Revenge (1971)

James Booth and Joan Collins star as parents who seek to avenge their molested daughter's death when her probable killer goes free on a technicality.  With the help of Booth's college-aged son (from a previous marriage) and a similarly-bereaved family friend, Booth sets out to kidnap the man they all believe to be guilty (Kenneth Griffith).  At first, everything goes wrong:  a vicious dog appears from nowhere and harasses everyone in sight, while Booth discovers the getaway car won't start.    But eventually Booth and his accomplices successfully capture Griffith and take him to the basement of the pub where Booth and Collins live.  There Booth and his friend work him over.  When Collins enters the basement and sees her daughter's murderer, she, too, attacks him.  Then Booth goes too far and kills Griffith, which causes everybody to go upstairs and worry.

But surprise!  Griffith isn't dead after all and his captors must decide whether to murder him in cold blood or let him go free (and possibly report them to the police).  They decide to take him back to his own house and set up a fatal gas explosion that will obliterate all traces of their involvement. (Like every movie psycho since Norman Bates, Griffith lives in a big old house that's a shrine to his dead mother.)  But police arrive at Griffith's house and scare the conspirators away before they can do anything. 

Convinced they'll all be caught, Booth sits at home getting plastered. (His skillfully underplayed drunkenness is the highlight of this performance.)  Later that night, as Collins lies in bed beside her passed-out husband, she makes a sexual overture but he's sound asleep and oblivious.  

Meanwhile, the son and his girlfriend are making out on the sofa downstairs.  The girlfriend, ignorant of the kidnapping, wants to go all the way but the preoccupied son can't perform.  They quarrel and the girlfriend leaves in a huff.

Drawn by their angry voices, Collins comes downstairs to soothe her step-son but he's in no mood for platitudes.  He storms into the basement to terrorize the bound, gagged captive by smashing whisky bottles on the wall behind him.  When Collins tries to intercede, the son grabs Collins, tears off her negligee, and screams to Griffith, “This is what a grown woman looks like.  Isn't she beautiful?"  Then he throws his step-mother to the floor and climbs on top of her.  "No, please!" she cries.     We see this rape (or whatever it is--Collins stops her ineffectual struggles pretty quickly) through the fractured eyeglasses of the sex criminal, who keeps turning delicately away.  

Next morning Booth's daughter enters the basement to check on the captive, who still can't get over the spectacle he witnessed the previous night.  "I saw them!  I saw them!  Right there!" he cries, outraged. (He may be a child molester and murderer, but this...this offends even him.)  Collins's discarded panties, lying on the floor, confirm his story.  

Rushing back upstairs and waving the panties at her father, the distraught daughter sets off a series of confrontations.  Booth goes berserk and physically attacks his wife and son.  Collins brains him with a bottle, knocking him unconscious, and frees the prisoner in the basement.  When Booth awakens from the blow,  his wife and son pack up their things and run off together.

As if he didn't have enough problems, Booth sees a newspaper story about some new evidence which makes him think his captive may have been innocent after all (surprise!).  Griffith returns to the basement to find his glasses and remorseful Booth feeds, bathes, and clothes him in hope of winning his forgiveness and preventing prosecution for kidnapping.


But guess what.  There's another plot twist.   (Surprise!)  Not to spoil the ending, let's just call it one more mechanical zig-zag in this strip of bloody rick-rack.  

Revenge is a strange movie.  It deals with serious issues--child molestation, grief, the logistical and emotional complications of revenge.  But it's all in such over-the-top bad taste that the seriousness can't be taken seriously.  A rich, gooey fudgecake of  sensationalism and melodrama, Revenge is the movie equivalent of the tumescent, overheated artwork on the covers of raunchy old paperbacks like Sintime and The Wife-Swappers

In marvelous high-camp fashion, Revenge takes itself seriously enough to attempt some arty touches, like three separate uses of the "subjective camera."   When Booth awakens from the bottle blow, we experience his blurred vision.  When Collins and her stepson are rutting on the basement floor, we observe them through Griffith's fractured eyeglasses.  When Booth beats up Griffith in the basement, we see his approaching fist through Griffith's eyes.  But most of the time Revenge is done in a serviceable, straightforward way that offers no distraction from the film's basic flaws:  improbable action, stilted dialogue, and a story cluttered with reversals but still somehow lacking in development.  

Decent music would have helped this movie a lot.  The tinny, simpleminded soundtrack casts a cheesy pall over every scene it accompanies.  

Revenge has a multitude of wordy alternative titles:  Revenge after Jenny Died, Behind the Cellar Door, and Terror from Under the House.  When released in the US in 1976, Revenge became Inn of the Frightened People.



Publicity leaflet

Official publicity materials

Terrence Pettigrew, writing in British Film Character Actors (Totwa, N.J.:  Barnes & Noble Books, 1982) gives high praise to Kenneth Griffith's performance in Revenge.

Films and Filming, May 1971 (Vol 17, No. 8) – .
Photospread  on Revenge has two sides containing 6 pictures and no review.