Cast & Crew
Young babysitter Amanda arrives at the Lloyd residence to spend the evening looking after their young son. Soon after the Lloyds leave, a series of frightening occurrences in the gloomy old house have Amanda's nerves on edge. The real terror begins, however, when the child's biological father appears after recently escaping from a nearby mental institution.
Roger Lloyd Pack
The premise is so familiar it is likely to trigger a sense of deja vu. A nervous young babysitter is left alone in a big, sprawling mansion to tend to a child while the parents go out for the evening. As the minutes pass, she becomes increasingly anxious, startled by strange noises (creaking doors, windows rattling, the clanging of water pipes and furnace ducts) and a feeling that she is being watched. Guess what? She is and the lurker will soon make his presence known. Fright (1971), directed by Peter Collinson, is a quintessential "scare the babysitter" tale, partially inspired by gruesome urban folk myths and earlier claustrophobic thrillers like The Spiral Staircase (1945) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) in which the heroines are trapped inside a house and unable to escape.
The babysitter in question is Susan George and in her lavender mini-skirt and black boots, she doesn't look like the sort of child guardian any sensible adult would leave their child with. This was the same year George appeared in Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs in which her character, a newlywed housewife in rural England, is raped twice in the movie's most controversial sequence. George is no less a sexually provocative presence here and proves she can emit blood-curdling screams to rival such Hammer horror queens as Barbara Shelley and Hazel Court. A popular blonde actress of the seventies, George was often the embodiment of male carnal fantasy in such films as Mandingo (1975) but she could just as easily slip into playing hell-raising slatterns (Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, 1974) or easily duped innocents (All Neat in Black Stockings, 1969). In Fright, she strikes the perfect balance between naiveté and paranoia before all hell breaks loose and hysteria rules the day.
One of the more effective aspects of Fright is the way in which director Peter Collinson immediately thrusts the viewer into an unnerving situation without providing any backstory; that comes later in bits and pieces and some hallucinatory freakouts in the second half of the movie. At the outset, Helen (Honor Blackman) and her companion Jim (George Cole) are preparing to go out for dinner while leaving instructions for their college age babysitter Amanda (Susan George). The couple had planned to celebrate Helen's divorce from her husband Brian (Ian Bannen) but instead of feeling relief, Helen is highly agitated. While we never learn why she married Brian in the first place, we do find out that he is a dangerously deranged man who tried to kill Helen and their child during a delusional fit. Now he is locked up in the local asylum but we know he won't stay put on such an important day in his wife's life.
The first half of Fright is genuinely tense and suspenseful as Amanda is continually startled by sounds inside and outside the house and we often see her from the point of view of a stalker gazing through the window. One of the early scares involves a surprise visit by Chris (Dennis Waterman), an amorous admirer who has followed her to her job and invites himself in for the evening, a decision that does not bode well. The second half of the film goes roaring off the rails as it reaches an emotionally overwrought peak that it can't sustain through the improbable climax. Nevertheless, Fright boasts an impressive cast and, despite a PG rating for its time, is surprisingly intense for a film genre that usually substitutes gore and violence for suspense. In some ways, Fright could be seen as a precursor to the "scare the babysitter" movies that followed from Halloween (1978) and When a Stranger Calls (1979) to the more recent Babysitter Wanted (2008) and The House of the Devil (2009).
Peter Collinson, the director of Fright, is often overlooked in British cinema but deserves a reassessment for such unconventional movies as the psychodrama The Penthouse (1967), the anti-war drama The Long Day's Dying (1968) and the Michael Caine crime caper, The Italian Job (1969). The screenwriter of Fright, Tudor Gates, is also a familiar name to fans of fantasy and horror as he penned the script for Danger: Diabolik (1968), worked as a writer on Barbarella and wrote the vampire film trilogy, The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1971). Hammer horror aficionados will particularly enjoy a brief homage to The Plague of the Zombies in Fright as Amanda works herself into a state watching this 1966 thriller on the telly.
Also known as Night Legs and I'm Alone and I'm Scared, Fright was mostly ignored as a disposable exploitation film by most high profile critics upon its release but Roger Ebert, who is not a snob when it comes to the horror genre, wrote this about it: "England is a long way ahead of us at this business of things out there in the night. Our houses in America are smaller and less complicated. Sinister noises in the night turn out to be malfunctioning automatic garage-door openers. But Gothic mansions have dozens of windows, countless creaks and not a door that doesn't groan. And the trees are planted close to the house on purpose, so that their branches can scratch against the eaves. The English are also ahead of us in the baby-sitter department. Amanda is played by Susan George, who wears a cashmere sweater that is unbuttoned, by actual count, five times during the movie. It is also buttoned back up five times, so stay calm; this is only rated PG. (In an R movie, it would be buttoned back up four times, and in an X movie, of course, it wouldn't be cashmere.) Because Susan George is awfully good at playing threatened, innocent, blond victims...and because Ian Bannen makes a suitable maniacal and homicidal killer, Fright is a passably good thriller."
Producer: Harry Fine, Michael Style
Director: Peter Collinson
Screenplay: Tudor Gates
Cinematography: Ian Wilson
Music: Harry Robinson
Film Editing: Raymond Poulton
Cast: Honor Blackman (Helen), Susan George (Amanda), Ian Bannen (Brian), John Gregson (Dr. Cordell), George Cole (Jim), Dennis Waterman (Chris), Tara Collinson (Tara), Maurice Kaufmann (Inspector), Roger Lloyd-Pack (Constable), Michael Brennan (Sergeant).
by Jeff Stafford
The Encyclopedia of Horror Films by Phil Hardy (Harper and Row)
Fragments of Fear: An Illustrated History of British Horror Films by Andy Boot (Creation Books)
How do you spell that word, "psychotic"?- Inspector
You may have to spell it M-U-R-D-E-R, murder, if you don't get someone over there quickly!- Dr. Cordell
Released in United States 1971
Released in United States 1971