One of the political hot topics has always been the justice system; does it perform its duty of punishment and deterrence, or does it just coddle criminals and return them to society worse than when they went in? If you believe that the courts are too lenient, then HOUSE OF WHIPCORD is your kind of film. In this big house, the convicted truly pay for their crimes, and to step out of line means swift and certain death...
Out in the lonely wilds of Northern England, a terrible storm rages. As a truck driver stops to get his bearings in the driving rain, a young woman in obvious distress claws at his cab's window. Believing her to be a victim of some horrid date, the driver takes pity on the wretched girl and vows to get her help. The girl can only babble incoherently as the truck continues its journey and we flashback...
Young French model Anne Marie is living large at a swinging party; unfortunately, a nude picture of her in public becomes everyone's center of attention, embarrassing the girl. (She was fined 10 pounds because of that photo.) Anna Marie finds solace with the mysterious Mark, who asks her on a date. Her roommate Julia isn't sure about Mark - no one seems to know anything about him. But Anne Marie goes off to dinner, where Mark plays a cruel trick on her. Even so, Anne Marie agrees to go with him that weekend to visit his parents up north.
Driving like a maniac, and very callous towards his date, Mark takes Anne Marie far up country to an old brick building. Then the cad drops her off at the door without a word and roars off! Anne Marie waits in the courtyard, utterly confused, until a matronly woman collects her. Inside things go from bad to worse as Anne Marie is taken to a small room and forced to strip! The nightmare grows when she is hauled into a makeshift court and told she is now a prisoner! Powerless, desperate, and alone, will Anne Marie survive the hellhole she's been cast in? Or is death the only way out of the HOUSE OF WHIPCORD?
HOUSE OF WHIPCORD is a perfect example of the early 1970's drive-in 'grindhouse' film boom - ya just can't have enough naked girls running around in precarious peril. The story may try to convince you of its' legitimate intention of social commentary (re: the prologue), but it's only a structure to get girls in compromising positions. Exploitation is what HOUSE OF WHIPCORD does best. Fortunately, for our feminist readers, Julia proves to be a strong female character, making up for the simpering rest. Poor Anne Marie tries, but always makes the wrong choice and winds up abused again. Acting is very uneven. Anne Marie's 'bimbette' routine wears thin (you think to your self she can't be that dumb...but she is), and head matron Mrs. Wakefield's performance borders on camp. However, Mark and matron Ms. Walker actually underplay their roles, adding a genuine creepiness to their villains. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of good stuff in HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, but for every cool scene or strong performance, there's one to make you shake your head and wonder why?
Adding to the chaotic nature of HOUSE OF WHIPCORD is the actual production of the film. Most every exterior nighttime shot is so dark it's difficult to see exactly what's going on. Prison interiors are also dimly lit - shadows do add an air of suspense, but if you can't see anything...Ironically enough, there are several scenes with very creative lighting, such as Anne Marie & Mark's date. I don't know if the contrast problem is with the print or DVD production, but beyond the lighting, the film seems very flat and the colors washed out. The actual quality is o.k. for an older film (no glitches or static), but the look is very...dull. HOUSE OF WHIPCORD's audio is clear and distinct - a new 5.1 Dolby Surround has been added - but the music is routine & unspectacular for this genre of film.
The DVD of HOUSE OF WHIPCORD includes several extras. There are the expected trailer and a photo gallery, plus a feature-length commentary with Pete Walker himself. His reminisces about his career; this film and movies in general are worth a listen. It would have been a nice touch to include cast & crew bios, since many of the character actors and production people worked with Walker on many of his films.
HOUSE OF WHIPCORD is what I call a "fish or cut bait" movie; because of its unevenness you don't know whether you should like it or be disappointed. If it were only story issues, I'd probably say HOUSE OF WHIPCORD is at least an entertaining curio from the era of exploitation. However, the lighting problems really detract from the experience. If 'naked prison chicks getting whipped' is your thing, I'm sure you can see your way through its problems and get a kick out of HOUSE OF WHIPCORD.