16 May 2010 | HenryHextonEsq
Nifty enough seaside shocker: Walker's crimson period starts here
"The Flesh and Blood Show" bookends Pete Walker's 'golden period' of horrors, with "Schizo" (1976) at the other end; it is a gruesome piece of film-making that shows improvements in Walker's work from "Die Screaming, Marianne" - and yet he is still limbering up, in truth.
Patrick Barr - to be used again by PW - is excellent here, playing 'the Major', the first in a line of Walker protagonists who appear to be harmless English eccentrics, but are actually... well, that would be telling! The youth characters may be rather stereotyped, but that is part of Walker's approach: to set a licentious, permissive youth against a resentful and uncompromisingly vengeful older generation. It is much to Walker's credit that few if any characters could be described as typical heroes. And he doesn't take sides; the photography indeed mimics the voyeur's view at times - implicating the audience, using the trick first deployed by Michael Powell in "Peeping Tom" (1960).
The out-of-season seaside setting - Cromer, apparently - fits aptly into this dialectic. The troupe of young actors' arrival seemingly doubles the ageing population of the resort, who can seemingly only dream of the past. It can even be argued that there are pre-echoes of Alan Bennett's use of Morecambe in "Sunset Across the Bay" (BBC, 1975) - though of course, lacking quite the same sad humour and dry insight.
Still, it is an serviceable enough shocker. Not as bizarrely gripping as Walker's subsequent Melodramas of Discontent, but a decisive step in that direction. And with a script by Alfred Shaughnessy (one of the prime wits behind LWT's "Upstairs, Downstairs") and a suitably eerie score from Cyril Ornadel (who composed all of the music for ATV's seminal "Sapphire and Steel"). Oh, and Robin Askwith... who is enjoyably absurd in horror films (see also the ludicrous "Horror Hospital" from the following year), where he is rather more horrific in myriad dire sex comedies to come.