It's unlikely, when compiling a list of stars from British horror films,
that you'd include Lee-oh-nard Nee-moy. In fact, you'd probably think
it highly illogical (captain). But star in a Brit horror he did, although
Baffled!, said film, is right on the fringes of what could be called
British. Or horror.
Baffled! Is the vaguely ironic title of a distinctly non-baffling
little TV pilot which got a theatrical release in the UK. Despite its
obvious US roots, it was filmed at Pinewood and stars a veritable cornucopia
of Brit horror talent - Susan "Night Must Fall, and, erm,
Monarch Of The Glen" Hampshire, Ray "House
Of Whipcord, Flesh And Blood Show,
and, erm, Mr Benn" Brooks, Angharad "Hands
Of The Ripper" Rees
the list goes on, until it stops there.
And that's enough for me.
The whole ridiculous thing is also marvellously entertaining, although
99 per cent of that entertainment is created unwittingly by Leonard "desperate
not to be typecast but failing miserably" Spock
I mean Nimoy.
As a leading man, he's crap. He acting veers wildly between disinterested
to too interested, with lots of mugging to the camera. And the
very thought that the extremely gorgeous Miss Hampshire would even look
at such a gargoyle just confounds reason.
There's also a lot of fun to be had (if you're so minded) by the thing's
deep-rooted 70s telemovie roots, the most glaringly obvious being that
during the title sequence, as yellow writing (always a giveaway) details
the cast and crew, we're treated to the best bits from the entire film
we're about to watch. You Americans don't like surprises much, do you?
Spock is Kovak, a racing driver, who suffers an hallucination during a
race in America and has a spectacular crash. As he's being interviewed
about his miraculous escape on US television ("All of a sudden I
wasn't in Pennsylvania any more"), he's watched by Michelle (Hampshire),
who tracks him down during the aforementioned credits. His vision involved
a house in Wyntham, Devon ("you can't get much more English than
"), a screaming woman, a child and somesuch. Michelle,
who knows a lot about the occult and how to wear scarves, thinks the woman
is in terrible danger and urges him to go there. She tells him she's convinced
he has some sort of power "to fight the force of evil".
Sadly, he's not keen, despite reckoning she's "a great looking chick".
He changes his mind though, when he has another vision which sees him
plummeting into the sea and wakes up on his apartment floor, sopping wet.
In England he hooks up with Hampshire and they arrange to go separately
to the house in the vision - which is a hotel. Meanwhile an American woman
and her daughter (the child in Kovak's vision) have also arrived, although
there's something dodgy going on. Kovak, on arrival, raises a quizzical
eyebrow at the stairs, then gurns in turn at the other guests. He recognises
everything from his vision.
The girl (who's name is Jenny) and her mother have an assignation with
the Jenny's father. At first he doesn't turn up, but when he does he keeps
it secret from everyone except Jenny, and urges her to do the same. They
enter into some sort of pact, and from that moment on the formerly sedate
Jenny turns into a mini-skirted wild child. The mum has also heard a "clavicord",
but when she asks the hotel manager (Mrs Faraday), she is told, with great
emphasis: "No, we've never had a clavicord
From that point on the film shifts into a kind of whodunnit without a
dunnit, with a host of red herrings and complications thrown up by Kovak's
increasingly incomprehensible visions.
Jenny continues to look older, other members of the cast start looking
younger (allegedly), and Kovak dons a fantastic hat to take part in the
obligatory car chase during which a supposed racing driver in a souped-up
Bentley fails to keep up with a knackered-looking Comma van.
Unintentional hilarity is added when Michelle gets clonked over the head
and kidnapped, mid-chase. There's also a fantastic fight at the end between
Kovak and what appears to be an old woman.
It's no real wonder that Baffled! didn't get commissioned as a
series - throughout it's slightly over-long running time (it does begin
to outstay its welcome towards the end with a few too many red herrings)
it is full of inconsistencies and stupidity. I'm also unsure of how they
planned to continue the story - the idea of a psychic American racing
car driver and his slightly dotty girlfriend travelling around Europe
solving vaguely Satanic yet-to-be-committed crimes doesn't exactly sound
like a winner.
we're leaving for Paris. Someone's in trouble
I don't know who, yet