With a title like House of Whipcord, you already know this is no Disney movie. British exploitation horror-meister Pete Walker (The Flesh and Blood Show) combines his two shock-in-trade specialties--sex and violence--for t... more »his sadistic portrait of a private prison used for the systematic degradation of "loose" women. A perverted prison matron, her dutiful son (named, tellingly, Mark E. DeSade), and a doddering old judge with an Old Testament approach to modern permissiveness collect beautiful young women guilty of the most minor offenses (our heroine is found guilty of public lewdness) and punish them for their sins via a penance that ends in their inevitable death. As our sweet young French model is stripped, whipped, and generally abused by her brutal captors--oddly enough merciless and angry middle-aged women--her roommate takes it upon herself to track her down. It's a sleazy exercise in cinematic sadism perpetrated on beautiful women for the entertainment of the audience, smoothed slightly by surprisingly good performances, a modicum of rough style, a few gripping scenes of tension, and one jaw-dropping twist. --Sean Axmaker« less
"There's just this one scene where one of the evil butch attendants opens a cell door and you get a view of a recently-whipped blonde's back with whip marks. A little nudity here and there, a hooded hanging, clothes on. Other than that, no action worth mentioning, if that's what you're looking for (why the heck else would you want this turkey except for that?)."
Low-key shocker with sleaze to spare
Libretio | 01/25/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
HOUSE OF WHIPCORD
(UK - 1974)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 Theatrical soundtrack: Mono
This down 'n' dirty shocker marked British director Pete Walker's first collaboration with legendary exploitation scriptwriter David McGillivray (HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN, SATAN'S SLAVE, etc.), and they both derived inspiration for their introductory barnstormer from a pre-determined ad campaign showing a screaming, half-naked starlet framed by a hangman's noose. The result is a minor classic in which a French exchange student and part-time nude model (Penny Irving) is lured to a lonely old house in the English countryside by her creepy new boyfriend (Robert Tayman, from VAMPIRE CIRCUS ). There, she's imprisoned by Tayman's parents - a senile old judge (Patrick Barr) and his crazy wife (Barbara Markham) - for 'crimes against morality', and she plots escape with her fellow inmates whilst suffering all manner of indignities meted out by the vicious head of staff (Sheila Keith) and her equally depraved second-in-command (Dorothy Gordon).
Cleverly written and cheaply produced in response to the right-wing Christian protests which had been making headlines in the UK at the time on the back of several recent controversial film releases - notably A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, STRAW DOGS, THE DEVILS (all 1971) and LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972) - "Whipcord" opens with a now-famous dedication "...to those who are disturbed by today's lax moral codes and who eagerly await the return of corporal and capital punishment...." Though contemporary critics railed against the threadbare production values and softcore nudity, it's apparent that much of their outrage was prompted by Walker's brazen challenge to the Christian moralists, whose over-zealous rhetoric has always enjoyed a disproportionate measure of representation in the British media.
The film is deliberately crude and confrontational, with a vulnerable heroine - played as an infuriating wimp by relative newcomer Irving, sporting one of the worst French accents in movie history ("'Ow did zey bring you 'ere?") - struggling to survive against all the odds, while Markham's latent insanity threatens to expose her hideous regime to the outside world, allowing her staff to indulge their most puritan impulses. Keith is especially good in this regard ("I'm going to make you ashamed of your body, de Vernay. I'm going to see to that...personally!"), manifesting the corrupt zeal of a True Believer with little room for pity or compassion.
The plot is fairly busy and the sleaze quotient is high for a British shocker of this vintage, but neither McGillivray's script nor Walker's laidback direction comes even close to matching the debauched atrocities which thoroughly distinguished the 'prison camp' subgenre that proliferated throughout the 1970's and early 80s, exemplified by the likes of ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS (1974) in America, BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1975) in mainland Europe, and BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973), LOST SOULS (1980) and WAR VICTIMS (1983) in Asia. Still, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD is an effectively low-key relic, and it led directly to Walker's next offering, FRIGHTMARE (1974), reuniting him with McGillivray and Keith for one of their best collaborations to date. "
Good Movie, Bad DVD Transfer
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 09/06/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The House of Whipcord" falls neatly into that particularly loathsome category of films lovingly referred to by fans of the cinematic macabre as "Women-in-Prison," or WIP, movies. Nearly every entry in this bizarre sub genre emerged in the 1970s, a decade known for its wacky, experimental odysseys into the darker aspects of human nature. Arguably the best known film falling within the bounds of WIP films is "Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS," a movie that spawned several depraved sequels. "The House of Whipcord" is a kinder, gentler contribution to this field from British director Pete Walker, a man who made several other sleazy pictures both preceding and following this one. "Women-in-Prison" films died out by the 1980s, but now new generations of sleaze lovers can watch these movies thanks to the current DVD revolution."The House of Whipcord" takes place in England during the early 1970s, an England awash in a sea of immorality left over from the swinging 1960s. Certain elements of the population take umbrage at such despicable occurrences as a young French woman prancing nude in a public park for the sake of picture spread in a magazine, so an old English judge named Bailey and a trio of middle aged women set up a private court and prison in an abandoned children's school with the intention of abducting those females guilty of public indecency. Tired of seeing "effete" courts letting young ladies off with a slap on the wrist, these stodgy conservatives take the ideas of punishment seriously: penalties at the jail include long stretches of solitary confinement, floggings, and even death by hanging for those deemed incorrigible. The legal opinions of the judge and his accomplices make Joseph Stalin and Hammurabi look like benevolent lawgivers.The focus of the film is Anne Marie, a nineteen year old French model caught up in a situation way beyond her control. At a party publicizing her nude romp in the park, she meets the darkly handsome Mark E. Desade (that's right, this is really his name). Mark intrigues Anne Marie with his brooding presence and the fact that he likes to do disturbing things with ice cubes. Mark offers to take Anne Marie to see his parents out in the country, an offer the young French girl readily takes up. Unfortunately for Anne Marie, Mark's mother is the hideously unbalanced Mrs. Wakehurst, Justice Bailey's aide de camp at the converted prison. Bailey quickly passes sentence on Anne Marie for her degenerate crime: she must stay in the jail until she proves worthy of release. Regrettably for Anne Marie, Bailey suffers from senility and must rely on Wakehurst and her two uniformed jailers to run the prison, and these three ladies do not intend to offer any hope of redemption to Anne Marie or any of the other inmates. Wakehurst and her cronies start committing extralegal punishments on the female prisoners (as if the whole the thing isn't extralegal, but Bailey originally set up the rules and what his co-workers are doing wasn't in the original plan). A subplot involves a friend of Anne Marie, named Julia, doing her best to discover the whereabouts of her French friend. Everything comes to a head in the dramatic conclusion, as the sunlight finally shines on the sinister machinations at Bailey's prison of horrors.Fans who pick this one up looking for lots of shocks and gore will definitely find themselves disappointed. With the exception of a hanging, an off camera stabbing, and a few prudish floggings, "House of Whipcord" does not deliver in the grue department. What this movie does accomplish is a squalid, oppressive atmosphere of forbidding doom. The prison where Anne Marie pays a price for her actions looks like the type of resort spa Count Dracula would vacation in during the summer months. The interior shots are poorly lit, almost claustrophobic in their implications, and this fits the theme of the film perfectly. I especially enjoyed the performances of the three ladies who played Wakehurst and the prison guards. Their characters reveled in the sadism of the entire exercise, and as ridiculous as the overall premise of a secret prison right out in the open is, they made the whole thing at least slightly believable. Considering that Walker constructed a film almost entirely free of bloody carnage, the pacing was excellent: "House of Whipcord" moved along quite nicely, and I never felt bored while watching it.A few notes on the DVD: the picture transfer is terrible. The people who transferred the film to DVD did a lousy job (I don't think they even attempted a restoration; this looks like a VCD), and there are no extras whatsoever. Is this really an Image Entertainment disc? I don't know, but whoever released this film fell down on the job. "House of Whipcord" really needed a nice touch up, as most of the scenes take place at night or in dungeon conditions with little light. At least two of the female leads, the actress who played Anne Marie and the actress who played Julia, are very foxy 70's gals. Getting an opportunity to see these two nice looking ladies in various situations is a pleasure. "House of Whipcord" isn't a spectacular movie, but it is entertaining and well worth watching."
A case of justice gone insane
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 07/11/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
""This film is dedicated to those who are disturbed by today's lax moral codes and who eagerly await the return of corporal and capital punishment...." So reads the opening caption in Pete Walker's House Of Whipcord. However, should one decide not to shut off the VCR in the middle and plow through to the end, one will come out with the understanding that the caption was for prudes what Bodycount's "Cop Killer" was to policemen.A girl who has been beaten and whipped is rescued by a trucker in the pouring rain. In a flashback, we learn that the girl is Anne Marie, a French model who was recently fined 10 pounds for exposing herself during a photo shoot for a fashion magazine. She befriends Mark E. DeSade, a writer, who asks her to his parents' place over the weekend.What happens afterwards is Anne Marie's worst nightmare. Two sadistic looking elderly woman in dark blue uniforms order her to undress, put on a beige shift/dress, and take her before an elderly, blind, and senile Judge Desmond Bailey. There, she learns where she has been brought to. "This court exists outside the statutory laws of this land. It is a private court. We are constituted by a private charter. ... we pass what we regard as proper sentence on depraved females of every category on whom the effete misguided courts of Great Britain have been too lenient." A ten pound fine won't cut it for Bailey and the forbidding governess.Remember Bill Clinton's "three strikes and you're out"? How about "three strikes and you're dead"? The first time, it's solitary confinement with rats for buddies, the second time, it's flogging, and the third time, it's the hangman's noose, as is the case for inmate Karen Vaughan.Meanwhile, Julia King, an employee at the fashion magazine and roommate, gets worried that Anne Marie hasn't contacted her for nine days. Her boyfriend Tony thinks Anne Marie is busy making whoopee with her man and tells her not to worry.Are You Being Served? fans will be aghast at seeing Penny Irving (Anne Marie) being subjected to all sorts of nastiness. Of Young Mr. Grace's secretaries in AYBS?, Penny played Ms. Bakewell, she of the long flowing red hair. Well, this is her debut film, made three or so years before she made it big with AYBS?, and she does well with a French accent and is still the dreamgirl to look at.Other Walker alumni: Patrick Barr came out in The Flesh And Blood Show as Major Bell. Sheila Keith (prison officer Walker) was Dorothy Yates in Frightmare. Ray Brooks (Tony) was also in The F&B Show and Tiffany Jones.Compared to the five other Pete Walker films I've seen, this is one of the better ones. It doesn't beat The Flesh And Blood Show or the light-hearted softcore comedy romp The Tales Of Tiffany Jones, but outdoes the grim Frightmare, the tepid Die Screaming Marianne and jumbled The Three Dimensions of Greta. But Barr's Old Testament quote at the end of the movie addresses the importance of administering justice fairly: "If there be a controversy between men and it comes to be that judges may judge them, then shall justify the righteous and condemn the wicked. And shall it be the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down and to be beaten before his face according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed, lest if he should exceed and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother shall seem vile unto thee.""
"This, young woman, is a real prison, a proper house of corr
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 04/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Are you weary of a flaccid and overly lenient prosecutorial system that seems more inclined to slap offenders on the wrist rather than giving them their just desserts? Do you yearn to return to a time when both corporal and capital punishments were the order of the day? If so, then there's a rather simple solution to your dilemma...open your own prison and mete out the forms of punishment you see fit, as depicted in House of the Whipcord (1974). Written, produced and directed by Pete Walker (Die Screaming, Marianne, The Flesh and Blood Show, Schizo), the film features Barbara Markham (Sunday Bloody Sunday), Patrick Barr (The Satanic Rites of Dracula), Ray Brooks (The Flesh and Blood Show), Ann Michelle (Psychomania), Sheila Keith (Frightmare), Dorothy Gordon (Grip of the Strangler), Robert Tayman (Vampire Circus), and Penny Irving (Are You Being Served?), in her first, starring film role.
As the film opens it's a dark and stormy night, and we see a half nekkid girl, dressed fashionably in a potato sack, running through the woods, eventually finding help in the form of a truck driver parked on the side of the road, resting his eyes. Upon closer inspection we see the girl, whom we later learn is a Frenchy named Ann-Marie Di Verney (Irving), has been half beaten to death, and is rambling on incoherently. After slipping into a flashback we see the same girl at a party celebrating her recent run in with the law (apparently, in an act of civil disobedience, she doffed her clothes in public). At the party Ann-Marie meets a handsome, yet oddly spooky, young man named Mark E. Desade (Tayman)...oh bruther...and the two hit it off so well Mark invites her to his parents estate in the English countryside for the weekend. A clueless Ann-Marie accepts, despite barely knowing the fellow, and quickly finds herself in a world of pain as the country estate is not an estate but a prison operated by an older couple named Margaret Wakehurst (Markham) and Justice Bailey (Barr), she a former prison governess (one released from her official duties after an incident) and he a former court judge. Seems the pair, deciding the current system too lenient, especially on offenders of moral decency, bought an unused prison out in the country for the sole purpose of passing out `proper' sentences on those they feel got off too lightly. Now finding ourselves squarely in the middle of `women in prison' (WIP), we see life for inmates is harsh, as near most everything is considered an offense, including talking to a fellow inmate. The first offense results in a two-week stint in solitary confinement, the second a serious flogging, and the third a one way trip to the gallows. After Ann-Marie's been missing for nearly two weeks, her flat mate Julia (Michelle) begins to think something's hinky...perhaps she's not the sharpest tool in the shed...anyway, while Julia starts making inquiries, a power struggle develops in the prison (Mrs. Wakehurst believes the doddering Judge not fit for his duties anymore), and things aren't looking too good for Ann-Marie as she's quickly racking up the offenses (after various incidents) and soon finds herself marked for execution...
I dug this feature, although it contained a lot less violence than expected, especially given its title. There were only two flogging sequences, neither actually depicting leather slapping flesh, which was all right with me as sometimes what isn't shown is more effective than not. There was a bit more in terms of the lurid stuff (a handful of nekkid scenes with two of the performers), but not much. The idea of someone operating their own relatively decent sized prison outside the system may seem a bit far-fetched, but within the context of the film it came off as plausible as the facility was located out in the middle of the country, the staff minimal, and the inmates were women of questionable morals, the types few would probably miss if they were to disappear off the face of the Earth...that and the fact the none of the inmates ever made it to the end of their sentences (no time off here for good behavior) given the ease in which one could garner offenses (remember, a third offense meant curtains), who'd be out and about to talk speak ill of the facility? There's quite a few characters running around in this film, but Walker managed to place just the right amount of emphasis on each given their respective roles within the story. Something else he was able to do was develop interesting characters, ones that had a bit more depth than those normally depicted within this type of movie. Sure, Mrs. Wakehurst was a cruel, twisted, abusive, tyrannical, power hunger b*tch, but that might not have always been the case. I especially liked the bits near the end as things begin to unravel, and she reverts into a sort of catatonic, homicidal mode. And what was up with her and her son? Just when I thought she couldn't get any creepier...I though most of the performers did pretty well, especially Sheila Keith as the stern, sort of albino head guard. Not a soft edge anywhere on that one...another interesting aspect was how little attention was given to the inmates, except for Ann-Marie. They were present, for sure, but since they didn't figure all that much into the story, there wasn't much point in making them into more than what they were, fodder for the antagonistic, matriarchal elements within the prison. The story moves along at a good pace throughout, as there's very little down or drag time involved. Perhaps one of my favorite sequences was when Ann-Marie first arrived, thinking she was going to be spending a pleasant weekend in the country, only to find out much later than the rest of us the world of pain she stepped into...here she is, being lead around what is obviously some sort of facility, having no clue as to what's going on until the reality, the reality being Madame Walker, slaps her in the face. All in all I enjoyed this atmospheric film, but those looking for a more straight up women in prison feature (nekkid shower scenes, beatings, dueling batwing action, etc.) will probably be disappointed.
The picture quality on this Media Blaster/Shriek Show DVD release, presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1), looks a bit murky at times and the audio, available in both Dolby Digital mono and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround comes through well. Extra features include a feature length commentary track with producer/director Walker and biographer/professor Steven Chibnall, an original theatrical trailer, and trailers for other Pete Walker films including The Flesh and Blood Show (1972), Die Screaming, Marianne (1971), Frightmare (1974), The Comeback (1978), and The Confessional (1976) aka House of Mortal Sin.
By the way, the DVD version I've reviewed is for the recent Media Blasters/Shriek Show release...the film had a prior release to DVD by Image Entertainment, of which I haven't seen, so I'm unable to compare the versions. "