I remember seeing a trailer in the late 90s, perhaps 1999, or early 2000s, in a Pay-Per-View channel back in the day. It used to play constantly, almost every 5 minutes or so. The trailer showed shots of a house, a woman screaming, perhaps a shot of a knife. All I can remember is that it ended with a house darkening its lights and then the title. Somehow I thought it was the Psycho remake, but it's only because the word "psycho" was somehow engrained into my memory of this trailer. I know it's not much to go on, but it's something that's been bugging me, cause it's one of the only things in my childhood that scared me a bit.
I've got a fondness for movies in which characters build a doomed cocoon against the outside world. I'm thinking THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE, SECRET CEREMONY, and now STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING. I know it never ends well but there's inevitably an eye of the hurricane moment of serenity where I want to stay and set up camp. Sometimes these cocoons involve two people connecting and sometimes it's just one person building a shelter against the hurricane of psychosis (PIN, BAD RONALD, and REFLECTION OF FEAR). Either way something about these precariously built nests strikes a nerve. Maybe it's due to my family moving a lot when I was little. I remember wanting to be a beaver or a turtle because they both had homes. While my brothers drew racing cars, I drove the interiors of vans. It's beyond simply having a nice place to hang out in and a roof overhead. The most important thing is that not everyone is invited and different rules apply.
Brenda Thompson (RITA TUSHINGHAM) is a skittish, mousy type who leaves her mother behind to brave an ultra-groovy, early seventies era London. Her head is stuffed with fairy tales of her own invention and she's looking for a prince to share in her delusions. She finds a cool job but doesn't quite fit in and after being overlooked in favor of her prettier roommate, she stalks the streets until she finds an abandoned dog. The dog's owner is Peter (SHANE BRIANT of DEMONS OF THE MIND) and once Brenda gets a gander at him, she kidnaps the dog so she can return it and play hero later. Unlike Brenda, Peter was not born yesterday and instead of being pissed at her deception, he invites her to live with him. Peter is not a prince so much as a gigolo serial killer who regularly slashes up his benefactors. Because he believes he is only valued for his looks, he hates anything beautiful. If you are pretty, he will cut you up with a box cutter and record the whole thing.
Obviously this relationship can never work out and things are going to go south real soon. Be that as it may, for a while there, these two kooky kids almost have it all. Brenda changes her name to Wendy and they hang out in a really excellent apartment sitting on the floor inventing and recording fairy tales. And check out that Peter Pan reference! There's Wendy and Peter and the dog's name is even "Tinker"! All that needs to happen is Wendy must not discover that said dog has been murdered for wearing a nice bow on its head and that Peter screwed and killed her ex-roommate. She also must never go to the room upstairs, always clean up after him and never try to look too pretty because that will drive him completely insane. Unfortunately, one day Wendy decides to get a new hairdo and well, everything unravels.
STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING is an unlikely HAMMER film directed by PETER COLLINSON the same guy who did that FRIGHT movie I recently reviewed (although he's best remembered for THE BANK JOB.) It's got a bunch of severe funky edits, some spooky voiceovers and it bounces around in time a great deal. Some will certainly find it as annoying as I found it fascinating. It's also got a cameo and a theme song from ANNIE ROSS of BASKETCASE 2&3 and WITCHERY fame and that's nothing to sneeze at either. Even if you don't care for the story or the frustrating characters, I think I'd have to recommend this one for the time period alone; the London shown here has got to be seen to be believed. It's a shame about what befalls poor head in the clouds Brenda/Wendy but at least she got to learn the lesson (albeit too late) that life is no fairy tale in such killer covet-worthy digs.
Tornado Awareness Week will soon be upon the state I call home, and since the latest two years have seen historic numbers of twisters, it is a not unimportant thing. Our high-tech Doppler radar can pinpoint storms right down to the street level, but such was not always the case. When I was growing up, a 1977 storm materialized within the space of an hour out of some innocuous showers over the western part of the state, nary a watch posted for our area. It culminated in the local CBS weatherman going live on camera, eyeglasses askew, literally shouting to viewers that a tornado was entering the city about 10 miles away from my tiny town – only to have the station knocked off the air by the twister. Scary as hell. But that's not the subject of my Traumafession.
On summer weekends that same CBS affiliate would frequently have time to kill before the local news came on at 5:30; sporting events could be unpredictable in their length. And so a frequent go-to was the 1967 educational film "Tornado!" with its 15 minute running time. It reinforced how a day which began in azure beauty could swiftly and savagely turn violent, with little one could do save cower and pray. It incorporated real tornado footage, difficult to come by at the time. And because such film was grainy and underexposed, it was as frightening as hell, a dark vision of chaos. The film makes much use of children, pets and toys as being particularly at risk. (I understand the admonition not to open windows in advance of the storm was later added when the film was acquired by The Weather Channel; in dreams I would madly race across my house, throwing open windowpanes, while my dog barked and the twister grew ever closer.) Warnings were issued for entire counties – a deceptively large area – and the tornado could strike anywhere in that zone at any time. It jangled the nerves.
I thought I grew out of that by the time I was in high school, but when that tornado of 1977 materialized out of seeming nowhere, I remembered that old film and felt a genuine chill. I'm grateful for the advancements made in storm prediction, but to this day, I respect an angry wind.
UNK SEZ: Thanks for the exemplary traumafession Senski! Kids, make sure you keep up with our favorite pal over at his home base HEART IN A JAR!