Exposé (aka House On Straw Hill, The House On Straw Hill, Trauma)

Dir: James Kenelm Clarke, 1976

4/10

This review is of the uncut version

The following review contains spoilers

With echoes of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, and a title that is reminiscent of Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left, James Kenelm Clarke’s 1976 has the dubious honour of being the only British film to be classified as a “video nasty”, and, in truth, that’s the only thing going for it.

Paul Martin (a badly dubbed Udo Kier) is a writer who rents a secluded cottage to work on his new book, after splitting up with girlfriend (Fiona Richmond).

Martin hires a secretary Linda (Linda Hayden) to type his novel while he dictates.

But Linda isn’t all that she seems to be…

Exposé is a terribly inept film, in every way imaginable. From the writing, the story, the directing, the editing, you name it.

Director Clarke, hasn’t a clue what he’s doing and it shows. He leaves so many loose ends, that frustration soon takes over.

Clarke puts the characters into situations that is impossible to get out of, and backs himself into a corner. Instead of working out how to resolve the dilemma, he simply cuts away to something else and goes back with the problem sorted. This level of choppy editing, is consistent throughout and makes us wonder whether there was more.

A notorious scene that was partly responsible for the ensuing controversy, concerns Linda being raped by a guy (Karl Howman, Jacko from Brush Strokes), while he shotgun toting friend watches.

However, in one shot we have Linda pinned down by a bloke heavier than her, and a six foot muscleman sticking a shotgun in her face. The next thing we know, this petite waif of a girl has managed to overcome the gun wielding muscular guy, and shoot him dead. Not only that, she was able to shoot the rapist in the face, at point blank range, without blowing his head off!

So, how did she get the gun off the big guy, while the other one is on top of her?

We just don’t know. Clarke has got himself stuck, so cuts out the middle bit, leaving us with a beginning and an end. But, it’s the middle bit we need.

The characters aren’t believable, and exhibit emotions that wouldn’t be typical. Rape is a truly distressing experience, and one that a victim has to live with for the rest of their life. Except for Linda, who carries on like nothing’s happened!

It’s incredibly difficult to see where Clarke is going with this. He throws random ingredients into the mix that don’t belong. Paul Martin is highly paranoid, suffering from dreams of death and murder. The dreams imply that he committed a murder, and that is how the guilt manifests itself.

But, actually, no. He hasn’t. Why depict his nightmarish dreams in this way, when it isn’t relevant to the plot?

An even bigger anomaly, is Martin’s use of rubber gloves in sex. There is no explanation whatsoever, for their inclusion in the film. Is he a germophobe? Is it a fetish? They are completely redundant to the story or the characters.

The question you keep asking yourself is, what is Exposé? Is it meant to be an erotic thriller, a soft porn movie, a horror? Even James Kenelm Clarke doesn’t know the answer.

It’s important to remember, that part of the financing came from porn mogul Paul Raymond, who was Richmond’s lover at the time, hence a role in the film.

Considering that Linda spends much of her time masturbating, regardless of where she is, and both Hayden and Richmond get their tops off at any opportunity, leads you to think that’s it’s a soft core porno. Clarke even manages to work a lesbian sex scene between the stars, into the film.

The film has always suffered at the hands of the British censors. With a strict policy on sexual violence, Exposé was never going to have an easy ride.

For it’s theatrical run, the rape scene was heavily truncated as was the removal of Suzanne’s murder in the shower. The board’s policy for many years, was that blood is not to be shown on breasts. After implementing the requested cuts, Clarke’s film was awarded an ‘X’ certificate.

Only a couple of years later, video players had flooded the market and the public demand for VHS tapes, allowing the customer to rent, or even own, a copy of the movies that you could only see in a cinema or in a censored for television print.

This new technology, however, was unregulated by the powers that be, and tapes containing movies that had been cut or banned, were being distributed in their uncut versions. Exposé was one of them.

Pre- 1984 UK video sleeve of the uncut version

 

After Mary Whitehouse had her whinge about the content that was available in videos, the Director of Public Prosecutions drew up a list of potentially obscene videos. Unbelievably, Clarke’s film found its way on to the list.

Once the government issued the Video Recordings Act in 1984, mandating that videos must be approved by the BBFC, Exposé was swiftly taken off the market.

Over the years, there have been several attempts to get the film released uncut, but all proved fruitless. The most recent DVD release was pressed in 2003, but only after 50 secs of cuts were made. Nearly all the rape scene has been removed, as well as the majority of Suzanne’s death.

It is available uncut on US Blu Ray and DVD combo pack, under the title House On Straw Hill.

It’s a real irony, that by trying to bury the film under the pretence of “protecting the public good”, the powers that be have inadvertently brought more attention to would have been an uneventful and forgettable little movie.

Exposé is such an incoherent mess, that any legitimate value the film may have held is dissipated by lack of technical ability.

Dull and lifeless, Clarke’s feature is one long headache of inanities and drivel.

Terribly poor.

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