Freddie Francis was probably better known in more conventional circles for his award winning camera work but horror fans around the world know him for the films he directed for Hammer and then later the competing Amicus Studios. Less known than those films, most of which are widely regarded as classics by British horror buffs, is his 1970 effort, Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny And Girl or, it's known on this DVD, just simply Girly. The film has remained a pretty obscure offering but Scorpion Releasing aims to change all of that with this DVD.
Sonny (Howard Trevor) is very close with his sister, Girly (Vanessa Howard). The two, in their late teens from the looks of things, live what seems to be a quaint life out in the British countryside in a home looked over by Mumsy (Ursula Howells) and her assistant, Nanny (Pat Heywood). The more we get to know Sonny and Girly, however, the more obvious it becomes that something is not quite right with this pair. They act out childishly and quite frequently and the pair have a strange penchant for luring grown men back to the house where comely Girly is able to easily convince them to indulge in various bizarre games.
One day the duo bring home a 'New Friend' (Michael Bryant) whose obvious eyes for Girly make him an easy target. Once he's in the house, they set up an accident on their playground area and proceed to make him their captive. He realizes that if he doesn't escape, this gang of lunatics is likely going to kill him, but he knows that if they catch him trying to get out, he's dead on the spot. Rather than risk a chase, he instead tries to outwit them and use some of their own bizarre tendencies against them as a battle of wits ensues and tension mounts.
Shot in and around the instantly recognizable Oakley Court, immortalized in Richard Keith O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Picture Show but used in loads of other horror films in the sixties and seventies such as Vampyres, Francis' picture always looks fantastic. His strength as a cinematographer always shines through in the movie and the gothic style architecture afforded by the film's central location coupled with Vanessa Howard's good lucks ensures that there's never a shortage of eye candy up on screen. Lots of interesting camera angles, courtesy of Director Of Photography David Muir, and set ups are used throughout the picture to heighten the tension and bring out certain characteristics in the cast and Howard's sex appeal is rightly played up and quite well at that. Had she not had the tartness required by her character, the set up wouldn't work and we wouldn't buy her being able to bring men back to the house, but her short skirts, playful smile and Lolita-esque tendencies make her the perfect casting choice and she plays the part really well.
The film leaves a lot of questions unanswered - we never really know if the two leads are actually brother and sister or if their 'Mumsy' is actually their mother or not, nor do we really know how or why they wound up in the bizarre mental state we find and leave them in - but that doesn't really matter. The story, as odd as it is, works well. If it feels a bit stagey in spots it'll come as no surprise to learn that it was based on a play by Maisie Mosco before Brian Comport adapted it for the screen. Throw in an equally odd score from composer Bernard Ebbinghouse (who also scored Francis' Tales That Witness Madness) and this is a film that really comes together. It's a bizarre film to be sure, and one that approaches its subject matter with a strange sense of black comedy, but it offers up a few intriguing digs against traditional British society and provides some interesting and memorable set pieces along the way.
NOTE: This review is based off of a test disc (though it appears to at least represent finished product.
Girly looks excellent in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation (transferred in HD from the original negative, according to the packaging). The progressive scan image shows only minute instances of print damage and while it does have that odd sort of seventies softness to its cinematography, detail is generally pretty good. Color reproduction looks great, there's a lot of interesting primary hues used throughout the film, and black levels, while not reference quality, are quite strong as well. Flesh tones look good, there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement at all - a nice effort all around in the video department!
The English language Dolby Digital Mono track on this is also quite strong. It's well balanced, easy to follow and free of any hiss or distortion. A few sequences sound a little bit flat but that's likely got more to do with the nature of the recording than with the DVD. All in all, it sounds quite good. No alternate language options or subtitles have been provided for this release.
The core extras are two interviews. The first is an audio interview with director Freddie Francis who talks about his career ups and downs as well as the state of the horror industry in general with some more specific input on the British horror films that he was involved in. The second piece is a video interview with writer Brian Comport who talks about his working relationship with the film's late director, the casting, the plot, and the characters while providing a fairly interesting picture of what went into getting this project completed. Both of these interviews run just under a half an hour in length.
Rounding out the extras is a pair of trailers and a TV spot for the feature, and trailers for a few unrelated Cinerama Productions - Goodbye Gemini, The Girl In Blue, The Last Grenade, Black Rodeo, Doctor Death, Follow Me, and Say Hello To Yesterday. All of the trailers are in anamorphic widescreen. An alternate title card sequence is also included as are menus and chapter stops.
Scorpion Releasing have done a pretty impressive job bringing this underappreciated slice of vintage British horror to domestic DVD. The transfer is solid, the audio is fine and the extras are quite interesting as well. The movie itself is a good one, it's well made, well acted and nicely shot and on top of that it's quirky, tense and entirely entertaining. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.