In a frankly stunning restoration, the 1970 British ‘giallo’ sees new life on Blu-ray courtesy of ‘Network’ who release the film this September (2018).
In perhaps stereotypical fashion, Sidney Hayer’s delivery of a rather typical stalk and slash who-dunnit could be accused of being a little too British. Favouring technical competence and straight-up narration of the plot over the visual flare and flamboyant characters of its European influences, ‘Assault’ might lack some identity when compared with its peers but is an entertaining flick never the less.
The plot opens with the brutal rape of a young school girl on the common surrounding a small English village. The girl is left in a catatonic state following the incident, and the police left seemingly clueless as to who the perpetrator is. As more girls are attacked, more clues are left, including an eye witness, one of the school’s teachers (Suzy Kendall) who joins the polices efforts in baiting and trapping the killer. However, the killer is cunning, and as the trap is sprung will it be the police or the killer who come out on top?
I said in the opener, and I will say again here now, this version of the film looks amazing. Whilst the film doesn’t perhaps have the striking pallet of colours that many more famous Giallo films flaunt, the authentic English locations and fashions of the period are engaging never the less; indeed, if it wasn’t for said fashions to date the film, you could be made to believe it was made much, much more recently. The plot stands up, although (and I will give it its due) it does try to go outside the box, the overall story is quite bland – despite its X-rated concept and context. The acting is solid, delivered by some recognisable actors and actresses of the time, and the dialogue, whilst equally passible becomes good for laughs at certain points – although I would need clarification as to how intentional the comedy was.
There are attempts to incorporate some other horror elements into the linear police-chase-killer plot, one characters description of the killer as “looking like the devil with glowing eyes” for example, but by and large, this is a rather straight up thriller, with the red-herrings scattered throughout as you would expect. I still enjoyed the film though, and to be fair, I wasn’t 100% on who the rapist was until the reveal.
I can’t be held as a complete dumb-ass on this point however, I mean, this is the 1970s, in a notoriously un-PC subgenre of cinema, and ‘Assault’ is no exception to that trend. With an array of characters doing everything from fondling school girls in skimpy uniforms, to the delivery of somewhat condescending dialogue to anyone with an XX genotype – it did appear that almost any of the cast could quite conceivable be capable of the crimes portrayed.
Ah, the charms of the time.
Outside of the films sleezy moments, and of course not suggesting that rape isn’t intrinsically violent, the film is rather tame on the violence side of things, and whilst the killer dons the attire of the times – notably a pair of black leather gloves, he doesn’t have anything which makes him standout from the array of the other slashers of the time.
Overall, that last statement is probably enough to summarise my overall opinions of the film in general; ‘Assault’ doesn’t particularly stand out from the many now infamous slasher/thrillers of the period. That doesn’t mean it is a lemon however. Far from it in fact, I really enjoyed it. Given its obscurity there’s a good chance you may not have seen the film (or perhaps not distinguished it from its number of alternative titles), and the Network release undoubtably the version to go for. I can’t believe this film has ever looked better – even upon its original release.