people are getting shot with shotgun's left and right.

The film feels a lot like "Straw Dogs" and Linda looks a lot like Susan George and the way Udo acts now and then... you must wonder if Straw Dogs was a big influence. Even a rape or is it rape scene is included, this time with a twist. The film is pretty much humorless for the most part with a few scenes with unintential comedy. But for the most part it's a slow burn film with flashes now and then of explcit violence and nudity. But as a film itself and not judged as just a "cult movie" this is a very good film. It's not Straw Dogs (sorry for harping on that.) but it fills the quota of 1970's babes and blood-shed. Yes Udo is dubbed and the person doesn't sound like Udo at all. But it's not troubiling, I mean we didn't hear Udo's real voice in Suspiria either.

The Blu-ray is outstanding. Sure the print looks a bit beat up and has a greenish tint but it's nothing worth complaining about. Severin spent a long long time working on the transfer for this one and making sure the viewer could get the complete uncut experience

The English mono track sounds just fine, no complaints. It's clear, what else is there to say about it?

For extra's we get a very interesting interview with Linda Hayden which works more as a retrospective. She still looks good for her age and enjoyed working on the few Hammer horror films she did (Taste the blood of dracula). But more interestingly when Straw Hill comes up... she's not keen on the film. She actually says she regrets doing it, she wasn't big on Udo, doesn't bring up the director, she liked the producer and just thought Fiona Richmond wasn't an actress just someone who "used her body".

Linda even was so ashamed of the film she refused to do publicity for it. Funny because it is a fun film and even Fiona comes across well and obviously Udo has proven himself as a powerhouse of an actor. But experience is everything so I can't blame her for her thoughts.

Next up is an audio commentary featuring the director James Clarke & Producer Brian Aston. The moderator refers to a film as a "masterpiece of explotation cinema" I agree 100%.

Also included (but limited to 3000 copies) is the documentary "Ban The Sadist Videos" which covers all the video nasty controversy that went on in Britain. It's an excellent watch but as I said, only the first 3000 copies of Straw Hill include this and it's not noted on the packaging if you have the 2 disk or 3 disk version. So either double cheap or hope because it's a fine addition to the film.

This is an OUTSTANDING RELEASE from Severin... maybe the best release from those boys since Hardware. This is a must own film, a must own release. Track down a copy now. You will thank me. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

No comments:

Post a Comment