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on 13 July 2012
The Long Arm [DVD]

This is a profound little work even if, on the face of it, it might appear otherwise. But therein lies the clue--paradox (non est, nisi est); and if anybody should draw a different conclusion I should be interested to hear from them.

"You must have rules" Mumsy reiterates time and again. "For without rules . . ."

In science we have laws; societies have laws; in sport we have rules and so on. These are human constructs; the natural world, in which we have a small part to play, functions regardless of rule or law. Yes, in physics we have the laws of thermodynamics'; in astronomy we have Kepler's laws of planetary motion and, again, these are all human constructs aimed at giving us a better understanding of the functioning of the natural world. But (and there are always "buts") in the natural world number and formula count for nothing.

In society, so the popular aphorism has it, rules are made in order to be broken (paradox). In sport you cannot have games without rules, yet competitors frequently break the rules in order to try to gain the advantage especially where material gain is to be had. There are laws and codes of conduct that are supposed to regulate behaviour in banking and commerce, yet top dogs are found to be continually flouting the rules; and when they are found out and obliged to resign, they generally walk off with a handsome dividend in the back pocket. (The fun from breaking the rules. We wear clothing in order to enjoy the excitement of having it removed in situations where full dress is generally acceptable, and so on.)

So this film's central theme is about the fun accruing from surreptitiously breaking the house rules. (The house in this case being a large mansion set in extensive grounds that are obviously above the country's laws or, perhaps, hosted by a parallel universe?) There are subplots, of course, such as the coupling of sex and violence--in a surreal sense you understand--the swamp of bodily, sexual experimentation, again suggestive rather than graphic.

The characters all achieve a level of bizarre acceptability, in the case of the "children" and "guests" by being dressed some of the time in school uniforms. It is quite "normal" for Sonny (Howard Trevor) clothed as an archer to bump off (sent to the angels) guest from room number five by putting an arrow through his body; it is the same when girly (Vanessa Howard) operates, but we will omit the detail for fear of spoiling the film for you . . . Mumsy played by the pencil-eyed Ursula Howells approaching middle years is a brilliant choice--she conveys a similar but much briefer messenger of death character in an earlier Ealing Studios Classic "The Long Arm". And what happens to Nanny is all part of the human trait of envy: as we implied at the outset, the piece is in some measure a microcosm of human behaviour at its worst smeared with a veneer of respectability.

This is not a film I should wish to view more than twice, I think. This is not to denigrate the achievement but simply to say that its message, in common with many truths, can become difficult to live with; yet live with it we must for, in the words of the author of "The Cicerone": `We are all capable of compassion; we are all capable of committing atrocities. The potential to be a danger to our fellows and to ourselves is always there lurking just beneath the surface (in the subconscious). It all comes down to the question of control, how we discipline our behaviour throughout life. The make or break is a fine divide'.
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on 5 March 2017
Vanessa Howard (Girly) and Howard Trevor (Sonny) live with Ursula Howells (Mumsy) and Pat Heywood (Nanny) in a walled off large house. Howard and Trevor go in search of friends to play with and bring them back to the house. There is a main thing going on here – they are mad. Everyone in the house is mad. If the guests don’t obey rules, there are serious consequences.

This film is creepy and stays with you after it has finished. It’s disturbing but thankfully doesn’t dwell on gore so it scores points for that. Violent acts are carried out but not shown graphically, some not shown at all. Thank goodness. There is no doubt that all four characters – mumsy, nanny, sonny and girly – are unhinged.

I used to have no problem with the idea that rules are there for being broken but after watching this, I think the best thing to do is obey in some circumstances. The ending of the film is not completely resolved – you are left to imagine what happens next.
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on 2 April 2015
Disappointing - fails to live up to the hype, but maybe it will grow on me with further playings. I bought it partly as I cannot resist anything starring the delicious Linda Hayden.
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on 17 May 2010
This is an odd little film from the obscure vaults. Directed by Freddie Francis whose other work includes the prestigious films, Evil of Frankenstein, Torture Garden, Dracula has Risen from the Grave and The Ghoul to name a few. Here, he shoots something quite different and unlike many films which you'll ever see really. I suppose this is closes to Spider Baby in feel, and it's quite a disturbing piece.

The film follows a single parent rich family. A Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly (as the alternative title suggests). Sonny and Girl are teenagers, who spend their days looking for tramps in the park, giving them alcohol in exchange for playing children's games in the park, before inviting them back to the mansion for tea. Brutal murder ensues. They up the stakes and lair a rich bloke to their home which leads to all sorts of dangerous depravity.

I knew I'd like this film before watching it and really hoped it would offer all I was expecting. This is a real gem of British cinema which will disturb as well as entertain any viewer. Vanessa Howard's performance as Girly is impeccable. It's a shame her career never took off. Michael Bryant as the rich new friend is also very good here, a quality British actor.

Groundbreaking in some ways, as we have tramp killing, ala Clockwork Orange, (1971) and breaking through a bedroom door with an axe very similar to Shinning (1980), with Sonny's face popping through the destroyed door. This was 1970!
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on 19 August 2013
I thought this would be a very good old British film,but in fact it was rubbish.Would not recommend it.The story line was just so silly and the acting not up to much either.I sold it once I had seen it !
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Girly is an immature but thoroughly sexed up teenager, she with her brother ‘Sonny’, seem to be trapped in a perpetual childhood. They just want to play games, sing nursery rhymes and lure unsuspecting ‘friends’ back home for frolics, tea cakes and to be sent to meet God early via the ‘angels – bless em the little darlings.

Looking over this idyll of a childhood paradise is the delightful ‘Mumsy’ who is aided in her maternal duties by a devoted ‘Nanny’. The new ‘friends’ are each given a specific room and are told ‘the rules’, which if transgressed have to be dealt with most severely. Some learn the hard way. Then one day they bring back ‘new friend’ and he is different to the others, he not only likes games but has a few he wants to play himself – mwaaahh!

Now this is just oodles of fun, Mumsy is about as mad as a box of frogs with the addition of a beehive and an alcoholic bag lady thrown in for good measure. The children are beautifully deranged – operating by a code that only they seem to know and Nanny is something else altogether. This is just mad, bonkers and wonderfully entertaining. It seems dated in places but that adds to the charm; if indeed ‘charm’ is the right word. If you like a bit of dark comedy with a healthy dose of silliness then I think you may have struck gold with this filmatic gem.
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on 17 February 2013
Wanted to like this Freddie Francis film but afraid the silliness of the game wore me out.As for being the first chopper through the door scene,yep,sonny sticks his head through and says "hello",scary stuff.One for collectors only.Picture is good aswell as the sound.
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on 9 March 2011
I read a review of this film before i bought it (Halliwell) in which it was called 'revolting' and the 'lowest ebb' for British cinema. So i thought it must be worth a look! A very dark edged comedy, i enjoyed it very much. The violence in the film is somewhat tame by todays standards and even for the time. Hitchcocks black comedy 'Frenzy' of 1972 is a much more disturbing and graphic film.
There is certainly more to the film than at first appears. The victim 'new friend' as cukoo in the nest is well staged as is the subsequent suspicions among the family.
What i found interesting about 'Mummsy..' is it's possible influence on other horror films of the seventies such as 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and recent murderous familly films such as those by Rob Zombie. And i wonder if Kubrick ever saw the axe through the door scene. Very funny (in itself and in retrospect).
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on 5 April 2016
Wickedly Entertaining & funny – this story could easily be performed as a stage production & it should have been. But for whatever reason it failed in cinema’s back in the day & has become largely forgotten in the UK – this being the catalyst for Vanessa Howard’s (one of the films leads) retirement from acting. What a wasted talent! I’m overjoyed that I purchased though, having been curious about it for many years. I’m also a fan of the work of Freddie Francis. Now I have seen it, the direction & performances are flawless! And Vanessa Howard is a joy to watch in one of the most mesmerising & wacky performances you will ever see – I couldn’t take my eyes off her! It’s a shame she didn’t go onwards to greater things – I read she married movie producer Robert Chartoff & moved to America, retiring from acting before she passed away in 2010, just before she had a chance to do a voice commentary for the DVD. What a shame! But now available again, this is a gem that should be seen, by all those who want something truly original & fun.

So if you’re into something rare, seemingly off the cuff & weird, then this is for you. You won’t be disappointed. Similar to cult movies of the same era such as The Wicker Man & A Clockwork Orange, this has certain scenes that are unforgettable & will live long in the memory of the viewer. Without giving too much away, the scenes in the kitchen when the family are generally trying to be normal, or are being as normal as they think, are side splitting.

This is a flawless black comedy which I will view & enjoy many more times. Give it a go & enjoy the ride!
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on 8 June 2016
Divide UK horror movies of the 1950s to mid 1970's into three types and, generally, you get the following. There are the mainstream, 'formula' horror films (90% of Hammer's output from 1958 to 1969, Amicus' output), 'cult' horror films (quality items such as Blood on Satan's Claw, The Sorcerers, The Wicker Man, Scream and Scream Again) and then oddities like Prey, Frightmare and Girly (American release title of Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly). The latter group are one-offs: idiosyncratic, very individualised, edge-of-genre afforts which usually don't have either the 'reach' or enough general and critical awareness to really qualify as a cult horror film.
That doesn't diminish these films in any way though and if you like 1970s UK horror, and/or have an interest in quirky, highly individualised and almost surreal horror, Girly is well worth checking out (as is Norman Warren's Prey, and Pete Walker's Frightmare).

The story starts with a drunken partygoer ('New Friend'), who is inveigled into following Sonny and Girly - two slightly odd, and slightly homicidal, adolescents - to their home, and then subject to quaint and genteel psychological torture, as each member of the family...uses him. He's not the first New Friend to 'visit' the family home though, and he quickly learns that previous New Friends never leave the house alive. Realising this, New Friend begins to manipulate Girly, and the 'family' begins to turn on itself, with Girly increasingly using hammers, sharp kitchen utensils and poisons to express herself.

With a contemporary (1970s) focus on the 'schizophrenic' family (in the R. D. Laing sense) and incestuous sexuality, Girly is a bit of Jack Hill's Spider Baby, filtered through Peter Walker-esque themes of broken, chaotic systems (the family) and even a bit of Universal's The Old Dark House (1932). There are influences, but Girly is really not like anything else. Other films of this era opted for lashings of gore and abundant flesh, but this is more restrained and elegant, as well as being perfectly cast and, like most of Freddie Francis' non-hackwork assignments, beautifully shot.

Although it's not in the same league as, say, The Wicker Man, Withchfinder General or Blood on Satan's Claw, Girly still makes compelling viewing and stands up to repeat viewing. It also compares very favourably against campier, generic contemporaries such as Horror Hospital or Tower of Evil.

The DVD offers a clean, crisp print of the film (why no blu ray???) but nothing else in the way of extras. In the age of Blu Ray and digital downloads, it's also fairly pricey for a DVD, but this is due to limited availability.
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