My third attempt at getting through Pete Walker’s pop-star murder mystery flick proves the charm; a higher quality version of this film at least removes most of the VHS scuzz if not the moral murk. But don’t call it The Comeback, it’s also known as Encore and also The Day The Screaming Stopped. By any name, it’s still a remarkably tatty film; it’s at once an early slasher horror film, but it’s also a vehicle for the music and big-screen persona of lounge singer Jack Jones, and if you fancy that as a catch-all concept, you’re on your Jack Jones, to repurpose some vintage rhyming slang.
Jones plays Nick Cooper, a popular recording artist having a mid-life crisis; Cooper decants to the UK to start work on a new album, but the past is catching up with him. His ex-wife Gail (Holly Palance) is murdered by a masked figure, although her body isn’t discovered until 20 minutes from the end. Nick wonders what’s going on and so do we; could mysterious house-keepers Mrs and Mrs B (Walker stalwart Sheila Keith and Bill Owen, the latter a UK household name as woolly-hatted Compo from Last of the Summer Wine) shed any light on who his tormentors are?
There’s apparently a music-biz cameo from radio DJ ‘Diddy David Hamilton here, but I couldn’t spot him; other randos passing through include David Doyle (Bosley from Charlie’s Angels), Richard Johnson and even Pamela Stephenson as a music journalist groupie who Nick seduces in his tiny car. The plot pivots on the supposedly incendiary, mind-warping nature of Nick’s music, but when we get a blast of it, it’s anything but, very much the kind of easy–listening that Jones is associated with; this was originally meant to be a vehicle for the rather more outre Bryan Ferry. Cooper’s ex fears that Nick will become a ‘has-been teen-idol’ but it’s hard to imagine his tunes shifting the kind of numbers that would have made him an idol at all.
Although the murders are pretty nasty, there’s nothing more horrible in The Comeback than 1978 itself; clock radios, trim-phones, multi-coloured blouson jackets and all manner of atrocities are unflinchingly portrayed. The mystery is a complete non-starter; even though the killer’s identity is concealed, there’s literally only one possible suspect, and the conclusion is deeply underwhelming. Why Jones felt that a horror film would be a good vehicle for his music is the real mystery here; The Comeback is a grotty, terrible movie that’s worth seeking out only by professional so-bad-its-good ironists like myself, who will get exactly what they deserve here.
Posted as part of the Fourth So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, Thanks to Rebecca and Gill.
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Aw, Jones was one of my Mums fave singers. I don’t think she would have seen this though and I won’t either. Trim phones though! Retro chic now!
Thank goodness I am not a perfessional movie watcher! The responsibilities would kill me…
The duties are onerous
I can see how the weight of this has bowed your once proud shoulders.
Would space bagpipes have made this any better?
Nope. Not 3D.
I’d make a joke about 40 Space Bagpipes, but I feel it would be out of line when discussing this film.
I shall eat a french bread pizza in your memory….
Ultimate irony – it’s the BFI who’ve been punting Walker through its DVD series when at the time Sight & Sound would never have entertained him.
This x 10. I’m seeing virtues in Walker’s work that I previously ignored, but the BFI’s retro-attention annoys me because they never support this kind of thing at the time…
He does have some virtues for sure, not least that you knew what you were going to get, so in that sense fitted into the auteur theory very well.
Walker was awful, and not in a so bad he’s good way. I’ve been working through Frightmare now for months. One day I’ll finish it. I reviewed this a while back but can’t remember anything much about it aside from the fact that they apparently used real blood and not the fake kind for the gore. So it looks less orange. Also agree with England in the ’70s. It looks/looked awful.
I made it through House of Mortal Sin, and felt I was getting a thread on Walker, but I’ve lost it again. What makes this one so amusing is the contrast between Jones and his music and the supposedly electrifying effect it has on the cast, who murder each other under its influence.
Honestly, would this music drive you to kill?
I remember singing that song at a friend’s wedding. So hearing it might make me want to kill myself.
Clips or it didn’t happen.
Before the days of cellphones. THANK GOD.
I’m hoping to source some 8mm footage. Why did you choose this song?
It was something everyone knew. Bins!
Give us The Love Boat when you get back, I know you want to!
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