Thursday, 14 July 2011

Video Nasty #18 - Exposé

On the face of it Exposé from 1976, could pass for a typical British New Wave exploitation film, with its heady mix of sex and violence, but director James Kenelm Clarke has fashioned something quite distinct from the work of contemporary film makers like Pete Walker and Norman J Warren, and despite the infamy of being on the DPP's list, the film remains something of an unsung classic.

The Exposé title is rather cheap and tawdry, compared to the far more poetic shooting title of The House on Straw Hill, but it does have some thematic resonance to the plot. Udo Kier plays Paul Martin, a reclusive and paranoid novelist who's on the final stage of his second book. Wishing to dictate the last remaining chapters, Paul hires a beautiful young woman named Linda (Blood on Satan's Claw's Linda Hayden) to handle typing duties at his isolated country house, but Linda is not who she appears and has come to Straw Hill with revenge on her mind... I wonder does Stephen King have days like this ?

Exposé hardly breaks any new ground in terms of story, in fact the plot is predictable right down to the final scene, but the film remains impressive for it's sense of style and mood. Director James Kenelm Clarke invests the film with a surprising visual sophistication, with its skewed camera angles and some abstract editing creating a strange and disorientating atmosphere. In one sequence a shot of Linda's blonde hair dissolves into a golden meadow, and there's also a subversive use of the pastoral setting - in the film's most notorious scene, Linda lays down among the tall grasses to masturbate only to be set upon by two rapists. Most memorable though is the film's fervent association of sex and death. Udo Kier's character has sex wearing surgical gloves, less a latex fetish than a Sadean fantasy, and a lesbian love scene between Linda and Suzanne, Martin's lover is intercut with the novelist's near fatal demise when his car goes out of control.

Fiona Richmond was a popular men's magazine star in the mid-70's, and was added to the cast purely to provide some celebrity skin. Her performance as Suzanne is a little over the top but her actual part in the film is minor. Better work is done by Udo Kier, dubbed to remove his heavy German accent, but effective nonetheless as the neurotic writer hiding a dark secret; and Linda Hayden, who's quite superb as the vengeful black widow, by turns sensual, enigmatic and cold blooded. Hayden nets one of the most provocative scenes in the film when during her violation in the field, she seductively strokes the barrel of the gun aimed at her by one of her attackers. Exposé would mark the directorial debut of James Kenelm Clarke, who had previously produced current affairs programs for BBC Television and composed the score for José Larraz's Vampyres, while producer Brian Smedley-Aston was one of the editors on Performance, and following Exposé handled cutting duties on Jeff Lieberman's Squirm and Blue Sunshine - quite a segue way.

Aside from a French disc which I can't comment on, Exposé is currently unavailable on DVD. In 2002 the Odyssey label issued a version cut by the BBFC and sporting a cheap sleeve - that disc is now out of print and one to avoid. Severin have acquired the rights to the film a few years ago but so far a DVD has not surfaced due to problems locating usable materials.


  1. Great review! I actually never heard of this one but it's now on my "to see" list!

    Check out my blog if you got the time (it's in swedish though)

  2. Thanks Jesper for the comment - I just checked out your blog and its great, a really fine selection of films... I'll have to brush up on my Swedish, which only goes as far as a few Ingmar Bergman titles...

  3. Thank you! I put a link to your blog on my page now after reading some of your reviews, I like em alot!

  4. Hmmmm...not familiar with this one. I like Udo Kier, but if he's dubbed the draw to watch this is diminished.

  5. Udo Kier's disembodied voice aside, House on Straw Hill (which should be the default title for this film) is worth seeing, and it really is a pretty good psycho-sexual thriller... I watched Udo Kier just a few weeks ago in Suspiria and despite he name appearing on the front credits, it's always a jolt when he wanders into Argento's film for his one brief scene...