Sidney Hayers directed this tense and highly effective British thriller from 1971. His previous directorial efforts included the excellent films Payroll, Night Of The Eagle, Circus Of Horrors and This Is My Street (to name just four) so I had pretty high expectations for this one.
I wasn’t disappointed.
These days, British thrillers seem to generally steer clear of certain subject matters which are considered a bit risky to take on, particularly the most uncomfortable of all, perhaps – child murder. Revenge opens as Jim Radford (James Booth) and Carol Radford (Joan Collins) are returning to the pub they own after the funeral of their 10 year old daughter, who has been murdered. The killer has yet to be found and brought to justice. A local oddball loner, Seely (Kenneth Griffith) had been arrested on suspicion of committing the crime, but we quickly learn that he’s been released through lack of evidence. Things in this particular family are not so great to begin with, even without the recent tragedy befalling them. Jim has a daughter and a son from a previous marriage, and their mother has seemingly ceased to remain in contact, choosing instead to start a new life overseas. Jim’s daughter, Jill (Zuleika Robson) doesn’t like her stepmother one bit, which causes added tension around the place. To make matters worse, Jim and Carol don’t seem to get along much either, and adding even further to this already toxic environment, Carol appears to have the hots for Jim’s son, Lee (Tom Marshall)
Despite the lack of evidence to charge him, suspicion for the murder of the little girl still falls smack bang in the hands of Seely. As Jim and his friend, Harry (Ray Barrett) follow him in a car, he’s seen to be hanging around outside the local school and skulking about in his stereotypical milk bottle bottom glasses and half mast trousers. A plan is hatched to bundle him into the boot of the car, hold him hostage in the cellar of the pub and force a confession out of him. The abduction is messy and badly executed, but successful. However, what happens next, and the events that slowly, but very tensely unravel, twist and turn throughout the rest of this film are what give Revenge its real potency and power.
The action never strays too far from the pub, and this attention to keeping the plot within a tight area works a treat. This is small town Britain in the very early 1970s. No hangover from the brightly coloured swinging ’60s on display here….and all the better for it. James Booth delivers a fine performance as the publican out to avenge the death of his beloved daughter, no matter what. Joan Collins is wonderful, and cast against type – looking to be as much at home pulling a pint at the bar as she does clawing and scratching at the suspected killer held hostage in the cellar. Kenneth Griffith is very good as the village oddball, and his performance is reigned in enough so that we spend most of the film not sure as to whether he is guilty or innocent. The subject matter is uncomfortable, as is the feeling you get from watching some of the scenes, but the story unfolds and unravels in such a way that it never once becomes boring, and the overall atmosphere of the film stays with you long after it has reached its conclusion. There’s nothing flashy in the directing here, and there doesn’t need to be, either. This is just a first rate British thriller from the early 1970s, complete with a hefty dollop of sleaze, the likes of which we do not see anymore.
Sidney Lumet and Sean Connery brought a better known film to the screen in the same era. It was called The Offence. It too dealt with a similar subject matter. Revenge may never be as highly regarded as that film, but in my opinion, it should easily be thought of as at least its equal.
Network deliver a pristine print that really brings out the grubbiness of the film – and i mean that in a good way. Extras are very light, with a Theatrical Trailer and subtitles option.