Girly (Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly) (1970)
Girly (Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly) (1970)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Release Date: February 12th, 1970 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Freddie Francis Actors: Michael Bryant, Ursula Howells, Pat Heywood, Howard Trevor, Vanessa Howard, Robert Swann, Imogen Hassall




umsy (Ursula Howells) and Nanny (Pat Heywood) discuss their wonderful wards in “The Dear Children’s Nursery,” up early and out to play. Girly (Vanessa Howard) and Sonny (Howard Trevor) wander off to the zoo, where they hope to find a new friend. The two older women are heard initially only in a voiceover, speaking gayly about the beautiful young children. This opening could surely be the start to a Disney picture, though there’s something noticeably unnerving about the camera panning through various abandoned rooms of a massive, baroque estate. “The little angels should be home soon.”

“Have a sweet,” insists Sonny, placing his hand uncomfortably close to Girly’s mouth to pop a piece of candy into her puckered lips. And she’s not afraid to suck lightly on his fingers as he does so, despite the fact that they’re siblings. Their behavior is immediately odd – something that presages the picture’s psychological thriller notes. Of course, it’s entirely possible that they’re simply mentally challenged youths, unable to convey their feelings or communicate without exhibiting sociopathic tendencies. And Mumsy and Nanny also display peculiarities, made more apparent when the children – who are actually teenagers – bring home Soldier (Robert Swann), a drunkard they find unconscious in the park. The foursome and their new companion (whom they dress up in a school uniform to match their own outfits) dine on gelatin treats and tea cakes, discussing a series of rules, which include playing childish games. However, the final bit of horseplay, called “Oranges and Lemons,” involves Girly decapitating Soldier with an unseen instrument.

“Don’t worry, dear. You’ll get your medicine.” The film is deliciously demented, creating a family unit perverted by abnormal cognitive issues, stemming in part, presumably, from the lack of a father figure, as well as from their extreme societal isolation. Although their games involve picking up strangers to tease and torment and then kill, the children seem nearly oblivious to their murderousness – until, that is, they deal a finishing blow. Their latest acquisition, a tipsy couple leaving a party, go along with the juvenile revelry, though the girlfriend (Imogen Hassall) is quickly dispatched, while the “New Friend” (Michael Bryant) becomes the target of all sorts of bizarre mental provocations. In many ways, this “family” serves as a cinematic precursor to the one seen in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” When Sonny bursts into a room by hacking through the door with an axe, the film also lends its chills to “The Shining” (debuting many years later).

New Friend senses the danger in his confines, but he’s clever enough to go along with the madness, creating time to formulate an escape plan. It’s clear that he’s a prisoner – and that the lunatic matriarch possesses the means to keep him locked up. The games grow more unnerving and dangerous – and unbecoming of young adults with damaged psyches – though New Friend manages to turn the tables a bit by toying with the fragile minds of his captors. It’s creepy and funny all at once, hovering in that murky area between comical exploitation and gruesome horror. Outrageously deranged, and with a conclusion that leaves a lot up to the imagination, this is one superbly original production.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10