If you follow British horror and exploitation, the name Robert Hartford-Davis should ring a bell. He helmed sexploiters in the 60s such as THE YELLOW TEDDYBEARS and SCHOOL FOR UNCLAIMED GIRLS, as well as low-rent genre fare like THE BLACK TORMENT, CORRUPTION and INCENSE FOR THE DAMNNED (aka BLOODSUCKERS) – the latter two which starred Peter Cushing. His 1971 effort, THE FIEND, which was known in the U.S. as BEWARE OF THE BRETHERAN (the onscreen DVD title) is actually one of his best structured films (though far from perfect) and Brian Comport’s screenplay of sexual deviance and religious fanaticism predates similar works by Pete Walker by several years.
THE FIEND concerns a community Brethren, an evangelical group under the leadership of “The Minister” (Patrick Magee). Aging and ill Birdy (Ann Todd) has dedicated her life to the Brethren, with a chapel built in her house to hold meetings. She overbears the life of her live-in son Kenny (Tony Beckley), who has two jobs, one as a swimming pool lifeguard and one as a security guard garbed in Nazi-like black uniform and helmet. But Kenny’s real interest is brutally killing women that he deems immoral and sinful in order to cleanse their souls, keeping audio recordings of the killings and hanging the victims' underthings in the cellar!
The plot is pretty routine, and the pacing can be tedious at times, but Hartford-Davis (who practically launched British horror-sleaze with 1968’s CORRUPTIONS) instills a good amount of nudity and startling deaths (one woman is found in a cement truck, another in a meat locker where a couple is about to make love, etc.), sometimes juxtaposed against images of Baptism (the killer drowns several victims). You would expect Patrick Magee to be over-the-top in such a role, but he’s rather subdued even when he gets his just-desserts in the end. What really makes the film interesting is the performance by Tony Beckley. Beckley was great as the alcoholic pianist in Hammer’s THE LOST CONTINENT, but the talented, gaunt actor also portrayed sickos in such films as THE PENTHOUSE, ASSAULT, and later in HE KNOWS YOUR ALONE, which was shot in the U.S. shortly before his untimely death in 1980. Suzanna Leigh (Beckley’s LOST CONTINENT co-star) is a journalist who goes undercover to find out the truth about the Bretheren, Madeleine Hinde is a pretty nurse who shouldn’t be giving old Birdy insulin shots (according to the old religion), and Percy Herbert (ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.) is a commissioner who gets serviced in his car by a cockney hooker!
Image Entertainment has released THE FIEND on DVD under the Redemption umbrella, and it appears to be the full uncut version (the film ran into censorship problems in the U.K.). Letterboxed at 1.85:1 and given anamorphic treatment, the picture quality looks splendid, with vivid, bright colors and good picture definition. Aside from occasional nicks and scratches, the source print is in very decent shape. The mono audio is very strong, but there is an instance or two when the sound gets low for a brief period. The disc also includes the original U.S. trailer (it was released here by Cinerama), and a nice still gallery that includes lobby cards, various video release covers, and several behind-the-scenes nude shots. (George R. Reis)
UPDATE: John Bernhard sent in this important information about this release, as we never bothered to compare it to the old Monterey VHS Tape:
The old Monterey VHS of THE FIEND is intact and uncut, unlike the Image
DVD. The Image DVD has new credits but all the old cuts are there.
From the IMDB:
* The opening murder in the BBC version includes a more prolonged strangulation scene, as well as some further nudity as
Kenny strips his dead victim (Janette Wild). There's also the sight of him removing a watch and necklace from the naked corpse, adding a (slightly out of place) petty criminal element to Kenny's religiously motivated crimes.
* The title scenes are slightly different, the BBC version plays the title over a still shot of the killer's boots (the rest of the credits appear the same way). The Derann version plays the title over a blue box background.
* When Kenny first plays the audio tapes back of his killings there is some cutaways to historical torture paintings. The older Derann version includes two brief shots of the same painting, the BBC version contains the same two shots but lingers on them a little longer and goes on to another shot of a second (more graphic) painting.
* The murder of the prostitute (Terry Quinlan) in toned down in the Derann version (she's beaten around the head off-screen). The BBC version however includes some nasty shots of Kenny ramming his torch into the girl's mouth. Her death from being beaten around the head is no longer shown totally off-screen in the BBC version either.
* The following scene where Quinlan's body is discovered in cement, is different in the two versions. The BBC version represents this scene with two shots of nudity (the actress obviously found it hard to hold her breath). The Derann version represents it with an odd, (still photograph?) close-up on the girl's face.
* The last difference is to the 'meat-hook scene' where one of Kenny's victims (Suzanna East) initially drowned is discovered hanging on a meat hook. Both versions play the discovery slightly different, the Derann version includes a brief shot of the girl on the meat hook as well as a second shot that zooms in on the dead girls face. The BBC version begins with an additional long shot of the dead girl, and ends on a second shot, that's actually the first shot we see of the body in the Derann version but is more drawn out. The zoom shot from the Derann version isn't included in the BBC version.
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