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  Revenge Pub Of Doom
Year: 1971
Director: Sidney Hayers
Stars: Joan Collins, James Booth, Ray Barrett, Sinéad Cusack, Kenneth Griffith, Tom Marshall, Zuleika Robson, Donald Morley, Barry Andrews, Artro Morris, Patrick McAlinney, Angus Mackay, Geoffrey Hughes, Nicola Critcher
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A funeral of a ten-year-old girl was held today, and as if that wasn't bad enough she is dead because she had been raped and murdered by a man who may have committed the same crime before in this quiet town. On the way back home, the Radford family think over what they could have done differently since the mother, Carol (Joan Collins), felt if only she had been a little quicker to reach the school to pick her up, she could have saved the girl's life, and her stepdaughter Jill (Zuleika Robson) evidently feels the same given how resentful she is behaving. But the father, Jim (James Booth), is thinking over what he would like to do to the killer, so when the prime suspect is set free thanks to lack of evidence, he is very angry...

Angry enough to take the law into his own hands as he teams up with the other bereaved father, Harry (Ray Barrett), to kidnap the man they believe is responsible. Now, in the early nineteen-seventies the theme of vigilante justice broke out of the Western genre and into the thriller genre, with the law seen as weak and too liberal when it came to doling out the punishment to criminals who appeared to be getting viler by the day. So you had Dirty Harry breaking free of the bonds his position as a police officer had restrained him with, and Charles Bronson picking up a gun to wreak vengeance on a sick society of miscreants, to give the two highest profile examples, but this trend had not escaped Britain either (among other countries who followed suit).

Thus the public were offered the moral dilemmas of Revenge, which went by many titles to make it sound like a horror movie, which it wasn't, it was a crime drama with thriller elements, even if the overall effect was to deliberately disturb the audience as they wondered what they would do in the Radfords' shoes. The trouble with that was creating an issue drama out of a hot topic could easily lend itself to schematic melodrama, and that was precisely what happened here as the film was so blatantly trying to push the viewer's buttons that it grew sillier as it progressed. Take the suspected paedophile, played by Kenneth Griffith looking every bit the suspicious customer, stacking the deck in the family's favour when he resembled nothing so much as comedian Les Dawson's humorous pervert character Cosmo Smallpiece, little Coke bottle glasses and all (which you just know will be stepped on vindictively before the first half hour is over).

So you already perceive this could go either way, the filmmakers (who included Peter Rogers, still best known for the success of his Carry On franchise but as you see he dabbled in other styles as well) will confirm our suspicions that Jim, Harry and Jim's older son Lee (Tom Marshall) have kidnapped the wrong man and we will be left with the sobering conclusion that the man they beat almost to death is innocent, or they will bottle it and do the double twist where we realise they were right all along, and it's equally sobering that the cycle of violence continued to that extent. Whichever, you were intended to emerge from Revenge ashen-faced at the depths of depravity humanity can sink to, what do you want from a night out at the pictures anyway? Entertainment? Well you won't get it here!

Griffith, an actor who often didn't seem to care whether he was sympathetic or not, was barely afforded a personality to play, simply a series of quirks and cringes, which left the heavy lifting of the acting to the others. Collins and Booth were fairly impressive as the couple whose impulsive actions left them reeling from the consequences, and Sinéad Cusack added a touch of sensitivity to her role as Lee's understanding girlfriend, though by the point where impotent with disgust Lee is resorting to raping his stepmother in front of the suspected killer to show him "what a real woman looks like!" the plot had gotten tangled in the morals it was tripping up over, and though you could just about accept that the family were in turmoil over their dilemma, with an injured man in the cellar of their pub who they'll either have to let go or execute, there was more than the whiff of exploitation in the manner this all developed. This meant any genuine issues were fudged in the sensationalism, and besides, there was already a 1971 film that took a far more intelligent approach to the same subject, the Sean Connery work The Offence. This was crudely memorable, but you were well aware of its strenuous efforts to get a reaction. Music by Eric Rogers.

[Network's Blu-ray in its British Film line looks impeccable, and has the trailer and a gallery as extras, plus subtitles for the hard of hearing.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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