HOUSE OF WHIPCORD
FORMER HOUSE OF CORRECTION – LITTLEDEAN JAIL USED FOR THE FILMING OF A TONGUE IN CHEEK , SOFT PORN LIKE HAMMER HORROR FILM BACK IN 1974 (WHEN IT WAS STILL OWNED BY GLOUCESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL)
House Of Whipcord is a bit of a surprise. You’ d think by the video packaging (and the name of the film) that you were in for some kind of kinky sub-Confessions movie featuring a bunch of nutters who get their kicks from dishing out spankings to naked young girls.
Welll… that is what you get (ahem). But it’s not the be-all and end-all.
House of Whipcord is auteur Pete Walker’s most famous film – and it’s not hard to see why. It’s not just a low budget tit-and-bum fest, it’s an intelligent, thoughtful movie, with just a few flashes of nudity, hardly any blood, and a distinct lack of floggings (there are just two – one takes place behind a door, and the other off camera).
It’s also a film which is hard to be funny about (what do you mean, that hasn’t stopped me so far? Cheeky bastards).
Of course, it has its minus points – most of the time the picture’s so dark you can’t see what the bloody hell’s going on – and some of the acting leaves something to be desired. When Ray “Mr Benn” Brookes is searching for his missing girlfriend, the people he asks for help look like they’ve been dragged off the street to act in the film. But other than that it’s a little gem – with more than a few things to say about capital punishment and society in general.
A truck driver (Mr Kind!) is stopped on a lonely, storm-swept road by a young, hardly-dressed girl (Penny Irving – usually seen adjusting her suspender belt in the background of sitcoms like Are You Being Served?) who’s in a bad way. After tutting about the state of the country etc, he tells her he’s going to take her to safety. Cue flashback.
The girl is Anne-Marie, a French model who spends her time wandering naked around the flat she shares with the equally undressed Anne Michelle (sister of Vicky, of Allo Allo fame). Anne-Marie has recently got ’em out for the press, too, but gets upset when a picture of her ladybumps appears on the wall at a party she’s attending.
Luckily, a handsome (in a 1974 kind of way) stranger called Mark E Desade (get it?) is on hand to whisk her away from all this – and despite sussing out that he’s a bit of an oddball, the lovely Anne-Marie agrees to go with him to meet his parents. Oh dear.
A slight hiccup in their relationship becomes apparent when it turns out that Mark’s parents live in an old prison, which they run as an extreme “correctional facility” for young girls.
On arrival Anne-Marie is stripped and shoved in a cell – then told that she’s got three chances – the first mistake she makes results in solitary confinement, the next gets her a flogging – and the third will be the last mistake she ever makes.
Of course, our feisty young heroine won’t stand for this and immediately starts making plans to escape… but although it’s relatively easy to hoodwink the guards, gimlet-eyed chief warder Mrs Walker is an entirely different kettle of (frozen) fish, and as for Mark’s mother, the spectacularly psychotic Mrs Wakehurst, there’s no way she’s letting anyone out of the place without a fight.
Director Pete Walker stages this parable with skill and panache – and even Anne Michelle isn’t too bad. Keep an eye out too for Victoria Wood’s best mate Celia Imrie somewhere in the background – and if you see her, award yourself a biscuit, cos no-one else has ever spotted her. Top marks go to 70s horror icon Sheila Keith, who plays Walker with relish. Add a scenery-chomping turn from Barbara Markham as Mrs Wakehurst, and a bit of pathos from her husband (Patrick Barr) as a blind judge who she is tricking into signing “death warrants” for the girls in her care, and the whole adds up to far more than you’d expect from what is, basically, a seedy bit of 70s exploitation.
Director: Pete Walker Writer(s): David McGillivray, Pete Walker (story)
Cast: Barbara Markham – Mrs. Wakehurst, Patrick Barr – Justice Bailey, Ray Brooks – Tony, Ann Michelle – Julia, Sheila Keith – Walker, Dorothy Gordon – Bates, Robert Tayman – Mark E. Desade, Ivor Salter – Jack, Karen David – Karen, Celia Quicke – Denise, Ron Smerczak – Ted, Tony Sympson – Henry, Judy Robinson – Claire, Jane Hayward – Estelle, Celia Imrie – Barbara, Barry Martin – Al, Rose Hill – Henry’s Wife, Dave Butler, Penny Irving – Ann-Marie Di Verney, David McGillivray – Caven, Denis Tinsley – Police Sergeant, Pete Walker – Cyclist