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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

What the Peeper Saw aka 'Diabólica malicia' aka 'Night Hair Child' [Blu-ray]


(James Kelly and Andrew White, 1971)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Cemo Film

Video: VCI



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:35:50.494

Disc Size: 23,076,859,014 bytes

Feature Size: 22,393,841,664 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November, 2014



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-2 Video



LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit



English, None



• Original Theatrical Trailer (1:48)
Original TV Teaser Spot (:30)





Description: In this psychological thriller touching upon obsession, a successful author's (Hardy Kruger) new wife (Britt Ekland) begins to suspect her 12-year old stepson (Mark Lester) may have have had a hand in murdering his mother whom mysteriously died while bathing. What results is a sexual cat-and-mouse game that escalates the wife's paranoia to dangerous levels.



The Film:

When twenty-two year old Elise (Britt Ekland, THE WICKER MAN) meets her husband Paul's (Hardy Krüger,THE WILD GEESE) young son from a previous marriage, it does not take long for her to feel uncomfortable around him since Marcus (Mark Lester, OLIVER!), it turns out, is not only intellectually precocious but also sexually.  Investigating a series of mounting little deceptions on the tyke's part, Elise discovers that he has been expelled from school for "unnatural behavior" including peeping on courting couples, nude drawings that demonstrate rather advanced sexuality, and murdering a cat.  When the headmaster (Harry Andrews, THEATRE OF BLOOD) also informs her that he has attempted to address these issues many times in the past with Paul, Elise starts to realize that she cannot count on her husband to take her concerns seriously.  Paul accuses her of being determined not to like his son from the start and believes that his behavior is a reaction to discovering the body of his mother who died of a heart attack two years before.  Elise, however, discovers from Marcus that he did not particularly like his mother (who seems to have been as much an outsider in the father-son relationship as Elise is beginning to feel herself).  When she learns from Sophie (Conchita Montes) that Marcus' mother Sarah did indeed die of a heart attack but one triggered by an electric shock in her bath, Elise starts to suspect that Paul may have been behind the death until Marcus takes credit for engineering it.  By this point, Elise is uncertain whether Marcus is telling her the truth or merely toying with her, or if she should fear for her life when a frustrated Paul tells her "You're even beginning to act and sound like Sarah."

The salaciously-titled WHAT THE PEEPER SAW – originally nonsensically titled NIGHT HAIR CHILD or DIABOLICAL MALICE – courts controversy with the sexualized nature of the battle of wills between Elise and Marcus (the more graphic moments of which were pruned from the American version which runs about five minutes shorter), but the dramatics are so embarrassingly performed by the central trio that the viewer is more interested in when Ekland will take off her clothes than how much if any of her fears are a projection or if Marcus did kill his mother and is planning to kill Elise as well.  The only time the film really engages the audience is during the extended session between Elise and Marcus' therapist Dr. Viore (Lilli Palmer, BODY AND SOUL) in which her line of questioning calls Elise's motives and perception into question more successfully than any of her arguments with Paul.  The final scene seems to be moving towards in a boldly perverse direction until one of those blunt seventies resolutions capped off by a freeze frame.  A Spanish co-production, the Latin backdrop looks rather drab thanks to the lensing of Harry Waxman (VAMPYRES) – although Luis Cuadrado (SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE is also credited – and the direction of James Kelly whose earlier THE BEAST IN THE CELLAR for Tigon failed to wring much perversity out of its ARSENIC AND OLD LACE-esque set up of two sweet old ladies hiding a dark secret.  Even the scoring of Stelvio Cipriani (BARON BLOOD) feels more than usual like a taffy pull of cues from his other works or library albums (the Italian version was reportedly prepared by Andrea Bianchi [STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER] who some sources also list as one of the writers, although the English version only credits TV writer Trevor Preston).  The scenes of eroticism will have most viewers feeling as awkward as Elise in the early scene when she is speaking to Paul on the phone while a bathing Marcus is groping her breasts.

Eric Cotenas

The sight of kids in adult situations is unfailingly embarrassing, and Night Hair Child (whatever that means) is no exception. In it Mark Lester plays a 12-year-old voyeur who touches up Britt Ekland, and later joins her for some purpose or other (even he seems uncertain) between the sheets. Everyone involved blunders along, seemingly unaware of the sensitivity necessary to develop this story of a young newlywed who finds that she is living in the same house as a pubescent sex maniac, who may also be plotting to murder her. The casting is crazy, with Ekland hardly the actress for this sort of thing; and the script meanders all over the place, with a long psychiatric interview and a dream sequence seemingly interpolated just for the hell of it, before finally falling to bits. Still, at least Lester gets his deserts, the little brat. (Andrea Bianchi is credited as director on foreign language versions.)

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

This, much sought-after, niche film has, surprisingly, come to Blu-ray - advertised as a 'Limited Edition' and sold exclusively by VCI. Compounding the weak elements of What the Peeper Saw - is VCI's MPEG-2 encode (as opposed to AVC). They certainly aren't doing themselves any favors. There are enough inconsistencies (some scenes look fine, many do not) to contend with and, while the 1080P does show positive signs, overall this is fraught with uneven cuts, speckles and seems in dire need of a full restoration. The transfer is flat and more like video than film although some colors are exported appearing rich and deep. It is in the, bastardized, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, is mostly hazy and shows compression artifacts.


NOTE: Although advertised as 'Uncut' there may be some controversial scenes absent from this Blu-ray release. This includes a scene where Britt Ekland disrobes, gets into bed with Mark Lester and cuddles with him.






















Audio :

A linear PCM that fares about as well as the video in terms of tightness. Again, at the mercy of the un-restored elements. It can be scattered with volume fluctuation but dialogue is, generally, audible. The score is by Stelvio Cipriani (Massimo Dallamano's The Night Child, and has composed over 200 film scores) There are optional English subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE (despite the box back-cover stating 'Region A').



Extras :

Only original trailer and 30-second 'teaser'. Too bad - there is surely some discussion by worthy film fans possible.



Well, time for honesty... this is a very poorly edited film and the HD appearance is totally lackluster. It's an odd, erratically flowing movie (see 'uncut' comments above)... BUT, I did like it for some weird reason (and that reason shouldn't disclude the stunning Miss Ekland - Asylum, The Wicker Man, Get Carter, Machine Gun McCain, The Man With the Golden Gun). Even the weak image quality can't seem to tarnish her abundant sexuality. Yes, she is frequently in various stages of nudity. The storyline is intriguing but the inferior a/v quality certainly is distracting. However, this may be as good as it gets for this appealing cult film. Potential purchasers have been warned.  

Gary Tooze

November 27th, 2014


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Gary W. Tooze






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