The Penthouse (1967)

April 20th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Peter Collinson | Wri: Scott Forbes | Cast: Terence Morgan, Suzy Kendall, Tony Beckley, Norman Rodway | UK Thriller

British director Peter Collinson was probably best known for his comedy caper The Italian Job with its unlikely casting of Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill. But before that he made TV outing The Penthouse which belongs to the extremely nasty genre of the home invasion film.

Two earlier examples, Leslie Stevens’ Private Property (1960) and Walter Grauman’s Lady in a Cage (1964) had already been denied circuit releases in Britain, and in 1967 The Penthouse was following close on the heels of Dutchman and The Incident, both located the same situation, this time in railway carriages.

Far and away the most frightening of these films was The Incident, starring Martin Sheen and Beau Bridges, a powerfully vicious thriller never to released in Britain, with the emotive tagline “hits like a switchblade knife”. Later films that have been structured around similar situations include A Clockwork Orange, Straw Dogs and Funny Games, while real life – alas – got in on the act during 1968-69 with the hideous murders of Ramon Novarro and Sharon Tate.

Pretty obviously based on a play (‘The Meter Man’ by C.Scott Forbes), and directed, for all it’s worth, by first-timer Peter Collinson with Gothic lighting by Arthur Lavis (and occasional strident intrusions by John Hawksworth’s score), The Penthouse draws strongly for its content on Private Property and for its ambiance and dialogue on Harold Pinter.

In reality, Tom (Tony Beckley) and Dick (Norman Rodway), the pair of gurning cretins who invade the adulterous couple’s luxury penthouse suite (£15,000 at 1967 prices we’re told!) would never talk so much or be so articulate; and both their bizarre behaviour and that of the girlfriend (Suzy Kendall) who loses her fear and then her inhibitions remarkably quickly after being plied with booze and marijuana, suggests that gritty realism is not exactly what the film’s makers were striving for.

The film becomes more unbelievable still when less that twenty minutes from the end the couple actually let Harry in, who proceeds to bring the two goons back into the apartment to continue their mind games. But since Harry is played by Martine Beswick at her most fabulous (which is saying something!) I can forgive the film a lot. Well, a bit. @Richard Chatten

 

 

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