The Fiend (Beware My Brethren) (1971)
"You will perish. The day of retribution is at hand."- Kenny Wemys (Tony Beckley)
Stars: Ann Todd, Patrick Magee, Tony Beckley, Madeleine Hinde
Other Stars: Suzanna Leigh, Percy Herbert, David Lodge, Ronald Allen
Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, violence, moderate gore)
Run Time: 01h:30m:07s
Release Date: 2005-01-25
DVD ReviewReligious mania is always a fruitful setting for a horror movie, most memorably seen in Carrie (1976). This British horror entry from a few years earlier combines such religious fanaticism with an unhealthy mother fixation to create moderate mayhem in a church setting.
The Christ's Children Evangelical Church, or the Brethren, is a Christian cult led in Britain by the Minister (Patrick Magee), a fire-and-brimstone preacher. One of his most devout followers is Birdy Wemys (veteran actress Ann Todd), who has devoted all her money and energy to the Brethren and to keeping her faithful son Kenny (Tony Beckley) away from the corrupting sexual influence of women, recalling the betrayal of Kenny's father. But sexual repression and maternal devotion have had unheathy consequences in Kenny's mind, for any woman who triggers desire in him is brutally murdered and her body dumped nude into the river. That becomes problematic for Brigitte Lynch (Madeleine Hinde), an attractive young home nurse tending to Birdy, and her journalist sister Paddy Lynch (Hammer starlet Suzanna Leigh), who wants to get to the bottom of the Wemys weirdness and the Brethren and uses Brigitte as bait.
The combination of sex, religion, violence, and maternal obsession provides for a fairly lurid sum total. Given a limited US release under the title Beware My Brethren, it's a fairly nasty piece of work though the minimal gore is pretty poorly done and unconvincing. It's trying to be a character drama and an exploitation movie at once, and neither result really satisfies. Birdy is a caricature with little depth beyond her religious fervor, and the Minister is up to something sinister, but it's never quite made plain what that would be, or what the plans of his leader in Arizona might be. That said, there are some memorable moments, such as the pre-credits sequence juxtaposing worship services (and a young woman singing about being bathed in the blood) with one of Kenny's victims being pursued and slaughtered; the close of this sequence is particularly striking, as the Minister's baptism of a young boy is given an express parallel with Kenny forcing the young woman's head under water. Kenny's penchant for tape-recording his killings and playing them simultaneously with the Minister's ravings will also induce some involuntary shivers.
Ann Todd does well enough with the material she's given, with a combination of maternal love and resentment at her absent husband, but she really has little to work with. Magee is slumming badly here and other than some fevered sermonizing is pretty much sleepwalking through his part. Tony Beckley is physically quite perfect for the role, and gives an appropriate stammering whininess to his desperate character, but he doesn't really manage to give him any depth. The two sisters are practically nonentities, other than giving Paddy the habit of smoking too much, apparently as a way of keeping the two women distinct. It's basically just going through the motions, with little impact other than the big setpieces.
Redemption had released about a dozen titles in the US early in the days of DVD, and hasn't been heard from for some time, apparently being tied up in litigation. This disc marks a return of the label, and it's a decent piece of nastiness if you're looking for sleaze (but nothing more), but the devout will want to avoid it at all costs. According to the IMDb, the original film runs 98 minutes; even allowing for PAL speedup there's apparently significant material missing.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture looks reasonably good, considering its low-budget cheese origins. There's mild ghosting and some dot crawl visible. On the other hand, color is vivid and black levels are acceptable, though shadow detail is rather plugged up. It's a fairly clean print, with only minor speckling visible for flaws.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono has a bit of mild hiss but it's nothing obnoxious. The music is decent sounding, albeit a bit thin, and the foley effects feel a bit overly prominent. Dialogue sounds fine.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
- Photo gallery
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsSleaze, religion and exploitation all combine in one nasty package. The transfer's pretty good, but there's not much for extras.
Mark Zimmer 2005-01-25