A successful novelist suffering from writer’s block rents a country cottage in the hope of finding inspiration. But the arrival of a sensual secretary sets in motion of chain of events that culminate in an unrestrained explosion of sex and savagery.

Director: James Kenelm Clarke
Writers: James Kenelm Clarke
Stars: Udo Kier, Linda Hayden, Fiona Richmond, Patsy Smart, Karl Howman, Vic Armstrong

Rating: 8.5 / 10 Stars

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

REVIEW – When “Exposé” or “Trauma,” as it was known, came out in 1976 in the UK, it caused quite a stir and was deemed too shocking for some. Severin Films has been enthusiastic about releasing classic films in recent years, so it’s commendable to finally see them offer the unedited and original cut of this film. Severin, and most importantly, David Gregory, is a passionate movie fan, and with each release, he ensures you get your money’s worth.

Now titled HOUSE ON STRAW HILL, I have to say I’m not sure what all the fuss was about. I mean, I’ve seen much worse from that decade. When you think of films that could be banned and consider that movies like CANNIBAL HOLOCASUT, SUBCONSCIOUS CRUELTY, HAPPINESS, BUNNY GAME, MARTYR’S, and so on exist, it seems like this film would have to be exceptionally bad. But honestly, compared to what cinema was producing before, during, and since its release, the controversy around this film seems somewhat odd to me.

The plot seems to revolve around Paul Martin, a novelist working on his second book in a cottage. While working on his book, his wife Suzanne leaves him and returns to the city. Things take a turn for Paul when he hires a live-in secretary. Initially, we learn that Linda enjoys masturbation quite a bit, and then we discover that Paul is into some aggressive sexual activities for which he wears gloves. When Suzanne returns to Paul, we witness Linda and Suzanne engage in soft-core Cinemax scenes of lesbianism. I think the ban on this film might have to do with the combination of violence and sexual content, which might have caused some older folks to reach for their heart medication and some women to feel uncomfortable.

This film is not all fun and games; we get some kills that, for the time, were pretty well done and quite graphic. Although the film is predictable, especially by today’s standards, it doesn’t take away from the entertainment it provides. It’s sleazy, cheesy, and meets all the expectations of exploitation cinema. Visually, the film looks beautiful and could easily pass as a 2013 homage trying to capture the vibe of that era.

The mood of this film is peculiar; it balances between portraying sex more as a release than an act and violence that doesn’t shy away from being a horror film. Overall, the film isn’t boring and flows quite well. Whether it’s Udo Kier captivating your attention with his performance or the allure of Fiona Richmond’s body and Linda Hayden sizzling up the screen with pure sex appeal, each scene has something to offer.

This film was on a shortlist of films, along with THE DRILLER KILLER, that I missed during their re-releases in art house theaters in the mid-’90s, and I wish I had seen them with a crowd. All in all, Severin did an excellent job with the presentation, and I know Gregory has a passion for Blu-ray technology and wants to keep delivering packages like this, which is fantastic. Now, I have to ask, what about finally giving SUBCONSCIOUS CRUELTY a U.S. release? Thirteen years on the shelf is long enough. But regarding this film, it is well worth the purchase, a rare gem that lives up to all the hype.

Udo Kier and Fiona Richmond in TRAUMA (1976)

Still from Film PHOTO

HOUSE ON STRAW HILL | Official Trailer:

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