29 July 2014 | Coventry
We're off to crazy, uncanny, disturbing Neverland!
Just a couple of days ago, I narrated the Peter Pan fairytale to my five-year-old son before bedtime. Luckily I read him the sane and harmless Disney version, because this mentally depraved cult variation probably would have messed up his innocent little mind beyond repair
Just like his daddy's, yikes! We all know and worship the Hammer Studios for the outrageously vicious Grand Guignol horror movies they unleashed, but many people remain unaware that Hammer also produced several mysterious and experimental psycho-thrillers that don't feature their big stars, Victorian castle settings or entire buckets full of gore & bloodshed. The vast majority of these titles sadly ended up in obscurity, and that's a damn shame because most often these are extremely suspenseful, original and unorthodox thriller and/or film-noir beauties. "Straight on till Morning" is a terrific example of an atypical Hammer movie that nevertheless turned out to be a fascinating surprise and truly one of the most morbidly disturbing thrillers that I've seen in a very long time. It has to be said that the brief plot description here on the website is rather misleading. It says: "A timid, withdrawn woman meets a man she believes is finally the love of her life, unaware that he is a vicious serial killer". It makes you believe that this is a typical damsel-in-distress story, but the timid and withdrawn woman in question is actually quite troubled herself. Brenda Thompson lives with her meddlesome mother in Liverpool, but she dreams about meeting a handsome husband like the ones she describes in her self-written children's fairy tales. Brenda tells her mother that she's pregnant and heads off to London to find a father for her inexistent baby. In the swinging capital she tries hard to meet guys, but she's too obtrusive and desperate and it certainly also doesn't help that her much sexier roommate Caroline dives into bed with all of Brenda's potential boyfriends. One night Brenda kidnaps the hunky Peter's dog Tinkel, only to be able to bring him back the next day and properly makes his acquaintance. Peter knows what she did, but still offers Brenda to move into his house and live with him. He does insist that she changes her name to Wendy, and through previous flashbacks we also learned that he's a bit of a murderous psychopath.
Admittedly the first half hour of "Straight on till Morning" is dull, confusing and very hard to struggle through. There's far too much experimental editing going on and the script extendedly introduces too many characters that aren't really relevant. However, if you manage to sit through this, you'll be rewarded with an otherwise uniquely twisted thriller, full of dark themes, misogynist undertones and so-called "kitchen sink" trademarks. There are several uncanny references towards the Peter Pan story (the names and the title, but little plot details as well) and the eventual explanation of why our hunky protagonist is killing is incredibly vile and disturbing. On a side note, it actually also reminded me of the excellent Nick Cave song "Where the Wild Roses Grow". The climax is literally breathtaking and hugely depressing. The film is undeniably a prototypic "life in London during the early 70's" product, illustrated through a cast full of bleak and unsympathetic characters and hideous clothes & hairstyles. Rita Tushingham gives a stellar performance, which I figure wasn't easy since she's supposed to be unattractive, naive and pitiable. Shane Briant is excellent as well, with a performance that is simultaneously menacing and miserable. And supportive babe Katya Wyeth, well
she's simply one of the most ravishing girls I've ever seen. Peter Collinson, who died way too young, did a great job as the director, although he should have cut some scenes towards the beginning.