London Psycho

March 2, 2009


Yes! A love story from Hammer! I watched this last night. My sick minded comedy partner, Trev Neal, bought me a boxed set of Hammer horror films for Christmas. I recently watched To the Devil a Daughter. You can read some of my thoughts on that here. To the Devil a Daughter was a typical Hammer film… cheap and saucy, with bad dialogue and not too hot a plot. This film however, is a most unusual Hammer entry.

For starters, it’s good. Properly good. Really quite nasty, so if that’s not your thing, stay away. But the nastiness isn’t very explicit, and is hidden inside a disturbingly affective love story. A love story in the sense that Secretary is a love story, or King Kong.

Rita Tushingham plays a naive Liverpudlian who tells her mother she is pregnant, and that she is moving down to London to find a father. A minor plot spoiler; she isn’t pregnant, but she does plan to have a baby with a London man. Why Liverpool men aren’t good enough for her isn’t explained. Perhaps it was because of the Great Liverpudlian Sperm Famine of 1972.

And so innocent Brenda hits the smoke and gets to hang around with a groovy bunch of hipsters led by the pimp-like owner of a fashion boutique, played by Tom Bell in full Travolta Saturday Night Fever style gear. At a party she hopes to impress James Bolan and get him to be her London Daddy, but when she returns from a cigarette shopping trip, she finds him in bed with her co-boutique-worker and she flees into the night.

She wanders the Southbank, giving us a chance to see the  National Theatre as it was when it was cutting edge architecture, before the theatre had even opened. The scenes of Brenda wandering around a concrete maze give the film the feel of an Italian Giallo, particularly the early works of Dario Argento. And at the National she finds a stray dog, Tinker. she does the obvious thing and takes Tinker home for a bath. But nearby, leaning on a parapet above, Tinker’s owner watches.

The next day she drops Tinker off at a fancy mews apartment, getting the address from the tag around his neck. And here lives the the London Psycho.

She moves in. Our psycho is played by Shane Briant; a very pretty boy with the most absurd blonde hairdo. Imagine Paul Bettany made up as Playboy Playmate of the Month, circa 1972, and you’ll be as bewildered as I am. Pretty boy calls himself Peter. Brenda calls herself  Grizelda, something daft like that. She’s obsessed with fairy tales; she write them, she lives her life by them. And so does Peter. But they have very different reasons and purposes for their love of a tale; like Bruno Bettelheim meeting Beatrix Potter. Peter insists Brenda/Grizelda/Esmerelda/Whatever changes her name. he wants to call her Wendy. Peter, Wendy and Tinker (no bell).

Of course it all goes horribly wrong. Or right. Depending on how you view these things. Maybe this kind of love is better than no love at all.

The ending of the film is a shocker. Open ended. You choose. Happy ending or not happy ending. I suspect this fairy tale is very grim indeed.

The film was directed by Peter Collinson. Hammer must have been feeling a bit flush for Collinson’s the director of The Italian Job. He directs Straight on Till Morning like a man posessed; it’s full of crazy edits and jarring soundscapes. The time line jumps around showing us snippets of what lies ahead, what went before. It’s like Ruth Rendell meets Alfred Hitchcock meets Rowan and Martin’s laugh-In (without the laughs).

3 Responses to “London Psycho”

  1. Trevor Neal said

    Sick minded, eh? That’s me. The Broadstairs Psycho.

    Rita Tushingham famously starred in A Taste of Honey – from the 1958 play – which may have inspired the song of the same name recorded by The Beatles in 1963 and can be listened to here…

    Good isn’t it? Is it possible that so sweet a song can be enjoyed by one who is so sick minded?

  2. Simon Hickson said

    Dear Trev, I don’t think you are sick minded really. I’m just trying to create a character for you, to replace swing your pants.

    As for The Beatles, I know they were supposed to be good and all that, but can they really compare with this…

  3. Trevor Neal said

    No way! That’s funny. And then there’s this…

    and this…

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