‘The ripper is waiting…’
Night, After Night, After Night is a 1969 British horror thriller film directed by Lindsay Shonteff (Devil Doll; Curse of the Voodoo aka Curse of Simba), under the guise of Lewis J. Force from a screenplay by Dail Ambler.
Jack May, Justine Lord, Gilbert Wynne, Linda Marlowe, Terry Scully, Donald Sumpter (The Black Panther), Peter Forbes-Robertson (Island of Terror; The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires; Scream… and Die!), Jacqueline Clarke, Jack Smethurst, Michael Nightingale, Simon Lack.
The amount of nudity and a central theme built around attitudes to sex across different elements of society meant the film was considered shocking at the time and though now the images are somewhat tame, it still retains an unremittingly sleazy atmosphere and the swingin’ sixties of London looking anything but glamour-filled.
In relatively respectable Central and East London, women are being murdered in alarmingly similar circumstances and the constabulary’s finest, Inspector Bill Rowan (Gilbert Wynne), deigns to take the odd hour off smoking, drinking and coitus to sort out the mess. A cop who is not so much hard-boiled as gently pickled, fond of grudges and swearing.
Rowan quickly earmarks local lothario Pete Laver (Donald Sumpter in a magnificently-judged performance, all ‘birds’ and ‘banging’ and most head-spinningly: “I thought, I’ll have me some of that”; later to top even this performance as the notorious Donald Neilson in The Black Panther) as the obvious culprit and will use fair means or foul to get his man.
However, it is quite clear that all may not be as it seems. Elsewhere, grizzled, old-school Judge Lomax (Jack May, whose voice resounds in the likes of Count Duckula, and can physically be seen in Trog) dispenses justice without any need to heed modern methods, flinging out extended prison sentences for all and sundry.
Similarly disgusted by sex and deviance is his assistant, Powell (Peter Forbes-Robertson, also in Island of Terror; The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires; Scream… and Die!) who claims all the attacked girls are ‘asking for it’, whilst furtively collecting pictures of nude models.
The riddle doesn’t last for long, the killer being almost secondary to the film’s aim to shock and intrigue, the key point being when Rowan’s wife, Jenny, is murdered by the slayer, prompting the Inspector to increase his vendetta against a Laver who quickly drops his wide-boy sex machine bravado when he realises his defence against being charged isn’t exactly water-tight.
Meanwhile, another of the suspects is approaching mental meltdown. Goggle-eyed and utterly unhinged, he takes to sporting fashionable ladies clothes, an alarming wig and clawing at the girlie mag images stuck to the walls of his house. Has Rowan got his man or after all or is the real killer still at large?
Although, on the rare occasions it gets mentioned at all, Night, After Night, After Night is bundled into the serial killer pigeon-hole (and, indeed, was later retitled Night Slasher for a US video release), this does a disservice to a film which has an unusual angle on British society of the late 1960’s and does none of the characters any favours in terms of ‘rooting for the good guy’, the whole lot of them being morally bankrupt in some respect or another.
Shonteff, hiding behind a pseudonym on one of the few occasions he should have been proud to be involved, had previously helmed the likes of Devil Doll (1964) and Curse of the Voodoo (1965), neither remarkable and neither suggesting anything like the avalanche of sleaze, nudity and high-standard of acting seen in Night.
The killings largely take place off-camera, though the grot of the characters and squelch of the knife would leave the impression of gore and uncontained violence. The film played well in sleazy Soho, perhaps ironic given the graphic though entirely non-sensual glimpse at the world of strip joints and dodgy book stores. Both May and Sumpter revel in their roles, delivering brave and committed performances in a film which showed neither of them in a positive light.
The film features a completely unsuitable, cod-lounge score from Douglas Gamley, which grates terribly, though in an odd way, this somehow ramps up the tension. Shonteff didn’t follow-up this effort with any further horror of note, leaving the way for Pete Walker to continue to delve into the ‘other’ Britain of repressed violence and cruelty.
Daz Lawrence, Horrorpedia
“The low budget is most evident in the courtroom and police station scenes, both of which feel somewhat cramped through their emphasis upon medium shots and close-ups to the exclusion of establishing shots. Shonteff’s direction is more agreeable when style comes to the fore, whether within the stalking and slashing stuff or the maniac’s freak outs. A decent time-passer.” Giallo Fever
Most people have seen Night, After Night, After Night via its pre-cert UK video releases which were all derived from the British cinema version which had been cut for an ‘X’ certificate in the late sixties by censors the BBFC.
However, the version released on Dutch video is an “overseas” version of the film, containing some extra sex scenes, sequences were the actors are wearing far less clothes than in the British version, stronger inserts during a few scenes, and a murder scene with nudity that’s even more unpleasant than the one in the Euro version of Corruption.
All the additional footage was clearly shot the same time as the original film, either by Shonteff himself, or someone who the producers hired to do ‘X’-rated inserts.
The comparisons between the two versions start right at the beginning, with the Dutch version boasting a pre-credit sequence of the killer (wearing his Beatles wig and nothing else) in the bedroom of a prostitute watching her undress before the two of them end up in bed together. The Dutch version then cuts to a scene that takes place around 46 minutes into the British version, in which Pete Laver separates from his friends in Hyde Park and a prostitute is murdered in the killer’s car. At which point the credits roll in the Dutch version (there is no pre-credits scene in the UK version).
Around eight minutes in there is a huge chunk of narrative footage missing from the Dutch version after Judge Lomax passes sentence on the sex offender: gone are scenes of the Judge’s wife discussing her marriage with a friend, Rowan meeting his wife at the police station, the Judge reacting in disgust at seeing his wife in lingerie, the Judge and Rowan meeting at the restaurant, and finally Rowan questioning Laver (the Dutch version resumes halfway through this scene with Laver remarking “why don’t you call your little dolly bird back?”).
Approximately 19 minutes in: the sex scene between Rowan and his wife was shot in two versions, in the British version she is merely topless, while in the dutch version she is fully naked, and the sex scene goes on slightly longer.
Around 21 minutes in, the sex scene between Laver and the girl in the park was similarly sexed up with inserts of Laver playing with her and she him too, although curiously through his underpants!
Roughly 26 minutes in, the stripper’s routine, as watched by the Judge’s clerk is longer in the Dutch release with full nudity and the kinky clerk afforded more of a eyeful than in the UK version.
Around 36 minutes in: after the scene that gives us our first look at the killer’s sleazy hideaway, the overseas version cuts to a scene unique to the “overseas” version of him visiting a prostitute who greets him with “Hello Peter, you’re early today, I was just having a cup of coffee, would you like some”.
Clearly he wouldn’t, and as to not further trouble the actress with more dialogue, they’re soon in bed together, in a scene distinguished by the killer stripping out of some leopard skin Y-fronts, revealing a very hairy arse (I’ll spare you screenshots of that) and a shot of the girl finishing off her coffee framed between the killers legs.
Around 45 minutes in, another “overseas” version only scene in the Euro version, with the killer once again visiting a prostitute, who greets him with “its five pounds for a short time, ten pounds for all night and twenty for the special treatment” After he hands her a fiver she complains “make it ten, I’m tired”. After the usual shots of our man’s hairy arse and some pussy rubbing, things take a violent turn, with the killer chasing her around the room with a knife and stabbing her to death.
Approx. 1 hour 7 minutes in: the scene in the flat between the judge and the prostitute was shot in two versions, in the UK version she’s topless while in the Continental version she is fully nude. The Judge’s rant at her is mostly delivered in a close-up of his face in the British version, but is played out over naked shots of her in the Dutch edit, which also includes extra shots of her being menaced by a knife and the judge’s monologue is much longer. The British version ends with him remarking “so evil” while in the Euro version he goes on to say “you should not bear children, I must protect, you must die, you’re the murderer, you shall die”. A clapper board is very visible in the overseas version of this scene.
UK “knickers on” version:
Euro “knickers off” version:
Finally the ending is shortened in the export version, eliminating the policeman’s last line to Rowan and all of the credits. It merely finishes with the policeman approaching Rowan, opening his mouth and then cuts to an abrupt “ends” card.
Whilst the European version makes for an interesting discovery, and includes full versions of scenes that were obviously trimmed slightly by our self-appointed moral guardians, the BBFC, I personally prefer the British video version. The “additional” scenes don’t really add much to the film, other than sleaze. In fact, they seem to contradict the original film, given that the killer judge appears at several points in the film to be repulsed by female sexuality (especially the scene in which his wife puts on lingerie and the scene in the prostitute’s flat at the end of the film) it seems hard to believe he’d be merrily jumping into bed with prostitutes at the same time.
Interestingly, in the additional scenes one of the girls refers to the killer as “Peter” indicting that the killer’s Beatles wig/leather jacket disguise is an attempt to impersonate Pete Laver and frame him for the crimes. This is something that chronologically would make no sense in the original film (as the killer adopts this garb before Laver is introduced in the film, or even comes under suspicion), which presumably is why the Euro edit moves the scene of Laver in Hyde Park to the start of the film.
Night, After Night, After Night has always seemed like a murky hybrid of both a sex and horror film, with a question mark hanging over what genre it really belongs to, so I suppose it’s entirely appropriate then, that there was a version that plays like a horror film (UK release), and another that plays like softcore smut with a psycho thriller subplot (European release).
Gavin Whitaker, Gav Crimson Blogspot
Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London, England, UK