Night, After Night, After Night (1969)
Paving the way for the slew of sex and horror films which proliferated during the 70s, but not getting any of the credit, Night After Night After Night (dreadful title, that) is tawdry, badly made, and yet strangely enjoyable.
There's a killer on the loose in London, and whilst our typically craggy copper DI Rowan investigates, Judge Lomax (Jack May, who was also in The Archers, apparently) is busy in court, dishing out harsh sentences to everyone who comes before him.
Night is a film stuffed full of possible red herrings, and the first is introduced to us in the guise of Lomax's weasel-like clerk, Carter.
"Another terrible murder last night," he reports to his boss while they are in chambers. "The 'permissive society', they call it. I call it lack of discipline. I blame the women, walking about the streets half naked. They ask for it."
Judge Lomax and his unfulfilled wife meet up in a restaurant with Rowan and his far saucier missus, and when Rowan gets called away to interview a suspect in the case, the judge and his wife give Mrs Rowan a lift home.
The suspect (who fits the description of the killer given by a witness - black leather jacket, long hair) is called Laver, and he's a right little charmer. He's also already known to Rowan, who replies to his request for a brief with: "Solicitor? You can't even spell it! Don't wave your rights at me, son. The public's got rights too, you know!"
Laver's alibi involves what he was up to the previous night with a girlfriend, but when Rowan describes it as "making love" he spits back: "Love? I banged her in the bushes, and she liked it! Ask around, I bang every girl I meet!"
Of course, with a water tight alibi like that, the police have to let him go - and it's not long before he's "banging" a couple more "birds" in another clump of bushes (you can see why they go for him, he's a looker).
Meanwhile Carter the clerk has narrowly avoided getting caught reading a jazz mag by the judge ("Women will pander to the lowest of men's nature") and decides to head off to a strip club, where a spotty, slightly overweight girl proceeds to take everything off (my eyes!).
With Rowan out investigating the murders, his wife is left alone in the house - and while she enjoys a bath the killer has let himself in, and she is brutally murdered (in quite a surprise twist).
Rowan is understandably upset by this, and vows to track down the murderer. "Somewhere there is a raving lunatic," he tells a colleague after the funeral.
"I know, but where? Who?" comes the reply.
"You don't know?"
"All I have got to do is prove it," he deadpans, starting a one-man crusade which literally makes Dirty Harry's persecution of Scorpio look like it comes from a much better film with higher production values and a more thoughtful script.
Back at court, the judge (who is looking more pale and sweaty by the minute) is handing out ever-harsher sentences - a prostitute who stabbed a customer in self defence gets the "maximum sentence". "He must be mad," mutters one solicitor. "Someone should put him away," replies another.
After the fat, spotty stripper is the next to meet the wrong end of the killer's knife, the judge catches Carter with his rhythm publication. "You read that filth?" the judge spits. "You know how I feel about it! Overcome it, or it will destroy you! All day, every day, I have to suffer degradation, perversion, and every other sickening thing in society! I don't expect to put up with it in my own chambers!"
After yet another sex murder, Rowan mutters "he's for it now" (the whole persecution thing is becoming a bit wearing by this point), and Laver is finally arrested, charged and set to appear in court (before Judge Lomax).
Lomax has already given a lecture to a doctor: "I may not be able to remove a cancer of the body, but I can remove it from society. Who cares about individuals? I see society as a whole, and what I see is damning!"
After this little soliloquy, things don't look too promising for the finally worried Laver, especially when the judge takes one look at him in the dock and remarks: "The boy is evil, I can see all the evils of the world in his face."
It's at this point that the killer is finally revealed, but in the interests of not spoiling the film I won't reveal who it was (if you can't guess). Suffice to say that he manages to add transvestitism to his list of kinks while running away from the police, does a mean impression of Richard Ashcroft in the video for Bittersweet Symphony as he makes his way through Shepherd's Market dressed in his leather jacket and wig, and even manages to hire a prostitute during his flight.
Studying her naked body, he utters the great line: "So soft, so beautiful - and yet, so evil! Help me!"
Night After Night After Night is a strange film of double standards. On the one hand it was basically made for the sex cinemas of Soho (and did quite brisk trade, apparently), yet thoughout it decries pornography as the root of all evil. The killer is seen fondling pictures of naked women before going out on his rape and murder sprees, and all the suspects are seen to have an unhealthy obsession with left-handed reading material. The film gives the impression that the makers wanted to say something, but ended up shoehorning in as many topless women as their budget would allow (it certainly didn't stretch to decent lighting or sound).
Still, the great dialogue and astonishing tastelessness of the proceedings makes up for any such shortcomings, although at times it's difficult to follow just which topless blonde is being stabbed to death this time
Last updated: February 25, 2010
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