Beware My Brethren (1972)

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Aka The Fiend, this is a story of religious mania and serial killing. Ann Todd (!) plays the Bible-thumper Birdy in thrall to sinister minister Patrick Magee at an evangelical church and her disturbed convert son Tony Beckley just has to kill all those nubile chicks who go topless at the public swimming pool as a result. Birdy is a secret diabetic injecting forbidden insulin on the side. When her nurse (Madeleine Hinde) suspects something amiss with the Brethren’s influence she enlists her journo sister (Suzanna Leigh) to investigate which ratchets up the killings just a natch.  And you can just tell from the get-go that Magee is going to be hoist on his own petard, as it were. That’s crucifixion for you. Directed and produced by Robert Hartford-Davis from a screenplay by Brian Comport. Hartford-Davis made some interesting films – including Incense from the Damned, also starring Hinde and David Lodge and adapted from Simon Raven’s novel (and what a CV doth the non-PC Raven have… I spent 6 weeks earlier this year watching his brilliant BBC adaptation of The Pallisers. I digress.) He died young after moving to California and making some blaxploitation films and directing episodes of that amazing TV show, Family, created by Jay Presson Allen; Dog and Cat, a cop show created by Walter Hill, starring Kim Basinger; and TV movie Murder in Peyton Place.  Ronald Allen, the sexy guy from TV soap Crossroads, turns up, which is a pleasant surprise. The opening cross-cutting between church service and killing impresses, the vile recordings of the murders remind us not merely of Peeping Tom but also and unfortunately of the Moors victims and Magee is good value as ever, but, Oh dear. If there’s one thing we take from today’s lesson it is this:  You, too, shall atone for your cinematic sins.

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