Director: Peter Walker
Kino Classics/Redemption

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 suspense 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 young 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 sexed-up 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 death 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 infant daughter. The carnage that took place some 30 years earlier might be connected with the continuing misfortunes brought upon this acting ensemble in the swinging present.

Written by Alfred Shaughnessy (who directed CAT GIRL some 15 years earlier and had also scripted Hammer’s CRESCENDO), THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW plays like an Agatha Christie “whodunit” with Walker throwing in the expected exploitation elements of titillation and minor bloodshed, all balled up into 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 witness 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 10-minute black & white flashback scene originally shot in 3-D but shown flat here in the feature (Walker had dabbled with 3-D sequences earlier with FOUR DIMENSIONS OF GRETA), which is a highlight of the film; Walker regular Jane Cardew shows off her well endowed attributes to welcomed, if gratuitous measures (two separate recreations of the sequence in 3-D are included here in the supplements).

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 later. Male cast members include Australian-born 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.

The Kino/Redemption Blu-ray of THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW looks very pleasing to the eyes, as it was mastered in HD from the original negative, presented in 1080p in a 1.78:1 anamorphic aspect ratio. Colors are wonderfully reproduced, black levels are deep, fleshtones look natural and textures are impressive, with darker scenes being easy to make out. The natural grain helps maintain the organic filmic look we expect from British movies of this vintage. The transfer does reveal some minor defects in the source material (such as speckling), but overall, the presentation is extremely 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. The Blu-ray is of course free of the playback problems which plagued several minutes of the Media Blasters DVD.

The film’s black and white 3-D scene (10:14) is included as an extra, both in Stereoscopic 3-D (in which you need a 3-D TV to view properly) and Anaglyph 3-D, where you can use the red/blue 3-D glasses to view (this is how it was shown in theaters). We don’t have a 3-D TV, but were able to view the scene Anaglyph (though you have to provide you own glasses since they aren't provided in the package) and while not perfect, it does a decent job of recreating the theatrical 3-D experience, with a dagger pointed forward and a set of keys being thrown towards the screen being the best gimmicks (the Anaglyph 3-D scene was also featured on the Media Blasters DVD, but as a hidden Easter Egg). “Flesh, Blood and Censorship” (12:13) is a new video interview with director Walker produced by Elijah Drenner. Walker talks about his origins as a comic actor, how he made the directorial transition from comedies to thrillers, his intent to make horror films unlike the Hammer gothics, the 3-D portion of the film (which was an option depending on the print and where it was shown) and more. Trailers for this film and other Walker titles in the Redemption/Kino collection (THE COMEBACK, FRIGHTMARE, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, DIE SCREAMING, MARIANNE) round out the extras. (George R. Reis)