Director: Pete Walker
Shriek Show/Media Blasters

A seasoned British director of sex comedies such as COOL IT CAROL! and FOUR DIMENSIONS OF GRETA, Peter Walker made a quick transition to exploitive horror, the genre he continued in for most of the 1970s. Walker’s first such authentic effort (after the potboiler DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE) was 1972’s THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW, a film which clearly spelled out its objective with its explicit title, also added a decades-old ballyhoo gimmick to usher in audiences.

An elusive producer gathers together a troop of young actors to perform in a stage show titled “The Flesh and Blood Show” for a mysterious company called “"Theatre Group 40.” Rehearsing at an abandoned seaside theater, the youung folks are under the direction of Mike (Ray Brooks, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD) who more or less is like a teacher with a schoolroom full of brats. Early on, one of the female members of the troop is found guillotined, and when Mike and another actor bring back the police to the scene of the crime, all that’s found is a disassembled mannequin. Keeping the mysterious murder a secret from the others, it is soon learned that the theater has a history of murder – during World War II, a Shakespearean actor killed his wife and her lover backstage, right in front of their daughter. The carnage that took place some 30 years earlier might be connected with the continuing misfortunes brought upon this acting ensemble in the present.

Written by Alfred Shaughnessy (who directed CAT GIRL some 15 years earlier and had just scripted Hammer’s CRESCENDO) plays like an Agatha Christie “whodunit” with Walker throwing in the expected exploitation elements of titillation and minor bloodshed, all balled up as a far-from-perfect yet admittedly entertaining little film. There a number of tease scare tactics (one which involves a woman answering the door in the buff to a bogus murder victim), some imaginative killings, and lots of bare breasts, mostly shot in awkward softcore style, obviously attempting to satiate the thrill-starved audiences of the time. But most of Walker’s direction is competent, making great atmospheric use of the theater/pier locations and creating a genuine feeling that someone treacherous is lurking behind every dark corner. Although Shaughnessy’s script is not as complex or laced with social commentary (like the Walker/David McGillivray collaborations which would soon follow) the motivation behind the murders is at least a credible one, leading up to a rewarding black & white flashback scene originally shot in 3-D but shown flat here (Walker had dabbled with 3-D sequences earlier with FOUR DIMENSIONS OF GRETA), which is the highlight of the film, and also its most extreme offering – Walker regular Jane Cardew shows off her well endowed attributes to welcomed, if gratuitous measures.

The cast of THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW is full of familiar faces, not only from other Walker productions, but also from British horrors of the period, and the starlets are not afraid to shed their clothes. Top-billed actress Jenny Hanley was just in Hammer’s SCARS OF DRACULA, and apparently has her brief nudity done by a stand-in. Doing their own bits of baring their bosoms are Luan Peters and Judy Matheson, who had both just been in Hammer’s LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and TWINS OF EVIL. Stunning Candace Glendenning was also in TOWER OF EVIL and starred in Norman J. Warren’s SATAN’S SLAVE a few years laterr. Male cast members include Tristan Rogers (who also starred in FOUR DIMENSIONS OF GRETA and remains a popular U.S. Soap star to this day) and the ever lovable Robin Askwith (who had starred in several previous Walker films and of course, HORROR HOSPITAL). Jess Conrad (KONGA) has an amusing cameo as a vain pretty boy actor. The elder statesman of the piece is Patrick Barr (SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD) whose sinister presence is a good substitute for the absence of Sheila Keith (who wouldn’t start appearing in Walker’s films for another year or so), and it will be no secret to the uninitiated viewer that he is the main menace.

Shriek Show presents THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW for the first time on DVD in a very good 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer. Colors are mostly strong and the image is clear and quite sharp, with its numerous dark scenes being easy to make out. The transfer does reveal some defects in the source print (such as speckling), but overall, the presentation is very satisfying and clocks in at the film’s fully uncut 96-minute running time. The mono audio has very clear dialogue and no distortions to be found, making for a very clean English track.

Extras include an excellent new video interview (12:16) with director Walker. Walker talks about the competing horror market of the time, censorship problems, making FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW based on a “Ten Little Indians” premise, screenwriter Alfred Shaughnessy, the sex content in the film and the actors in the film, in particular, a nice anecdote about Jenny Hanley. Also included is the original British trailer, trailers for other Walker titles (THE COMEBACK, FRIGHTMARE, DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE, THE CONFESSIONAL, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD) and a still gallery. (George R. Reis)