Pretty even with a gagged girl in the way
I’ve been watching a lot of horror films recently. No, for serious, a lot. I don’t mean “three or four over the last week or so” a lot, I mean “three on Saturday alone” sort of a lot. I naturally blame my enabler (and boyfriend) for this, though “blame” isn’t exactly the right sentiment, given my enjoyment of the classic films of the genre. Whatever.
As you might recall, I reviewed (in a sense) Hammer’s latest effort, The Woman in Black (found here for those interested) and rambled on about how it was brilliant and not quite like the stage version (which was okay by me) and so on, showing my absolute love for not only film but also having people read my ramblings. It’s been a while, and instead of looking to another recent Hammer flick (i.e. Let Me In or Wake Wood), I have come out of blog hiatus to discuss a film that is to be in a series of blog reviews the aforementioned enabler has been doing due to the film being in Hammer Horror’s Ultimate Collection. Yes, I’ve come back to the world of blogging to discuss the brilliance that is Straight On Till Morning. Please, form a queue to put in your two-cents on this one, since I’m sure everyone ever has seen this and wants to talk about it for ages on end.
Or is it just me?
Right, so for those few idiots among you, Straight on Till Morning is a film from 1972 that was sold as a “love story from Hammer”, which is like something being sold as “your creepy neighbour with the scar telling you about his girlfriend”. So…awesome.
Here’s a trailer:
Brilliant, right? Calm down, if you can, so I can now discuss its awesomeness at length.
Pretty and his dog, Adorable
First of all, this is one of the very few Hammer films where the pretty lead isn’t some busty chick (as heavily emphasized by enabler’s “Hammer Glamour” section) but rather Shane Briant, a lady-pretty manchild with a Julian Rhind-Tutt look about him who struts about the film with tight seventies trousers (which is why everyone watches a film from that era, right?) and pretty blue eyes (or are they green? I don’t know! Titter titter swoon). Shane plays Peter, a (pretty as a descriptor is now to be assumed present) young man who is actually not the main character, but you hope he’ll come soon, since the character you are left to start the film with is Brenda, a batshit blonde who is nothing if not desperate for a baby. Seriously, she really, really wants a baby. It’s the tagline of the film, she wants a baby that bad.
Baby-crazy Brenda is not the worst of female leads (see: every cleavage-toting, blank-eyed bride of Dracula or Sandra Bullock) but she certainly isn’t one you think “I hope she’s gonna make it after all” about, or even think about at all, as she is whiny, weird, and has a face that only a mother could love. Not that her mother seemed overly fussed when she said she was leaving Liverpool for London in the first five minutes to find a father for her baby that she was already carrying–not! It was a clever, crazy ruse. That Brenda! Cue the title sequence!
“And they lived happily ever after because the prince gave her a baby times a million. The End.”
Brenda goes to London and, surprise surprise, no one likes her. This has nothing to do with her butterface and everything to do with her wearing her womb on her sleeve. She prowls the streets and boutiques with a creepy smile, hoping to ensnare some gentleman into a baby-daddy situation by using her charming pickup line of “HI BABY IN ME NOW PLEASE” (or something along those lines). She doesn’t seem to have any real need for a husband, just for a baby, which might be why she ends up shacking up with a boy trapped in the body of a man who is a (spoiler alert) psychopath. Or sociopath. Or narcissist. You choose! But we get ahead of ourselves.
The first unfortunate housemate of Brenda is Caroline, a co-worker who just wanted someone to help with the rent (a subplot which leads to the confusing fight over not shitting where you eat, so to speak, between Caroline and her boss/lover, angry John Lennon). Instead of someone who would just follow the cleaning rota and get on with life, Caroline ends up with the social mess that is Brenda showing up at a party and leering at all the single guys with her ovary-obsessed eyes. Then, to make matters worse, while Caroline is just trying to make angry John Lennon even angrier by sleeping with another co-worker, she ends up breaking Brenda’s fragile heart as said co-worker was in line to be Mr.Brenda’s Baby Daddy (or so Brenda thought since he was nice to her once).
This hideous rejection of her feelings (that she had not voiced at all, not noticing the flirtation and deep dopey love the co-worker had for Caroline in the first place) causes Brenda to run off. Enter Tinker, the most adorable of adorable dogs. Brenda meets Tinker and realizes that this poor pooch belongs to the hot blonde down the road from her, our pretty (pretty) Peter. “Eureka!” she clearly thinks as she steals the wayward pup, “I’ll take this and wash it and surely Peter will impregnate me!”
As you can imagine, when Brenda shows up at Peter’s door, I rejoiced. Finally someone that didn’t make me worry about mentioning wanting kids casually ever again, just in case I came off as insane. Of course, Peter (surname never given or worried about) brought his own baggage. He hates beauty, which is ironic since he’s beautiful, and funny since he adores Brenda (burn).
Once the two get to talking (for about five minutes, no joke), Brenda reveals she has come to get Peter’s babymaker inside her for a quick drop-off delivery, and he offers her a live-in cleaning job. Naturally. That’s normal. Completely normal.
It might not surprise you to know that it gets weird from here-on in.
After renaming Brenda as “Wendy” (as if we didn’t get the Peter Pan thing yet), the couple delve into the weirdness that is their relationship. They tell each other fairytales which are thinly veiled stories about themselves (Peter’s featuring clips of his previous lady-loves that ended up getting snuffed since they wanted nothing but his beauty) and live off money Peter keeps in a drawer (stolen from said lady-loves). He buys “Wendy” a bassinet to place in her (separate from his) bedroom and she cleans out his many ashtrays while not getting her questions about Peter’s past answered after talking about her mother at length. It’s touching besides the creepy underlying fact that Peter has done so much murdering in the place that you can almost hear the screams still.
Did I mention he kills Tinker because he’s too pretty now? Well that happens.
Wait, no, that isn’t the ghosts of the past screaming, it’s Peter’s recordings of his murders that he has done and listens to now and again for nostalgia’s sake! Oh, that’s fine then.
The film has a sense of “when is he going to kill Brenda already?”, or perhaps that was the sense I had due to my mammoth dislike for her character. The moment she steps into that house and he shows tendencies towards being a bit murder-y, it’s just a waiting game to see how long it will take before he gives in and just has at her face. It is heavily implied that the only reason that he likes her is that she’s not pretty, a wonderfully uncomfortable point that she doesn’t seem to pick up on (bless her) and almost ruins when she tries to make herself beautiful (an amazing scene shown in the trailer followed by Peter groping at her face to wipe away that sad attempt at sexing up a woman who is basically Dobby’s sister). He scrapes that makeup off and seems relieved while Brenda sobs her ugly little eyes out. It’s touching.
“The fuck is this?”
Obviously, I’m not going to tell you the ending. That would ruin it for you, and I would hate to do that when you are clearly going to run off to go and watch it RIGHT NOW. I can say, of course, that it leaves you feeling like you want to watch it again just to be sure you didn’t miss what it was that happened, but not in an Inception way, more in a wake-up from a blackout sort of way. It’s not a case of wanting to know what happened, but how.
The main thing about this film that I loved was the grazing-the-surface look at the mind of a spoiled, child-like killer who was born of being called “beautiful” just a little too much when he had so much to give from deep down in his dark little self. Peter is the product of a society who values trends and forgets that horrors can lie beneath even the prettiest of covers, and Brenda comes along, too plain to be a threat and too eager to say anything that displeases Peter, including commenting on his looks. She sees him as something else besides a handsome prince: he’s a handsome prince who can give her a child. Unlike the others who came along and met their end by Peter, Brenda didn’t want his body; she wanted his offspring.
The story was messed up. The couple were messed up. The title song was incredibly messed up. And it all worked. Not one part of the film felt out of place, too sane or too crazy (even Tink’s sad end made sense in this twisted world), and the glimpses into Peter’s mind were just as troubling as the glimpses into Brenda’s mind, both psychos in their own ways. It was a thriller inasmuch as you weren’t sure if Peter’s affection for the weird-looking (and apologies for all the comments on Brenda’s face, but it was rather the point of the film) Brenda was going to last and those crazy kids were going to make it, or if the “crazy” part of that term might reign supreme, the film taking a darker turn. The atmosphere created by the flashes to Peter’s past and the flashes of pure fearful adoration in Brenda’s eyes made it worth watching alone, the chemistry of an abusive relationship with a manic child-like excitement running throughout to make the pair watchable.
Of course, if we’re talking about watchable, Shane Briant’s pretty didn’t hurt.
Straight on Till Morning was a decent film. I loved it, partially due to the Enabler (capitals now) being so confused about what to feel about it and partially because I love a good seventies based tale of a serial killer. This was right up my alley; serial killer, Peter Pan references, a cute dog, and tight trousers for everyone. I wouldn’t suggest it for everyone, and, in fact, I can hardly think of anyone I would suggest it to specifically, but if you want a weird love story that involves an inversion of the usual “way-too pretty girl with decent human-looking boy” with a murderous twist, this is the film you might watch if you thought of it. Eventually.