Around the same time that Clint Eastwood was beginning his acclaimed career as a director alongside his successful output as an actor with the now-classic psychological thriller Play Misty For Me (1971), Hammer Films was attempting to branch out into new territories with movies that were more contemporary in their feel whilst maintaining the darkly horrifying tradition of their work of the previous decade.
Straight On Till Morning was directed by Peter Collinson, whose contribution to British and World Cinema has been immortalised thanks to the original 1969 version of The Italian Job, whose climactic cliff-hanger and Michael Caine’s line “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!!!” have passed into cinematic folklore.
Studiocanal has revived the film as part of a series of early 2018 ‘Hammer Anniversary’ releases on Blu-ray and it is a great opportunity to view another of the contrasting output that the studio was keen on demonstrating as a desire to change their image and grow as a brand in entertainment.
Brenda (Rita Tushingham) is a mixed-up young woman who lies to her mother at their Liverpool home about being pregnant and decides to uproot to London to find a father. She arrives in Earls Court, finding a place to live and subsequently takes a job at a fashion boutique, where her co-worker Caroline encourages her to attend a party she is hosting to try and find a suitable male partner.
However, when she discovers Caroline in bed with a colleague she fancies, she runs out into the lonely London night, where she comes across a dog called Tinker, whom she takes back to her bedsit. However, she has been seen by the owner, Peter (Shane Briant). After cleaning the dog, she takes him back to Peter, who is curious to know why she returned the pet he alleges she stole. After she bursts into tears, Peter tells Brenda it is OK and suggests she move in with him. However, it soon becomes apparent Peter is seemingly alike in nature and holds a number of dark aces in his pack….
Straight On Till Morning is not, by any means, the very best example of Hammer’s work. It is very much of its time when London was emerging from a decade of ‘swing’. The supporting cast is representative of familiar faces from the time, with Likely Lad James Bolam as one of Brenda’s co-workers and John Clive, who taunted Malcolm McDowell on stage during his Ludovico rehabilitation in A Clockwork Orange (1971).
The film remains a curious mix of style, with a high-energy cross-edit style evoking the likes of Ken Russell and Donald Cammell’s Performance (1970) and probably will throw some Hammer fans more comfortable with the likes of Cushing and Lee as the lead. It does feel rather dated now, but the very heart of the piece reveals some suitably shocking moments.
STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING (1972) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: PETER COLLINSON / SCREENPLAY: JOHN PEACOCK / STARRING: RITA TUSHINGHAM, SHANE BRIANT, JAMES BOLAM, KATYA WYETH / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 29TH