"Gorgeous Restoration of a British 'Giallo' "
Well, if it was Italian they'd be calling it a giallo. It's from the right period, has a faceless maniac who rapes and kills, and they wear black leather gloves while they're doing it. There's no J&B but hey - you can't have everything.
We do, however, have Frank Finlay as a police inspector investigating the rape of local schoolgirl Lesley-Anne Down. (A similar fate would befall Miss Down in the Michael J Bird-written Out of the Unknown TV episode 'To Lay A Ghost' with even more disturbing consequences but fortunately for the actress this didn't become a trend). The attack has left her mute and an inmate of the local hospital where she's being looked after by psychiatrist James Laurenson.
When a second girl is found raped and murdered the police find they may have an eyewitness in the form of school art teacher Suzy Kendall (yet again saddled with one of the worst wardrobes in 1970s horror film history, and that's saying something), who concocts an elaborate plan to catch the killer by getting the local newspaper editor (a wonderfully sleazy Freddie Jones) to print a story suggesting her painting of the killer will be revealed in four days' time. But despite keeping watch will the police be able to stop Suzy being the next victim?
ASSAULT might be considered part of a sub-sub-genre of early 1970s British horror cinema which also includes Robert Fuest's AND SOON THE DARKNESS (1970) and the ASSAULT team's REVENGE (1971). ASSAULT isn't quite as grim, gloomy and hysterical as REVENGE but you can tell that writer John Kruse, director Sidney Hayers and CARRY ON producer Peter Rogers are working up to it with their very British attempt at the kind of lurid crime thriller the Italians made their own for the next couple of years. Composer Eric Rogers, also best known for the CARRY ONs, provides a music score that's especially over the top and comes across a bit like CARRY ON SLASHING.
The cast is an interesting mix of familiar UK faces, among them James Cosmo in an early role, deliciously sleazy / slightly mad Tony Beckley as the husband of headmistress Dilys Hamlett, Anthony Ainley from BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW as the head of the hospital, the ubiquitous Marianne Stone as a hospital matron, and a very young David Essex as a biker in need of some cotton wool.
Network's restoration (in association with the BFI) looks fantastic - there's no way this film could have looked this good when it played in cinemas. Extras are limited to a trailer and still gallery but this is such a beautifully presented piece of lurid early 1970s British exploitation cinema that it's worth the price anyway.
Sidney Hayers' ASSAULT is out now on UK Blu-ray