‘The ripper is waiting…’
Night, After Night, After Night is a 1969 British horror thriller film directed by Lindsay Shonteff (Devil Doll; Curse of the Voodoo aka Curse of Simba), under the guise of Lewis J. Force from a screenplay by Dail Ambler. Jack May, Justine Lord, Gilbert Wynne and Linda Marlowe star.
The film’s soundtrack score was provided by Douglas Gamley (The Beast Must Die; From Beyond the Grave; And Now the Screaming Starts!; The Vault of Horror; Tales from the Crypt).
The amount of nudity and a central theme built around attitudes to sex across different elements of society meant the film was considered shocking at the time and though now the images are somewhat tame, it still retains an unremittingly sleazy atmosphere and the swingin’ sixties of London looking anything but glamour-filled.
In relatively respectable Central and East London, women are being murdered in alarmingly similar circumstances and the constabulary’s finest, Inspector Bill Rowan (Gilbert Wynne), deigns to take the odd hour off smoking, drinking and coitus to sort out the mess. A cop who is not so much hard-boiled as gently pickled, fond of grudges and swearing.
Rowan quickly earmarks local lothario Pete Laver (Donald Sumpter in a magnificently-judged performance, all ‘birds’ and ‘banging’ and most head-spinningly: “I thought, I’ll have me some of that”; later to top even this performance as the notorious Donald Neilson in The Black Panther) as the obvious culprit and will use fair means or foul to get his man.
However, it is quite clear that all may not be as it seems. Elsewhere, grizzled, old-school Judge Lomax (Jack May, whose voice resounds in the likes of Count Duckula, and can physically be seen in Trog) dispenses justice without any need to heed modern methods, flinging out extended prison sentences for all and sundry.
Similarly disgusted by sex and deviance is his assistant, Powell (Peter Forbes-Robertson, also in Island of Terror; The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires; Scream… and Die!) who claims all the attacked girls are ‘asking for it’, whilst furtively collecting pictures of nude models.
The riddle doesn’t last for long, the killer being almost secondary to the film’s aim to shock and intrigue, the key point being when Rowan’s wife, Jenny, is murdered by the slayer, prompting the Inspector to increase his vendetta against a Laver who quickly drops his wide-boy sex machine bravado when he realises his defence against being charged isn’t exactly water-tight.
Meanwhile, another of the suspects is approaching mental meltdown. Goggle-eyed and utterly unhinged, he takes to sporting fashionable ladies clothes, an alarming wig and clawing at the girlie mag images stuck to the walls of his house. Has Rowan got his man or after all or is the real killer still at large?
Although, on the rare occasions it gets mentioned at all, Night, After Night, After Night is bundled into the serial killer pigeon-hole (and, indeed, was later retitled Night Slasher for a US video release), this does a disservice to a film which has an unusual angle on British society of the late 1960’s and does none of the characters any favours in terms of ‘rooting for the good guy’, the whole lot of them being morally bankrupt in some respect or another.
Shonteff, hiding behind a pseudonym on one of the few occasions he should have been proud to be involved, had previously helmed the likes of Devil Doll (1964) and Curse of the Voodoo (1965), neither remarkable and neither suggesting anything like the avalanche of sleaze, nudity and high-standard of acting seen in Night.
The killings largely take place off-camera, though the grot of the characters and squelch of the knife leaves the impression more violence. The film played well in sleazy Soho, perhaps ironic given the graphic though entirely non-sensual glimpse at the world of clip joints and dodgy book stores. Both May and Sumpter revel in their roles, delivering brave and committed performances in a film which showed neither of them in a positive light.
The film features a completely unsuitable, cod-lounge score from Douglas Gamley, which grates terribly, though in an odd way, this somehow ramps up the tension. Shonteff didn’t follow-up this effort with any further horror of note, leaving the way for Pete Walker to continue to delve into the ‘other’ Britain of repressed violence and cruelty.
Daz Lawrence, HORRORPEDIA