Friday, 11 September 2009

Easy prey

Norman J, Warren was never the world’s greatest film director, but he certainly was a tryer.

Graduating from sex films like ‘Her Private Hell’ and ‘Loving Feeling’ in the sixties, Warren was a prime mover in the ‘new wave of British horror films’ that began to appear after the demise of Hammer, Amicus and Tigon films. Distinguished from the Old Wave by its young and trendy protagonists, contemporary settings and liberal depiction of sex and violence, the new wave was a short lived phenomenon, but it was good while it lasted.

‘Prey’ was released in 1978 and, for what it’s worth, is Warren’s masterpiece. Sometimes compared to Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’ (!), the plot concerns an unhappy lesbian couple whose uneasy rural isolation is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious young man who prompts a whirl of heavy drinking, fox hunting, cross dressing and sexual intrigue. Where the film departs from Pasolini, however, is that the young man is actually a dog faced alien scout, sent to Earth by his hungry masters to find a renewable source of protein…

Not a great film by any standards, ‘Prey’ does, however, stand out from Warren’s other work in its relative restraint and its coherent, character based script. Unfortunately, it suffers from obvious economies of production and slightly amateurish performances, but this is hardly surprising when you realise that Warren had only fifty thousand pounds and ten days to make his magnum opus and could only afford a maximum of three takes on everything. Occasionally gory, ‘Prey’ is extremely watchable, and could only have been made in Britain in the mid-seventies.

The music is by Ivor Slaney, a classically trained veteran composer who worked mainly for the De Wolfe library, providing short cues and stings for industry use, but here provides a brilliantly contemporary score of dark, minimal synth,which has recently reissued alongside his score for another Warren film, ‘Terror’. Two extracts from the soundtrack for you, the simple but very effective closing theme and the slinky, folky, souly song ‘Way of the Stranger’, sung by prog rock sessioner Val McKenna.

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