Monday, November 15, 2004


Peter Collinson's Fright, a little-known entry in the virginal-babysitter-meets-nutcase-returning-home/Brit-horror genre, predates John Carpenter's similarly themed yet more widely known Halloween. The staples of horror clichés abound, but given that this film was made in 1971, I am inclined to favour its use of these devices. The film doesn't notch much on the fear scale (although it notches points for some effective Hitchcock-ian sound-matching jump edits -- the cut from Susan George's scream to the sound of the engine as a car pulls out). I t does however feature a buxom babysitter, some nice use of tight frames and edits, a scene where Susan George is watching Hammer's The Plague of the Zombies, a theme song called Ladybird sung by Nanette featuring some "interesting" lyrics, an overwrought Honor Blackman, an effective Ian Bannen and a decent (albeit mono) sound mix. And a classic piece of corn: "How do you spell that word...psychotic?" ..."You might have to spell it M-U-R-D-E-R if you don't get someone over there quickly!". Suffice to say that I relished the irony of watching something like this on Children's Day.

Sneakers has the consistency of understated goings-on characteristic of Redford movies like All the President's Men. That film played like a documentary, while this one is clearly meant to be a mainstream entertainer. The cast roster gets the film its first big plus (Redford, Poitier, Kingsley). Another thumbs-up comes from the B&W 1.33:1 flashback sequence during the opening credits. And watch the opening credits very carefully (hint: anagrams, decoding). Liked the motific score. And the elements of and references to hacking/phreaking so carefully incorporated into the film, including some closer-to-genuine hi-falutin concepts from cryptography (courtesy: Leonard Adelman, the A in RSA). And the quote from The Conversation (the warehouse party). And there's a nice little special appearance at the end (hint: keep your ears tuned). And there's one of the very rare instances of a non-555 telephone number (415-273-9164). And someone's watching Touch of Evil too. Decent entertainment, loaded with quotes. What more can you ask for.

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