Film Review: The Comeback (1978)

SYNOPSIS:

Seeking a little peace and quiet to write some new songs, a washed-up American singer moves into a secluded English house. But his mind isn’t on a new romance when he’s contacted by his ex-wife’s ghost, whose clues about her murder lead Jones to a confrontation with the killer.

REVIEW:

Unlike the more exploitative work for which Pete Walker is known, 1978’s The Comeback shows a great deal of restraint. The death scenes, while bloody, are few and far between, and the nudity virtually nonexistent. The killer, who hides their identity with a haggard, old woman mask, is underutilized and has a far-fetched modus operandi. One might argue that Walker actually shows a bit too much restraint, as the 100-minute runtime burns slowly, particularly during the first act.

After a 6-year hiatus from the music industry, newly divorced crooner Nick Cooper (Jack Jones) is looking to make a comeback. He’s sent to work on new material at the luxury of an old mansion, where eerie events begin happening to him. Namely, he’s awaken in the middle of the night by the sound of a young girl in distress. One night she is sobbing, another she lets out a blood-curdling scream. Nick never find the girl, instead seeing things like a corpse in a wheelchair or the decomposing, disembodied head of his ex-wife, Gail (Holly Palance, The Omen). Meanwhile, his friends seem to be disappearing.

Jones was a bona fide pop singer (best known for singing the “The Love Boat” theme) at the time, performing concerts at night after shooting during the day. You’d never know he was pulling double duty, as he gives a better performance than one might expect from a musician-turned-actor, especially in the rare male-in-peril role. But the film works because it does not rest solely on Jones’ shoulders; the supporting roles pull their respective weight as well.

The film weaves in numerous characters who serve as red herrings. Among them are Webster Jones (David Doyle, “Charlie’s Angels”), the hotshot producer; Linda Everett (Pamela Stephenson, Superman III), Nick’s assistant and love interest; Harry (Peter Turner), Nick’s creepy right-hand man; and caretakers Mr. and Mrs. B. (Bill Owen and Walker regular Sheila Keith, respectively).

The Comeback is now available on Blu-ray as part of Redemption Films’ The Pete Walker Collection, alongside House of Whipcord, Schizo and Die Screaming, Marianne. The high definition transfer is presented as-is and is likely the best the film will ever look. The set also includes a 13-minute interview with Walker and Jones and an audio commentary by Walker with film critic/author Jonathan Rigby.

Murray Smith’s screenplay is rather conventional, especially considering the typical output of Walker, who admits this himself in the bonus interview. Even as his most straightforward horror effort, The Comeback has enough twists and turns to keep the audience guessing, resulting in an entertaining whodunit.

The Comeback (1978)

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