May 11, 2011

Twisted Nerve (1968)



"Martin is a troubled young man. With a mother who insists on treating him like a child, a stepfather who can't wait to see the back of him, and a mongoliod brother shut away in an institution, is it any wonder he retreats into an alternate personality... that of six year old Georgie? It is Georgie who befriends Susan Harper, but friendship soon turns into obsession. When Susan begins to distance herself, something inside Georgie snaps and he embarks on a killing spree, with Susan as the next target."

As I'm in a somewhat nostalgic mood today, nostalgic for when there were actually some very entertaining British movies still being made, I decided to watch "Twisted Nerve" which is one of my favourite Hywel Bennett films.

If you've never heard of Hywel Bennett then either you just aren't old enough or you aren't British enough to remember his long running '80s sitcom, "Shelley". As someone who always wanted to grow up to be an idle layabout, the philosophising dolite, Shelley, was a bit of a hero to me growing up in Thatcher's Britain.

It was only much later on that I discovered Hywel Bennett's films including "The Family Way" (1966), "Percy" (1971), and "Endless Night" (1972), most of which saw him paired with either Hayley Mills, Elke Sommer or both. I'd never even heard of "Twisted Nerve" until it was shown on Channel Four in 2007 but I liked it immediately.

I'd been trying to get a copy of this film since then but in the end I just rewatched it on YouTube. I've never seen "Twisted Nerve" available on DVD although I once saw it turn up on a Mill Creek Entertainment pack which they discontinued before I could buy it. From the number of bootleg versions which I've discovered, I think it's fair to assume that "Twisted Nerve" is now in the Public Domain. As a collector, I don't like buying bootleg DVDs but I may order the official Region 2 release eventually.

Anyway, since "Twisted Nerve" is more of a psychological thriller rather than a horror movie, I suppose I ought to justify the fact that it is going into The Vault. It's probably not enough for me to just mention the words, "Mongoloid" and "Psychotic Behaviour", but those are the terms which a narrator's voiceover addresses at the beginning of the film:
"Ladies and gentlemen, because of the controversy already aroused, the producers of this film wish to re-emphasize what is already stated in the film, that there is no established scientific connection between Mongolism and psychotic or criminal behaviour."

Yeah, it hooked me straight away too. If the producers were forced to add a disclaimer because of complaints about the content of their film then that film was most certainly for me!

Of course it wouldn't matter whether the subject matter was controversial or not if "Twisted Nerve" wasn't a damn fine film with an engaging story and exceptional performances from the cast. I didn't know until I read it on the IMDb, but it seems that Alfred Hitchcock cast both Barry Foster and Billie Whitelaw in "Frenzy" (1972) after watching their performances in "Twisted Nerve". Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett went on to star in "Endless Night", an Agatha Christie adaptation. and I also recommend that one too.

I'm not going to outline the story of "Twisted Nerve" or list any memorable moments because I believe it to be a film best watched with no prior knowledge whatsoever. Suffice it to say that it's very '60s in style but also suitably creepy when it needs to be. If you like films such as "Girly" (1970) then you'll like this too.

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