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'The House on Straw Hill': Severin releases Britain's home-grown 'video nasty'

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The House on Straw Hill

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The House on Straw Hill is a relatively obscure thriller from 1976, a film whose main claim to fame lies within its status as the only British entry to be edited and banned amongst the original "Video Nasties" scare of the 1980s.

The film went under numerous titles during this time--among them being Trauma and Expose--and came under critical fire, thanks to its rather explicit scenes of sexuality tempered with some fetishized sequences of gore and violence. Indeed, The House on Straw Hill functions primarily as a hallucinogenic thriller, owing much of its style to the Italian giallo films of the day, and an atmosphere which benefits well from the pastoral English countryside in which it's set.

Writer/director James Kenhelm Clarke tells the tale here of Paul Martin--played by photogenic cult film star Udo Kier--a successful first time novelist who is suffering through a bout of writer's block. Martin decides to hire a secretary (Brit horror favorite Linda Hayden) to assist him as begins the writing process for his sophomore effort, yet the author is consistently haunted by violent and psychedelic delusions and visions.

These disturbing episodes tend to afflict Paul the most when he is engaged in sexual congress with his girlfriend Suzanne, played by infamous British sexpot Fiona Richmond. This sexual relationship between Paul and Suzanne very often hinges upon dominance, submission, and the use of a very specific pair of plastic gloves. These scenes are rather involved for the time, and paint Paul as a repressed and troubled individual with an inherent need to control most elements around him at all times. Martin, as a result, isn't exactly the most sympathetic of protagonists, and it isn't long before Hayden's character is challenging him at every turn, building up a tense cat-and-mouse game which leads to the film's climax and finale.

The folks over at Severin have been transparent in the troubles encountered during the restoration process for this film. The Straw Hill negative acquired from Kenhelm Clarke had suffered extreme water damage over the years, and had to be supplemented with two different, edited 35mm prints to create the uncut composite shown here on this Blu-Ray and DVD combo pack. The fact that this extremely rare film has been restored at all is a cause for celebration, however, and Severin should be commended on all the hard work which went into this obvious labor of love.

The House on Straw Hill looks just fine here in high definition, despite the obvious damage which proved impossible to fully repair. The film itself possesses an isolated and voyeuristic vibe which asserts Straw Hill as a Nasty worthy of reinvestigation; a slice of sleazy cinema which, were it not for the hard work from Severin, could have been lost in its full, uncut version to the mists of time.

NOTE: The first 3,000 units of The House on Straw Hill will contain a bonus, third disc featuring the two part Ban the Sadist Videos special, documenting the original "Video Nasty" fervor and controversial history.

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