1972 – R – Redemption Films
96 Minutes – Starring Ray Brooks, Luan Peters – Directed by Pete Walker
Who doesn’t love a good a good murder mystery? In fact, one of the most popular television shows is about an elderly woman who is a writer/detective and the old people love it! When that show comes on, it’s like ecstasy being broadcast over an unseen signal, like in They Live only in a retirement home. Old people aside, I’ve always loved the idea of a ‘who-done-it,’ playing along with the movie as I mentally collect clues and try to solve the puzzle of the murders that will lead to the identity of the killer. Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood is a perfect example (especially with that set up), but others can fall kind of flat, like Pete Walker’s The Flesh and Blood Show.
Of course you don’t realize this until it’s over, but it’s not a completely bad experience, nor will it leave a sour aftertaste in your mouth. For the most part, it seems to keep everything at a good pace, although feeling like it’s dragging out from time to time until you reach the film’s climax when it feels like it should have been over for some time. Perhaps one of the biggest flaws it has is its plot that has not aged well. Sure, in the early 70’s it probably wasn’t all that common, but now audiences may find that it’s been done to death, especially when parts of it resemble April Fool’s Day. It’s comprised of part mystery, part proto-slasher and part sleazy go-go. Sounds good on paper, but the execution…
Like most slashers, there is an obnoxious character, John, and for whatever bizarre reason, decides to go to his friend Carol’s flat with a knife in his belly, but it’s nothing more than a prank. Maybe John and Shelly from Friday the 13th Part 3 are pen pals. Anyway, he stopped by… at 2 o’clock in the morning… waking Carol, who is completely nude and shares a bed with her flatmate Jane (do they have your attention now?) to tell them he has just been offered to have a role in the improv theater show The Flesh and Blood Show at Dome Theater, which has been closed for a very long time after a horrible event took place. Coincidentally, Carol and Jane also have been invited to participate in the show, so off they go to the creepy old abandoned theater where horrible things await them.
They meet up with the rest of the crew comprised of bad 70’s haircuts; Tony the Aussie, Simon, who you will swear is a miniature Mick Jagger stunt double, sexy blonde Angela and Mike, the show’s producer. By a first glance at this place, you should know better not to go in, as it is plagued with all the run down theme park cliches and probably has the actual plague floating around. But that doesn’t stop them from going about their rehearsal or sleeping there. Too cheap to cough up the quid for a hotel, the cast and crew decide to sleep there and it doesn’t take long for things to get sleazy. One of the girls instantly jumps in the sack with Tony for knowing him all of about several minutes and another girl decides to rub Carol down topless as John watches from afar. As if this theater wasn’t caked in enough filth and grime, here’s some more.
I won’t lie. It’s an awesome scene.
Immediately following that scene, a scream is heard and the lesbian girl (sorry, I forgot her name and I’m forced to identify her by her character trait) has gone missing. After searching the theater, Mike finds her head on top of a shelf and her body next to a guillotine, but keeps it from the others. I’m actually kinda stunned that a theater has a properly working guillotine. He does, however, get the fuzz involved, but upon inspecting the “crime scene,” all evidence of any murder has been hidden, which is impressive to not leave any trace of a recent decapitation. Everyone chalks it up to John and one of his practical jokes, but soon they find a note that stating why she left… but the note was actually left behind by the killer! Oh well, time to find her replacement. This is showbiz, after all. Enter up and coming film actress Julie!
The town may be as dead as our recently departed blonde, but a local nearby restaurant is still open and probably the only clean thing in town. This is where we meet an elderly man, Major Bell, who you can guess is the killer if you have any deductive powers. The cast crew occasionally pays visit to him and his wife (played by Sheila Keith from Frightmare) in between their rehearsals. Nothing much really happens, until Carol decides she wants to go for a stroll alone one night along the dock. John follows her out, unbeknownst to her, when she is attacked and nearly raped by what appears to be a hobo, until her screams are heard and the gang, minus John, find her. They all come to realize he wasn’t around and becomes the prime suspect… until his body is found a few days later by the police and in a twist, has been dead since that night he followed Carol outside? So if not him, then who?
Like I said earlier, it’s pretty obvious.
After some more rehearsals of random things, spiced up with plenty of nudity, they eventually notice someone is running the spotlight (face palm) and another of the crew is killed. As the lights go dim, the Major shows up spewing lines from a play as he confesses to the murders and that it was him who committed the horrible acts long ago and tells us the tale in flashback form. Even after, he still prances about, regurgitating lines from the previous play, to which the remaining members of the crew use to their advantage and cleverly, and oddly somehow, reenact the events of his crime. Since he’s bonkers and his lid has clearly flipped, that same evening from long ago is playing out in his mind. The 5-0 shows up in time, arrest the Major and the crew comes to the realization that in order to kill some of their actors, he must’ve had help… from his daughter… who may be with them at this moment!
As you can gather, The Flesh and Blood Show resembles the Scooby Doo cartoon, only with boobs and wieners (yeah, you get full frontal… ladies). Overall, it feels very stiff and as if you’ve seen it a hundred of times before (which you have, but for the time this wasn’t that common of a plot), it teeters slightly over the edge of sleaze, just enough to keep you watching. It’s self aware of how voluptuous the females are in this movie and will often parade them around fully nude. As you realized, the slasher and mystery bits, in retrospect, seem very cut and paste and tired by today’s standards. The film itself now is considered to be very tame, but at its time, it’s one that could spark a bit of controversy. Maybe it’s the title, but I can’t help but feel this should have been a Herschell Gordon Lewis film, who could have truly brought the sleaziness and violence that the title provokes.
One pretty interesting thing The Flesh and Blood Show does is present the flashback sequence in 3-D in black and white (Pete Walker sure loved his black and white flashbacks, huh?) The scene during the film is standard, but you do have the option in the bonus features of watching the ten minute sequence in anaglyphic red-blue process (for those of you who don’t know, anaglyphic works better in black and white) or if you have a 3D TV, you can check it out in stereoscopic as well. I was able to watch the scene in anaglyphic (make sure you have the classic red and blue glasses, they aren’t included) and it worked pretty well, except for when things are supposed to really pop out at you, like when a character points something directly at the lens, the image seems to split apart. Other special features on the disc are a theatrical trailer and another interview with Pete Walker.
In the end, it’s a little underwhelming and hard to believe that it also received an X rating. Lacking in genuine scares and gore (again like Frightmare, most kills take place off camera), The Flesh and Blood Show has little to offer, but it does have some of that old fashioned grindhouse, go-go sleaziness to it. So if you ever wanted to see what an episode of Scooby Doo would look like with sex and murder, then you should give it a watch.
The Lost Highway‘s theater always smells like apples.