An insane Catholic priest terrorises a beautiful young girl in this sleazy British shocker. Directed by horror auteur Pete Walker, you can almost smell the 1970′s emanating from the screen, a musty smell of cigarette smoke, cheap perfume and Silvikrin hairspray. Walker was known for his more subversive take on British horror which was a few steps ahead of the gothic Hammer ouvre in the way he commented on religion, politics and censorship of the arts. Susan Penhaligon makes a stunningly sexy heroine with her blend of seventies naivety and easy sexuality and plays well opposite an excellent Anthony Sharp as the sexually frustrated priest. Stephanie Beacham comes off less well as Penhaligon’s sister, which may be partly due to a poor script combined with the once-fashionable fashions which now make her look somewhat middle-aged and frumpy rather than trendy and cutting-edge.
Although the script tends to make the characters appear to be incredibly stupid with their actions often resulting in their deaths (and deservedly so one might say!) House of Mortal Sin is still an entertaining diversion. The fact that it highlights the inherent corruption in the catholic church combined with the hypocrisy of most if not all organised religions is a huge plus in its favour. The character of Stephanie Beacham’s boyfriend is particularly interesting as he wrestles with his commitment to his faith versus his sexual and emotional needs. He is more than ably played by Norman Eshley, known more for his role in sitcom George and Mildred and comes across as a very sympathetic character. Another impressive performance comes from Walker regular Sheila Keith in a typically eccentric role, this time as a demented housekeeper. On the whole, this is not one of Pete Walker’s best but has enough interesting qualities to make it a worthwhile option for a late-night movie screening.
Review by Richard Gladman
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