Fragment of Fear (1970) David Hemmings Freaks To The Johnny Harris Funky As Hell Soundtrack

Fragment of Fear (1970) David Hemmings Gayle Hunnicutt poster cover dvd columbia pictures horror mystery

Tim Brett (David Hemmings) has a wildly funky soundtrack following him around. Maybe it was all the heroin he’d injected in his veins? Maybe all the acid trips he’d dropped. You’d of thought now he was a recovering drug addict, chilling out in sunny Italy, he’d of cleared his mind of that intoxicating driving beat! His sweet Aunt Lucy (Flora Robson) visits him and congratulates him on his success. The flute goes off his mind. You see his eyes twitch. Aunt Lucy wants to help people. His foot taps to the beat. She looks away, calls the waiter. An involuntary spasm! Arms and legs going ecstatic to all the instruments. A peculiar sight to see. Like he was trying to play every instrument at once. He was unprepared for such an outbreak. He manages to control it. It was now contained. Aunt Lucy hadn’t seen his freak-out. He feared opening his month just in case that frantic flute fanfare blasted out, straight into her innocent face. Oh his beloved Aunt.

Tagline – Murder in Pompeii. Voices in the night. Despair in the gutter. A phantasmagoria of fright!

Fragment of Fear (1970) David Hemmingsstaring in shop chemist

Something compels him to do a karate chop! Why? That damn groovy music spontaneously keeps trying to escape! Oh gosh! Not now! Damn you cool music! I’ve got such sad news to deal with. Now was not the time to gyrate! You see poor Aunt Lucy’s been murdered. A woman screams. She found her covered in flies. He moves his hips to the infectious sounds within his head. He hates it but loves that killer beat. He shouts, muffled through his clasped hand. “I wanna cry Bruce Lee fighting sounds and do back-flips“. He decides to ask the woman out. She says yes. Maybe she was in shock! Maybe it’s his tremendous well timed dance moves! “What the hell are you doing Tim!!?” asks Juliet Bristow (Gayle Hunnicutt). “I’m dancing” is all he could honestly reply.

Fragment of Fear (1970) David Hemmings Gayle Hunnicutt italy

He sat by the graveside and pondered the thought that maybe he’s damaged his brain? “Insane in the membrane?” Too many drugs not enough recovery time. Oh Aunt Lucy what happen? He spies a note stuck between the bereavement flowers. It reads. “From The Stepping Stones in memory of happier times…” What the hell does that mean Aunt Lucy? “Who or what are the Stepping Stones?

Months pass. He’s back in London. Wedding plans soon come. Oh that’s ok. His mind is visited by the other melody. The mellower chilled out theme tune. The other one. Still a cold darn funky number. He slowly jigs his body, smiles and nods his head. It’s certainly not as frantic. A kind of dirty jazz funk sound. Sleazy and sexy. His hips start grinding again. Another flashback. Hippy’s, hands, ooooo lovemaking. Suddenly aware the curtains and the windows are open in his room. There’s a pigeon called Columbus. The telephone rings.

Fragment of Fear (1970) David Hemmings sweating horror paranoia mystery stare confussed

Weird stuff happens. He’s scared, he pukes. Strange phone calls. A hysterical laugh. Dodgy coppers, people watching. The door opens, the floorboards creak. There’s someone here! Then that damn FLUTE! Oh I do love that flute. So raw, so animalistic, sensual maybe? crazy………

OK as you’ve probably guessed none of that or some of that didn’t happen. I’m not really sure to be honest. What I do know is Tim goes investigating his Aunts unexpected death and it turns his life upside down.

Tim –Either I am mad and all this isn’t happening to me, or else I’m sane and it is.

Fragment of Fear (1970) David Hemmings sweating horror paranoia mystery stare close up

The Production

This British psychological thriller was adapted from a book of the same name written by John Bingham. Who interestingly goes by the super fancy name of John Michael Ward Bingham, 7th Baron Clanmorris and was a former MI5 spy turned novelist writing thrillers and spy books. The screenplay was by Paul Dehn who’d worked on the spy thriller The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965) and all the Planet of the Apes sequel films. In the directors chair sat Richard C Sarafian. He’s go on to make the cult classic Vanishing Point (1971) and the excellent Lolly-Madonna XXX (1973) which I’d reviewed last year.

The amazing thing about Fragment Of Fear is the cast. So many familiar faces pop up. You got the quintessential gentleman Wilfrid Hyde-White, and Dad’s Army very own Capt. Mainwaring’s Arthur Lowe. George and Mildred’s Yootha Joyce and Grady (Philip Stone) from The Shining (1980) and Dave The Barman Harris from Minder otherwise known as Glynn Edwards. Then there’s eye patch James Bond villain Largo from Thunderball (1965). Plus Aunt Lucy might only have a small part but what a career she had. Flora Robson was in Black Narcissus (1947) to 7 Women (1966) to name a few. So many different character actors keep appearing in this film.

The Soundtrack

I only recently knew that the composer and musical arranger Johnny Harris record Movements I’d been freaking to for many years was bizarrely featured within this film. It even says on the back cover that the tracks Fragments Of Fear and Stepping Stones are from the Columbia motion picture Fragment Of Fear. I hadn’t notice it until a friend mention it and sparked my desire to see the film as soon as I could. So intrigued to see how on God’s sweet Earth this soundtrack could fit into a film filled with mystery, horror, paranoia and madness. Well of course for me it was perfect. However I will honestly add that I could well imagine, for many, this soundtrack is waaaaaaaay off the chart too bonkers for this film. The track “Stepping Stones” is in pure 70’s cops, robbers, pimps, you name it, chase theme stylee. When it’s first used, it’s when Tim walks from his Aunts grave! Yep that’s right, walks from his Aunts grave and then proceeds to look in a bin!. Give it a listen.

But first read this Aunt grave visiting music comment on YouTube…..
bloody hell, I wasn’t mentally prepared for this much funk!

So much funk that Levi’s 501 Jean’s used it in their 1997 Kung Fu inspired commercial. Note, not a sad melancholy TV commercial for elderly burial coffins, old people homes or wills.

The main theme that actually drifts in and out throughout the whole soundtrack is the one named after the film. It’s a beautiful piece of music. Piano and arrangements are conducted by Johnny Harris with Bass by Herbie Flowers, drums by Harold Fisher and that amazing flute by Harold McNair. Check it out. Sit back and chill to this after the mayhem of Stepping Stones. Much like the cover photo it might give you an orgasm face! So please be warned.

It’s a shame just those two tracks were used as I’d have loved to of heard my other favourite from the album, the beautiful, serene and easy listening Footsteps On The Moon. Which I believe was originally used during the television broadcast of the actual Moon landing footage.

Here’s me chilling with my copy. The picture doesn’t pick up that my whole body is in fact gyrating to the beat.

Wolfman cult film johnny Harris record vinyl fragments of fear movements LP wolf

The Verdict

It’s an intriguing film that’s for sure. I’m a sucker for these type of films. Was it any good? I liked it a quite a lot. The two best things that overshadow everything else is obviously the soundtrack that is wildly over the top for the film. The other superb thing is the atmosphere. The world is created and expertly filmed with an almost dream like quality to it. Felt myself drawn into the story but ultimately let down a tad by the end. With a bit more time to have developed on a twist which could of elevated the film more. David Hemmings carries the film well, he looks scared and worried when he needs to, sweats buckets and deals with the bizarre oncoming situations well. I’ve always loved David Hemmings for his choice of interesting movies. Whether it’s 60s iconic films like Blow-Up (1966) or Barbarella (1968) or the amazing two little unknown mini masterpieces that I’ve reviewed on here like Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971) and The Long Day’s Dying (1968).

I’ll give Fragment Of Fear an interesting oddball offering of……….. 7.5/10

Thanks for popping and if you did read the above please except my apologies. Yeah I get a bit carried away sometimes. Hehe… Have fun with movies…

Mikey Wolf