The BFI brings this little seen British oddity back to life with a dual format DVD/Blu-ray release featuring an array of extra features including writer-director Christian Marnham speaking about the film in a newly recorded interview.
Where this fifty minute short movie fits into the British film industry is a mystery. Written and directed by Christian Manham, starring Tracy Hyde of David Puttnam’s Melody fame and feeling like a 15 rated Midsomer Murders minus John Nettles, The Orchard End Murder is awkward viewing.
Set in a leafy hamlet which is all cricket matches, railway crossing guards and overgrown simpletons, it comes across like low rent Hammer horror. Shock moments are few and far between, performances range from wooden to extremely good, while production values are maintained. That 18 certificate is granted solely due to buried bodies, prolonged nakedness and sexual threat. Thankfully the attack itself is short lived but no less unpleasant, while any repercussions are truncated and glossed over.
Bill Wallis’s railway gatekeeper is suitably sordid while Clive Mantle’s Ewen strikes the necessary chord between simple and dangerous without drifting into the realms of psychotic. Hidden behind bottle thick lens Wallis and his comb over ooze a combination of sinister and backward country bumpkin. Hyde meanwhile is called upon to do very little apart from look pretty, flirt slightly then do a good corpse impression from that then on.
Stereotypes pepper the landscape including landed gentry, village gossips and pub patrons both savagely posh and disconnected from reality. In many ways The Orchard End Murder reminded me of the Edgar Wright opus Hot Fuzz, itself a sardonic look at village life and small minded local land owners. Neither informative nor nostalgic this strange little film offers up little beyond a few quality performances. Manham may have worked alongside Roeg, Hudson, Puttnam and other directors of note, but this does not represent an effort worthy of archive.
It is a seedy little film which carries no great narrative, minimal structure and feels like a sophomore effort in terms of construction. Watching the Blu-ray extras only confirms this as Tracy Hyde claims to have little recollection of filming, beyond an extra brushing soil from her bottom as she lay buried. Whereas Manham is the only one for which this production seemed like any type of triumph. It may have begun the career of Clive Mantle for which we should be grateful, but there is little else that I can find to recommend people watch this, let alone own it.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Christian Marnham
Written by: Christian Marnham
Starring: Raymond Adamson, Tracy Hyde, Cyril Cross, Jessie Evans, Clive Mantle
Released: 1980 / Genre: Thriller
Country: UK / IMDB
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Top 10 Films reviewed The Orchard End Murder on Blu-ray courtesy of BFI. The film was released on DVD/Blu-ray dual format on July 24, 2017.