Persecution – UK, 1974 – overview and reviews

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‘The horror of a twisted mind!’

Persecution is a 1973 (released 1974) British psychological horror film directed by Don Chaffey (One Million Years B.C.; Creatures the World Forgot) from a story and screenplay by actor Robert B. Hutton and Rosemary Wootten. It was produced by Kevin Francis for Tyburn Films (Legend of the Werewolf; The Ghoul).

The film was also released as Sheba and The Terror of Sheba and subsequently re-titled The Graveyard for VHS release in the 1980s.

Main cast:

Lana Turner – Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) | Witches’ Brew
Ralph Bates – Horror of Frankenstein | Lust for a Vampire
Olga Georges-Picot – The Man Who Haunted Himself
Suzan Farmer – Die! Monster, Die! | Dracula, Prince of Darkness
Patrick Allen – Night Creatures
Trevor Howard – The Night VisitorCrazeThe Unholy

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Plot:

Carrie Masters (Lana Turner) is a crippled, wealthy, bitter woman who takes pleasure in tormenting her young son David (Mark Weavers). She blames him for her crippled leg and, in bizarre and horrifying ways, extracts her revenge by dominating him.

Years later, 24-year-old David (Ralph Bates) returns home with his wife Janie (Suzan Farmer) and their newborn child, but he is still subject to his mother’s evil influence.

When she is involved in two terrifying deaths, David’s mind snaps; although he is already mentally twisted by Carrie’s treatment, David becomes completely insane and swears vengeance on his mother for his years of hate and resentment…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The old-fashioned meller is riddled with ho-hum and sometimes laughably trite scripting. Also, very tame in the shock horror department. Under the circumstances, Turner’s performance has reasonable poise. There isn’t much animation to Ralph Bates as the grown-up edition of the tormented son”. Variety

” … a tawdry and tedious psycho-drama, and as repulsive as most movies exploiting Hollywood’s fading ladies … Ken Talbot’s photography is commendably glowing, but Ralph Bates is glum and Don Chaffey’s direction uninspired.” Geoff Brown, BFI Monthly Film Bulletin

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“Although Turner’s presence lifts the film and Talbot’s cinematography is excellent, the script is so contrived that Chaffey appears to have given up any hope of breathing life into the silly psychodrama.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“Turner hams it up and she and Ralph Bates have fun playing games with one another. Don Chaffey’s pace is slow moving, despite occasionally inventive photography and some offbeat editing. The story is confusing … The catty premise is not terribly interesting and the script trades in some unconvincingly histrionic psychology.”Richard Schleib, Moria

“In many ways disturbing and repulsive, mostly in undertone, the films is let down by Don Chaffey’s stately direction, which allows things to unwind at a leisurely pace and does not really exploit the shocks and nastiness lurking in the script …Still for all that, a fascinating movie.”Andy Boot, Fragments of Fear

Persecution aka Terror of Sheba

“Director Don Chaffey tries hard to make the action sinister and succeeds in promoting a few chills. Adding to the entertainment value is an experienced support cast that includes British stalwart Trevor Howard.” Tom Hutchinson, Radio Times

“Turner gives a good performance, far better than the film merits. Her star presence is the sole reason for watching and seems to have been the major motivation for making the film in the first place.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams

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“Routine attempt at a psychological thriller, given more weight than it deserves by good performance from Ralph Bates as the pawn in his pathologically domineering mother’s game.” Verina Glaessner, Time Out

“Rich but not engrossing nonsense, somewhat a la Baby Jane, with hazy script and stolid production.” Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Film Guide

“A stilted and overblown melodrama that’s all atmosphere and no direction.” John Elliot, Elliot’s Guide to Films on Video

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Cast and characters:

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Filming locations:

Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire
Denham Place, Denham Village, Buckinghamshire

Related: Fear of Felines! Cats in Horror Films – article by David Flint

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