The Night Digger
It's been done a hundred times before - miserable old widow keeps middle
aged daughter at home far too long (a bit like Timothy Lumsden in classic
80s sit com Sorry) and creates a bitter, twisted old maid. Luckily,
the script for this was breathed on by none other than Roald Dahl, so
it does mean that although the plot is hackneyed, the women are frankly
annoying and the deaths are few and far between, The Night Digger
does occasionally spark into darkly comic life (usually when Graham Crowden's
waspish old gossip appears on the scene).
The plot (as it is) involves the mother and daughter taking on a young
biker to look after their crumbling family pile, but what they don't know
is that he's also a serial killing nutter. That's it.
Both mother and daughter take a shine to the young fella (although it's
hard to see why), and begin competing for his attentions as he makes a
pretty fair job of tarting the old place up. But it's not long before
he's up to his old tricks, tying women up, raping them (or maybe not -
his sexual inadequacy is sledgehammered home so perhaps he gets his jollies
in the act of murder, who knows), murdering them and burying them under
the nearest half-finished road. In an unexplored avenue of his perversion,
he also removes their clothes, which means we're treated to the site of
Bridget "Likely Lads" Forsythe as nature intended (but
dead). This is not as interesting as it might sound - the sight of Bridget
norks-out is akin to witnessing a loved maiden aunt covered in treacle
being rogered enthusiastically over the kitchen table by the local vicar.
That was a Christmas to remember, I can tell you.
But enough about my family life. What I'm trying to say is that although
Bridget's melons may be surprisingly large, it's an eyeball searing experience.
Anyway, after a couple of murders, people get suspicious (but not as suspicious
as they should) and we're given an insight into the young chap's sexual
inadequacies - in a couple of black-and-white flashbacks we see him raped
by gipsy women on his way home from school and later abused by a girlfriend
for not getting it up. Unfortunately, it's taken a very, very long time
to get to this point, and no amount of 70s retro Commer vans and red telephone
boxes are going to save the day. At some point near the end it appears
that Dahl packed up his typewriter and went home, so we get a frankly
ludicrous and open-ended finale which seems to say that it's okay to murder
a bunch of girls and bury them under concrete as long as you find the
love of a solid, middle-aged woman. It then adds that the love of a solid,
middle-aged woman is enough to give any young lad his libido back and
enable him to shag younger women without killing them and burying
them under concrete afterwards. And finally, we're told that driving your
motorbike off a cliff into the sea is a very, very silly thing to do.
But then again, you probably already knew that.
The Night Digger (1971)
Director: Alastair Reid Writer(s): Joy Cowley (novel), Roald Dahl
Cast: Patricia Neal - Maura Prince, Pamela Brown - Mother, Nicholas Clay
- Billy, Jean Anderson - Mrs. McMurtrey, Graham Crowden - Mr. Bolton, Yootha
Joyce - Mrs. Palafox, Peter Sallis - Rev. Palafox, Brigit Forsyth - District
Nurse, Sebastian Breaks - Dr. Robinson, Diane Patrick - Mary Wingate (as Diana
Patrick), Jenny McCracken - Farmwife, Bruce Myles - Bank Clerk, Zoe Alexander
- Stroke Patient, Christopher Reynalds - Young Billy, Elaine Ives-Cameron -
Gypsy Sibylla, Kay - Whore