House of Whipcord
Genre: Horror, Exploitation
Director: Pete Walker
Stars: Barbara Markham, Patrick Barr, Ray Brooks
An old man that lives in an old house conducts a correctional institute for girls. But he does not realize that the date is the present as he is cooped up in the house. He is assisted my a matron who likes to get the girls into trouble and present them in front of the old man who thinks he is the law and he passes out punishment. Afterwards the girls get tied to a cross and whipped. Meanwhile The matrons son falls in love with a girl at a party and bring her to the this house.
As far as British Women in Prison films go this is a significant improvement over School for Unclaimed Girls, but then again a dead box turtle could make a better Women in Prison film than School for Unclaimed Girls. Actually, this movie isn’t too bad. Well, the first half of it anyway. It’s a film that starts out with some potential and ambitious plot twists but halfway through it runs out of steam and just kind of slinks away to die a slow death.
The film stats with a truck driver or, as they are called in the UK, a “lorry driver,” picking up a stray wandering girl. She is severely injured from abuse and quite delirious. He’s a kind man, which is a rare sight in the exploitation genre, and sets out to take her to the closest hospital he can find. We then get an extended flashback of the girl’s story that takes up a large portion of the movie.
Who is this girl? She is French model Ann-Marie Di Verney who was recently scandalized when she was arrested for a public nude photo shoot. She’s chatted up at a party by a dashing young Timothy Dalton clone who goes by the name of Mark E, Desade – as if that’s not painfully obvious! They have their little romance and then Desade invites her out to his parents’ house for a holiday. As they drive he seems cold and heartless and it seems obvious where he’s taking her. At this point I was getting angry – angry at the fact that I was once again given a women imprisoned movie passing itself off as a women in prison movie. Little did I know of the novel twist the film had in store for me…
Mark takes Ann-marie to this large building in the middle of nowhere. He drops her outside with a “wait here,” and then drives off. A woman bring Ann-Marie inside and starts checking her into prison. All the usual women in prison forms are obeyed – she’s made to strip, searched, showered and thoroughly humiliated. This almost comes out of nowhere. This sinister romance film that looked like it was headed towards some sort of torture/snuff territory has become a women in prison film with no warning. I liked this sudden change of pace, this strange mystery that came as a surprise.
So what is this prison exactly? It’s a prison for the indecent criminals that the UK courts let get away. Ann-Marie was only fined £10 for her lewd arrest. The prudish people running this private prison have decided she deserves a much harsher sentence. It is harshness she receives, in hefty doses. The prison is run my an old matron who had been fired from her previous, legitimate job as a wardress when an inmate killed herself. She’s got two old ladies as guards to help her out plus an 8,000 retired judge named Justice Bailey who reads out sentencing. The old fool is blind and pretty much senile. He rambles through a scripted sentencing the matron provides for him and then forgets he even did anything. The only thing he DOES remember is the suicide that lost the old matron her job, something he constantly smears in her face.
We get our standard women in prison fare, Ann-Marie escapes and the story has now caught itself up to the intro. That is where the movie effectively ends – but it doesn’t. Jack the Lorry Driver ends up taking Ann-Marie back to the prison because he thinks its a hospital. Ann-Marie’s friends get involved looking for her and all paths lead to the prison. There are pointless scenes that make British countryfolk look ridiculously stupid with dialogue like this:
Londoner: Is there some sort of clinic around here?
Countryfolk: No, there’s no such thing in these parts.
Londoner: What about that big building over there that looks like a clinic?
Countryfolk: Well, I suppose that might be a clinic.
What’s sad is that we not only have to hear this discussion once – we get to hear it THREE TIMES.
Eventually the movie winds to a close – but not after a few false ending and endless puttering around like a confused toddler. The movie started off looking boring, got intriguing when it suddenly turned into WiP film and then just gave up and died slowly. It’s easy enough to just stop watching when Ann-Marie escapes. Everything after that is just dull, mind-achingly boring shit that never seems to end. After sitting through it all, what’s the reward? Nothing, not a god damn thing. the 8,000 year old British judge throws a rag on his head, stumbles around the prison and finally rambles some nonsense bullshit about British legal statutes and fade to black.
This film could have been GREAT, but it just gave up. I was entertained, up to a point. Ultimately, the movie is worth checking out, as long as you stop halfway through – otherwise you’ll end up feeling like I do – bored and cheated.