‘Murder Elite’ is somewhat of a curio piece; a British pseudo-slasher set in the bucolic countryside, that feels more like a particularly sedentary episode of ‘Bergerac’ than a lurid 80’s horror. Thus far it sounds as if I am being condescending, but I’m merely try to place this rather obscure title in a truer perspective; while it concerns the murderous machinations of a provincial serial killer, ‘Man Bites Dog’ it ‘aint!
All that said, and with its palpable lack of sanguinary violence, I really enjoyed it; and while it is definitely more tea & biscuits, than Troma & Jack Daniels; the fact that ‘Murder Elite’ takes a rather sedate, bucolic approach, which ultimately endeared the film to me greatly; and this was largely down to the largely excellent cast: Billie Whitelaw and Hywel Bennett were tremendous in the roles, and it was a joy to see Garfield ‘The Sweeney’ Morgan reprise his role of Detective Chief inspector Haskins (sort of!) and while he didn’t get to do more than sneer, and regard everyone’s paltry alibi with scorn; as expected, he did this with aplomb! This stoic fellow was born to play a TV copper, such verisimilitude, such perfect pitch of derision was never quite so pronounced in any other thespian. Again, this is a largely esoteric reason to enjoy a film, but there it is! The one major suspension of disbelief has always been that Ali MacGraw was in any way,shape,or form a competent actor: she wasn’t; and the energy expenditure it required to accept that she was Billie Whitelaw’s sister took infinitely more creativity than N. J Crisp displayed in his somewhat piecemeal script. Watching Steve McQueen’s main squeeze stumble-bum through her performance as a libidinous strumpet, was, in its own way hugely amusing. The weary plot would suit the yellowed pages of a pre-30’s pulp pot boiler, and, along with MacGraw is definitely the last chicken in the shop; but the true gold is the woefully grandiose score by Hammer legend James Bernard; his heady, Gothic bombast raises this anodyne effort to that of magnificent folly with his HUGE overbearing score; let me just say this is no fault of his; he remains one of the all time greats; but this slender tale couldn’t hold the cumbersome weight of his muscular score: a bit like slathering the most grandiose John Williams effort over a scratchy Doris Wishman effort: thereby creating a gravitas overload which soon escalates to unbound jocularity. If Christopher lee were creeping, swivel-eyed through the misty gloaming; repeatedly tearing nubile throats asunder, THIS would be a stupendously exhilarating score: Hywel Bennett repeatedly mucking out the stable is, frankly, too prosaic a visual, and requires considerably less orchestration, if any, really.
The film is absurd, hysterical, and rather pedestrian, and, still, I found much to enjoy here: I definitely prefer the European title of ‘Elia Mordercow’ to ‘Murder Elite’: ‘Murder Elite’? Why? Because it’s a far better moniker than ‘bloodless killings on a near-bankrupt farm’ Just remember to crank up the giddy James Bernard score! ‘Elia Mordercow’ will probably have its greatest appeal to Hywel Bennett fans, or those singular individuals who can glean inordinate amounts of pleasure from the kind of ragged, celluloid nonsense most sensible folk would cast violently from the village with bilious hue & cry, and raised, angered pitchfork.