Released two years after Satan’s Slave, this was Norman J Warren’s second horror film. In the opening scene, set in the darkness of a wood there is little to see at first, apart from some flickering torches viewed in the distance and the sound of angry voices. This soon changes; a group of three men are seen carefully setting a mantrap in a hole in the ground. When the trap is set they cover it with fallen leaves. The clothes the men are wearing tell us that we are in medieval times. The crowd bearing the torches are now getting closer, a frightened young woman comes into view just ahead of them, she is their quarry and every muscle in her body is straining to avoid capture. The woman runs into a clearing and is snared in the vicious trap, its coarse metal teeth cutting into the flesh and bone of her leg, causing her to cry out in agony. Rushing forward the men seize the woman, release her from the trap and drag her to a clearing. There are more people here and in the middle a large bonfire, built around a stout wooden stake. The struggling woman is forcibly lifted to the top of the pyre and tied to the stake.
The action then moves to the nearby manor house, home to Lord and Lady Garrick, played respectively by William Russell and Mary Maude. Lady Garrick is sitting by the fire sewing by candlelight when there is a sudden knock upon the door. Someone has come to inform the couple of the capture of the woman, a notorious local witch. Her husband urges her to stay in the house but Lady Garrick and her family have suffered much at the hand of this sorceress and she relishes the thought of witnessing her execution. Standing next to the bonfire a priest (John Rapley) recites the following words; “Father take back to they bosom this woman whom Satan hath defiled. Receive and bless her soul, cleanse and purify it in thy holy name and let no measure of Satans power remain in her.” The woman cries out aloud, “Master help thy servant.” The priest is visibly terrified of her and justifiably so. A strong wind appears from nowhere blowing the prayer book from the priest’s hands, he quickly gives the order to set aflame the wooden pile. It seems that Satan has answered his servant’s call, when one of the men setting the fire is himself burnt alive.
Lord Garrick leaves the scene and returns to the house. Lady Garrick made of sterner stuff than her husband remains and relishes the witch’s final moments as she is immolated by the consuming inferno. When Lady Garrick arrives back at the house she is horrified to find her husbands mutilated body. The witch who had just been burnt by fire appears before her encircled by grey smoke. She ominously informs Lady Garrick that her life is now forfeited and that every new male and female of her line is damned. The apparition displaying all the signs of someone who has just been tortured and burnt moves towards her and removing a sword from the wall decapitates Lady Garrick. We then see the see the words, ‘The End,’ appear on the screen and beneath them, ‘A Garrick Films Production.’ The light go up; we are still in the manor house but it is the nineteen seventies and this is now the home of horror film director James Garrick (John Nolan) a direct descendant of Lord and Lady Garrick.
James Garrick has just been watching the film with a group of actors, actresses and general film people, most of whom are connected with his company. The film is a dramatised account of what happened in the house over three hundred years ago. James is asked if the events in the film are really true, he confirms that what they saw actually did take place. Carol Tucker, an actress played by Glynis Barber, notices a sword mounted on a wooden beam and asks James if it is the sword that the witch used to remove Lady Garrick’s head. He confirms that it is the same sword and that it was used to kill most of his ancestors.
Gary, another of the guests played by Michael Craze, thinks the whole thing is a lot of nonsense. He decides to liven up the proceedings with an old party trick of his and proceeds to hypnotise Carol. When she is apparently under the influence of his mesmerising powers, she holds her hand over a lighted candle, feeling no pain. The irritating Gary who likes the sound of his own voice too much is accused of trickery and we discover that Carol had been holding a piece of asbestos in her palm. James annoyed by Gary’s attention seeking attitude suggests that he should try hypnotising Ann Garrick (Carolyn Courage), who as well as being an actress is James cousin, another direct descendant of Lord and Lady Garrick. Gary is not keen on this but a forceful James backed by Ann coerces him in front of the others to try it on her. Gary pretends to hypnotise Ann and is amazed when she appears to be under the influence, but when he commands her to wake up she fails to respond. As if controlled by some external force she walks over to where the sword is mounted on the wooden beam, removes it and after running the blade through her hand, as if to test its sharpness, attacks James with it cutting his arm. It takes several of the men to disarm her and a slap round the face to break the trance; she remembers nothing of what just took place. Ann distressed by her experience grabs her coat and runs from the house. Carol also decides to leave and as she makes her way down the drive she is attacked by a knife-wielding stranger, later her bloodied body is discovered pinned to a tree by a carving knife inserted through her neck. When Carol is being attacked there are several effective shots in which the shiny silver blade of the knife almost fills the entire screen, what little light there is glinting on its polished surface. This serves to highlight not only the tension but also the nature of the horrific attack. Having Glynis Barber dressed in an all white outfit accentuates the lashings of blood, in this the first of many grisly deaths. Barbara Kellerman was similarly impaled in Norman J Warren’s earlier film ‘Satan’s Slave’.
The action switches to a theatrical hostel for girls run by Delores Hamilton an elderly actress who has clearly seen better days. Elaine Ives-Cameron, in a seriously over the top camp performance, creates a character somewhere between Fenella Fielding and Quentin Crisp; understatement is a word flamboyantly erased from this ladies dictionary. For some inexplicable reason the first thing we see when we enter the house is a brightly coloured box of Daz washing powder standing on a bed, the words on the box screaming out, ‘New Extra Power Daz Washers Even Whiter.’ I can only presume that the makers of Daz must have given some financial contribution to the making of the film, an early example of product placement. Suzy, (Sarah Keller) another actress is lying on the other bed in the room learning her lines; the door opens and the figure of Ann is seen in its frame. She looks worried and preoccupied; this is the first anyone has seen of her since she ran from the house. Without saying a word she turns and walks away, Suzy follows her and discovers her washing blood from her hands in the bathroom sink. Ann can remember nothing of what has happened or where the blood came from.
The action then moves to the Garrick Film Studio. A television reporter played by an enthusiastic David Mc Gillivray (he wrote the screenplay for the film) is doing a news report on the murder of Carol Tucker. It turns out that Carol was about to appear in a new film comedy called, Take It Or Leave It. But now the part will have to be recast. Meanwhile in the studio a soft porn film entitled Bath Time With Brenda, is being made by an incompetent director (Peter Craze). He is trying to inject some eroticism into a scene where a partially clothed couple sitting in a bath are struggling hard to act and failing miserably. Their attempts at sexual titillation are equally sad and the only thing they arouse is their would be directors indignation. Quite a lot of time is devoted to this scene, which develops into a small-scale pastiche of the now defunct British sex film industry, the scene being reminiscent of the style of Harrison Marks. Perhaps its no coincidence that Norman J. Warren cut his directorial teeth in this time limited genre and that David Mc Gillivray had previously written the script for the 1976 British sex comedy I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight. Meanwhile James is talking to his assistant Philip (James Aubrey) in the office. There are several film posters on the wall, one of these for a film called Satan’s Slave. James is unhappy about the porn shoot in his studio and what the police might think of it when they come to interview him about Carol’s death. Much to their annoyance he sends the porn film crew packing, promising them another day in the studio later. It turns out that on the previous night James had withheld from the police the incident with Ann and the sword. He points out to Philip that Ann then went missing and shortly after Carols body was found.
Back at the hostel Viv (Trishia Walsh), the actress in the porn shoot and Suzy (Sarah Keller) are preparing for an audition. Ann is in the room with them and asks Suzy if she has told anyone else about seeing her wash the blood from her hands, which Ann claims was the result of a cut. Suzy assures her she has not spoken to anyone about it and leaves for the audition. As she drives through the countryside at night a terrible storm makes driving conditions difficult, her car being swamped with water from the storm eventually breaks down. She makes her way to an isolated cottage to seek help but receives no answer when she knocks on the door. Being a bold lass she finds a side door open and nervously enters the house, which appears to be deserted. Finding the phone she calls a garage The call is answered by a woman whose voice sounds strange and lacking in emotion. When she hears that Suzy is alone the phone suddenly goes dead. Suzy is then alarmed to find herself being stalked by an unknown person who gains entry to the house. This tension filled scene is reminiscent of slasher movies, with the victim being slowly pursued until the final confrontation. In this instance though all is well, in a well-staged anticlimax we discover it’s only the man from the garage and that Suzy is safe; well at least for now!
Ann has gone to the club where she works as a hostess to supplement her meagre acting income. This is definitely a club for the boys; amply confirmed when the floorshow appears. A dancer (Tanya Ferova) with short bleached hair, an athletic body and wearing only a pair of black leather thigh boots performs an interesting routine with a whip. This is quite an effective scene, the dance performed being highly erotic. Ann is being harassed by a regular lecher, known as ‘Phil The Greek,’ (Chuck Julian). She tolerates his unwelcome attentions until he goes one step too far, grabbing her arm and saying in an overdone Greek accent, “Come sit with me I suck your teet.” The perceptive amongst you will have noticed that subtlety of language is not Phil’s strong point. Ann, who is basically a nice middle class actress who only works in the club to make ends meet between thespian engagements, struggles to free herself from Phil’s greasy grip. She is saved by the club bouncer played by the distinctive actor Milton Reid, who lands an arm lock on Phil’s head and ejects him from the premises. Later whilst fumbling for his front door key, Phil is attacked from behind by an unknown assailant and viciously strangled; his body falls in to the basement and is impaled on the spikes of some iron railings, making him corpse number two.
Back at Garrick studios the porn shoot has returned, the cast and director are still struggling to commit something worthwhile to celluloid, watched by James and Philip. A large spotlight works itself loose from its moorings and falls on the hapless porn director, burning him badly and killing him. It would seem that people who have any kind of connection with Philip or Ann are in mortal danger, but who is killing them? Viv the porn actress returns to the hostel and tells Suzy that she fears for her life and is going to leave. As she is finishing the end of her sentence, Ann looking cold, emotionless and menacing appears framed in the doorway, she looks at Viv and Suzy briefly and without uttering a word turns and leaves. A little later Viv is seen applying her makeup in the bathroom when she is shocked to discover blood dripping down from the ceiling above on to her arms, hearing her piercing screams Suzy runs to see what has happened. Suzy reckons that the blood is coming from the empty room above and as is normal for this genre throws all caution to the wind and makes her way nervously and slowly up the stairs to investigate.
Slowly she opens the door and discovers lying on the floor an overturned pot of red paint, left in that position by a careless decorator. The girls are obviously hyped up by the earlier deaths and have overreacted. Viv still covered in paint is not yet aware of this and nervously makes her way up the stairs to see what has happened to Suzy. As she ascends the stairs a dagger shoots through the bars of the handrail stabbing her in the leg. There are more and more stab wounds inflicted, as she is the victim of a ferocious attack. In a scene cut from the original UK video release, the dagger seen going through her foot and emerging out the other side. She collapses on the stairs dying of multiple wounds, the walls splashed with her blood. If you watch this scene closely it’s possible to detect the handle of the dagger but you don’t actually see a hand holding it.
Ann has gone to the studio to talk to Philip and senses a strange atmosphere there. She tells Philip that it’s the same feeling she had at James house when he told the story about the witch who cursed the family. Ann asks Philip if she had cut her hand the night Carol was killed, as she cannot remember anything and wants to account for the blood that she had to wash off. Philip tells her she did not and she leaves the studio worried and confused. Philip tries to phone James to tell him that Ann is on her way and to share his growing suspicion that she is somehow involved in all of the deaths, but for some reason the phone is not working. Suddenly in the studio strange thing begin to happen, sets fall over, a sink comes loose from the wall and objects begin to fly around by themselves. Rolls of film spill out of their cans and come alive. Philip is entangled in the rolls of film, which seem intent on causing him harm. He manages to escape the homicidal celluloid by falling backwards down the stairs and crashing through a glass door at the bottom. He lies there semiconscious his neck resting on the doorframe. Above him a large shard of glass hangs precariously, before he can muster his senses and move the glass slides down and guillotines him, through his neck.
When Ann arrives back at the house there are no lights on, she manages to open a window and climb in. Ann’s presence seems to provoke supernatural forces into another spree of destructive activity and once again normally inanimate objects begin to fly about, this time threatening Ann. Unsure what to do Ann grabs a battleaxe from its mounting on the wall to protect herself. James is in bed and hearing noises comes down to investigate. Understandably nervous after all the deaths he proceeds with caution. Ann is alarmed when there is movement behind the curtain at the foot of the stairs and lashes out with the axe. James falls through the curtain and lies dead upon the floor, his stomach having taken the full force of the axe. The burnt and disfigured witch, who we first saw in the opening sequence, appears in the room. Surrounded by swirling smoke she glides across the room. Ann is petrified and cannot move, the witch using her diabolical powers causes the sword that killed so many of the Garrick family in the past to detach from its mounting and float towards Ann. Gathering momentum the sword flies straight at Ann and after piercing her chest lifts her up and impales her to the wooden mantelpiece; her limp body left hanging, her arms outstretched in ghoulish fashion. This sequence is extremely effective, Ann’s face is frozen and motionless as the sword goes through her body and she is carried though the air, the camera focusing on her petrified look is accompanied by the sound of rushing wind and a dull thud as the sword meets the wood. The witches curse is now fulfilled; the remaining members of the Garrick family are dead. From beyond the grave the witch has exacted her bloody revenge.
For me this has to be the end sequence in which Ann is impaled by the flying sword. This is accomplished with great skill and looks entirely convincing. Ann’s body is carried with force through the air, the camera following her face frozen in fear and lit by an eerie green light. There is a chilling finality to the dull thud her body makes as it hits the wooden mantelpiece and a macabre artistry as her corpse goes limp and her head falls to one side, her arms left outstretched.
This has to be the scene where David Mc Gillivray plays a television reporter who is doing a piece outside the Garrick film studios on the death of Carol Tucker. There is nothing wrong with David’s enthusiastic performance, but he takes the biscuit for sporting the worst seventies hairstyle and beard I have seen for a long time, not to mention an equally embarrassing seventies suit.
‘Terror’, made more money than any other film then showing, during the week of its UK release in 1978.
The film was a Crown International picture, produced by Crystal Film Productions Ltd in association with Bowergrange Ltd. It was filmed at Acorn Studios London and on location and is based on a story by Les Young and Moira Young. David Mc Gillivray who also worked on ‘Satans Slave’ wrote the screenplay.
Glynis Barber whose real name was Glynis Van Der Reit, went on to star as Lady Harriet Alexandra Charlotte Makepiece in the 1985 television series Dempsey and Makepeace.
Michael Craze played the part of Candace Glendennings boyfriend in Norman J.Warrens ‘Satans Slave.’
Milton Reid, a distinctive thickset bald man who played the bouncer in the club, is probably known to many by sight at least, if not by his name. His numerous film appearances include the following roles:
The executioner in the 1958 film ‘Blood of the Vampire.’
A tough guy in the 1977 Mary Millington film ‘Come Play with Me.’
The manservant in Dr Phibes Rises Again.’ (1972)
The strong man in ‘Berserk.’ (1967)
The mulatto in Hammers 1962 film ‘Captain Clegg’.
A Tong guardian in ‘Terror of the Tongs.’ (1961)
Patrick Wymark’s mute assistant in ‘The Blood On Satan’s Claw.’ (1970)