I had a few reasons for watching the 1972 slasher film, The Flesh and Blood Show.
First off, the film was directed by Pete Walker. Though Pete Walker may not be as well-known as some of his contemporaries and his overall cinematic output is dreadfully uneven, he was still responsible for enough memorable films that I will always give him a chance.
Secondly, it’s a British film and the British were responsible for some of the best horror films of the late 60s and early 70s.
Third, speaking as a horror fan, that title is just irresistible. The Flesh and Blood Show? Well, there’s nothing subtle about that! Looking at that title, you find yourself wondering, “How much flesh and how much blood is actually in this film?”
Well, having watched the film, I can tell you that there’s very little blood and a good deal of flesh. The Flesh and Blood Show was Walker’s first horror film. Before moving into the horror genre, Walker specialized in making sexploitation movies and it’s kind of obvious that, when he directed this film, he was still more comfortable asking people to undress than asking them to play dead. As opposed to other slasher films, the majority of the young cast survives and the almost all of the murders occur off-screen. Every couple of minutes or so, someone else is getting undressed. The constant nudity actually starts to get pretty funny after a while. One could very easily use The Flesh and Blood Show to construct a drinking game.
As for the film’s plot, it deals with a group of actors who receive invitations to an abandoned theater. An unseen producer apparently wants them all to perform an infamous play, perhaps the same play that is rumored to have led to tragedy back in 1945. If it seems rather odd that the film’s characters would willingly go to an abandoned theater in the middle of nowhere and perform a possibly cursed play, no one is ever going to accuse anyone in this film of being smart. Why ask why when there’s so much dancing and undressing to do?
There’s also an elderly major (Patrick Barr) hanging out around the theater. He was actually one of my favorite characters in the movie because he approached everything with this very British, very stiff upper lip attitude. Of course, the major himself has a secret. That said, the secret isn’t that surprising. I figured it out as soon as he showed up.
Naturally, all the murders at the theater are linked back to a tragedy in the past. The final 15 minutes of the movie are made up of an extensive flashback to that tragedy and I will say this: it’s the best part of the film. The flashback was originally filmed in 3-D and Walker uses this as an excuse to indulge in some surreal flourishes.
There are a few positive things to be said about The Flesh and Blood Show. Pete Walker was a talented director and that talent comes through in even his weaker films. There are a few scenes where Walker manages to maintain a properly ominous atmosphere and the movie’s score is so melodramatic and over the top that it’s kind of hard not to love it.
But, for the most part, The Flesh and Blood Show is a rather forgettable film. If you want to see a good Pete Walker film, track down Frightmare.