There is a centuries old kink/code word in the fetish community referred to as “English Discipline”. What first sounds like a tip from a billiard hall is something so much more underground; secretive and yet somehow equally related to the application of proper “stick play”. The English are big fans of their own brand of S+M involving equestrian staples such as tall brown leather boots, starched prep school uniforms, and all manner of whips, clubs, or paddles which are used to spank willing participants, especially across their exposed backside or buttocks. Role playing games involving English Discipline more often than not involve two people assuming identities from different positions of authority, (such as teacher or student) where the dominant person “corrects” the other by whipping them a predetermined number of times for an (either real or imagined) infraction as an act of cold, dispassionate behavior modification which some consenting adults find to be just the thing to put the “kick” in their “knickers”. While HOUSE of WHIPCORD is not a fetish film, nor does it feature graphic scenes of “English Discipline”, it has a distinctly British “Beat Down” motif to it which seems to have been inspired by this particular kink. This background information is all important, because the scenes of nudity are a lot more scant and tasteful than the lurid cover art for this DVD would have you believe. However, if sexless scenes of punishment doled out onto nubile flesh by corrupt old Puritans who deliver condescension and threats using only the most ponderous English vocabulary possible tickles your whip, you may find the atmosphere in this film to be somehow sensual. That being said, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD is actually a well thought out, taut thriller that is far better than the cover art or sensationalistic title would lead you to believe. A creepy old castle in the middle of nowhere actively staffed by stodgy, uptight pilgrims who abduct and torture impure women for the will of God is not only the most basic form of “Nunsploitation” but, when combined with the S+M sensibility of this, it does somehow manage to take the old horror staple “dungeon play” plot dynamic and give it a new “lash” on life.
Anne-Marie is a fashion model who recently appeared in some racy topless public photos that are the talk of her small dinner party. No matter; it seems all her young friends are a liberated bunch who accept and love her despite the controversy, including a potential suitor who somehow crashed her party and now only has eyes for her. Of course, because she is beautiful, trusting, and more than a little dumb she thinks nothing of the fact that the man’s name is Mark E Desat, so, in the time it takes it takes for the audience to figure out this play on words, Anne-Marie is already on her second date with Mark, being whisked away to meet his parents for an impromptu romantic getaway of sorts. Not long after her arrival at the gates of an immense estate, Mark quickly disappears from her side and, inexplicably, Anne-Marie is accosted by a bunch of Olde (if not aged) English matrons who are apparently not fans of her pictorial spread in the recent news. Ann-Marie is stripped naked, given a uniform, and held for trial in some sort of strange kangaroo court. It seems she is now in a prison of sorts; a privately run institution that kidnaps any woman who threatens the public good to such a degree that it is secretly decreed that they are to be quietly kidnapped and taken into this strange (but literal) house of correction. At first it seems like a manageable situation, like Anne-Marie could just bide her time until her release by towing the line. It is then that the film gets increasingly darker and more sinister as it is revealed that not only are all the Lords and Ladies who run the prison extremely insane, but they have never set a single one of their prisoner’s free. Further destroying the illusion of hope for Anne-Marie is her realization that they run the house of pain on a “three strike” system similar to an American prison, except that the third strike for any infraction whatsoever earns you death by hanging. For those sexploitation purists, I feel compelled to admit that solitary confinement and “naked flogging” are the punishments for strikes two and three, respectively.
I barely consider this a sexploitation movie; it is just too when compared to the bulk of the films in the sub-genre. Save for some scenes where topless women are whipped for no “good” reason whatsoever, this film is decidedly more plot-driven and dramatic than most films in this genre give us any reason they expect them to be. The evil family members who run the prison are all very distinct, developed, and two-dimensional characters. Moreover, as the film progresses, every character in the film seems to get more intense and/ or desperate, whether it is Anne-Marie in her repeated attempts at escape, or the evil Madame Walker in her repeated attempts to personally make sure Anne-Marie fails a third time so she can be hanged as quickly as possible according to the “law”. Black, dry British humor also abounds in scenes such as Anne-Marie’s escape attempt by truck or the exact moment where the blind, senile Judge Desmond is happily signing what he thinks is the release order for a certain female prisoner rather than her death warrant; a deliberate paperwork snafu that has been arranged by the evil Matriarchs of the prison who actually run everything. Good sexploitation makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time and that scene where the doddering, kindly old man in the silly powdered wig is manipulated into signing an innocent young woman’s death warrant will probably be my most enduring memory of this film.
The print of this film is exceptionally dark and difficult to see, and some of the audio seems compromised. If you can get past the troublesome transfer, this is an excellent little thriller inspired by quirky British kink and staunch Women in Prison discipline. I wish they would do a remake of this. With an unrated rating, some modern camera work, and a modest budget they could make this English tale of Etiquette gone awry into the exploitation equivalent of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.
Extras include a few intermission time shorts, some other trailers from other Cheezy Flicks Films.