The Comeback
U.K. | 1978
Directed by Pete Walker
Jack Jones
Pamela Stephenson
David Doyle
| 100 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
Shriek Show
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Guest Review by Troy Howarth
A pop star (Jack Jones) looking to make a comeback fears that somebody is trying to kill him... but could he be losing his mind?
    In essence a variation on Henri-Georges Clouzot's venerable sting-in-the-tail classic Les Diaboliques, The Comeback is a comparatively low key Pete Walker film. Built around the novelty of beefy pop star Jack Jones being put through the kind of routine normally designated for large-breasted starlets, the film offers further evidence of Walker's growth as a stylist.
    The film marks a departure from Walker's earlier horror pictures in that the concept is an innocuous one whereas his earlier works sought to be as controversial as possible, offering up savage critiques of everything from law and order (House of Whipcord) to the clergy (The Confessional), this one is more content to adhere to the tried and true conventions of previous suspense films. Using Les Diaboliques as his model, Walker ensures that surprises will be few and far between, but he has a lot of fun putting Jones through the motions, inverting the usual damsel in distress clichés to good effect. Naturally Walker can't resist working in a few shocks, however, with some of them ranking among the best of his filmography gore buffs will appreciate some of the wetter imagery, for sure.
    The film's success really hinges on the central performance by Jack Jones, and fortunately for Walker the singer-turned-actor proves to be a likable and credible leading man. Essentially playing a variation on himself, Jones moves believably from macho man to quivering emotional wreck without overdoing the histrionics. It's to Walker's credit that he decided to explore the idea of inverting the classic terror film image of the damsel in distress to fit a swaggering male, but Jones' contribution should not be underestimated — a relatively inexperienced actor, Jones rises to the dramatic needs of the material and gives the film a much needed human focal point. Pamela Stephenson, better known as a comedienne on British TV (she also appeared with Vincent Price in the unfortunate spoof Bloodbath at the House of Death, 1983), makes for an attractive love interest for Jones, but the real thesping meat is to be found in the gallery of character actors: David Doyle, best known for his role as Bosley on TV's Charlie's Angels, has an unusual role as Jones' cross-dressing agent; Richard Johnson (Zombie, The Haunting) makes a welcome cameo as a psychiatrist; and Walker mainstay Sheila Keith adds another notch to her gallery of eccentrics as the seemingly sweet old housekeeper. Jack Palance's daughter, Holly (best known for hanging herself in The Omen, 1976), has a small role, as well.
    Walker's direction is sure-footed throughout. Never the most inspired of stylists, he nevertheless shows tremendous competence at this stage of his career and he manages to engineer a few nicely timed shocks. Technical credits are solid, as well. Peter Jessop's cinematography is appropriately moody, especially in the interiors, but there is a general drabness to the photography that typifies his work for Walker. In terms of the camerawork and composition, however, the film is considerably slicker than his earlier films. The pacing is nicely controlled while the film never exactly zips along, Walker avoids burdening the film with too much padding or filler. If the film has a problem it's simply that the setup is too familiar at this point. Walker gets some added mileage out of the central gimmick, but a few more surprises in the story would have gone a long way towards making this a more effective thriller. Taken on its own terms, however, it's a reasonably entertaining example of its genre.

Shriek Show's release of The Comeback, as part of their Pete Walker Collection, again offers the same transfer and extras present in the Anchor Bay U.K. (Region 2) disc. The back of the box indicates that the film is 1.85/16x9, but the film is identical to the fullframe, anamorphic U.K. release. Print quality is very good, with decent color and detail, but the transfer again loses some points for being downgraded from PAL to NTSC. The compositions look fine in the 1.33 ratio, suggesting the film might have been shot open matte with TV sales in mind. Even so, the image is acceptable and should certainly suffice for R1 viewers. Soundtrack options include the original mono, as well as a pointless 5.1 remix. The mono track is clean and clear there is no background noise to report, and dialogue, music and sound effects come through very well. Extras include a trailer, talent bios and an audio commentary featuring Walker. It's a good track, with Walker again proving to be a solid, unpretentious craftsman at ease discussing his work. 4/26/06