Deadly Advice (1994)


UK. 1994.


Director – Mandie Fletcher, Screenplay – Glenn Chandler, Producer – Nigel Stafford-Clark, Photography – Richard Greatrex, Music – Richard Harvey, Production Design – Christopher Hobbs. Production Company – Mayfair Entertainment International/Zenith Productions


Jane Horrocks (Jodie Greenwood), Imelda Staunton (Beth Greenwood), Ian Abbey (Bunny), Brenda Fricker (Iris Greenwood), Jonathan Pryce (Dr Ted Phillips), Edward Woodward (Herbert Rowse Armstrong), Hywel Bennett (Dr Crippen), Billie Whitelaw (Kate Webster), Sir John Mills (Alfred Wicken, Jack the Ripper), Jonathan Hyde (George Joseph Smith)


Jodie Greenwood works as a second-hand bookstore clerk in a small Welsh village. She is dominated by her autocratic, religious mother, who is outraged when she finds Jodie has been meeting the local doctor over lunch. Jodie then starts to receive visions of famous murderers from English history who suggest that she should dispose of her mother and debate among themselves the best way of her doing so. One night Jodie goes and plants an axe in her mother’s head. She and her sister Beth throw the body in the reservoir and tell everyone their mother has gone away to visit a sick aunt. However, after Beth moves into the house with a male stripper Bunny and an attraction grows between Jodie and Bunny, the ghosts start urging Jodie to kill Beth as well.

There is a certain something in the British psyche that regards murder and horror as luridly entertaining, even cheerfully comic – from the 19th Century penny dreadfuls to the popularity of the Sweeney Todd story and the drollery of Agatha Christie, even the gross-out surrealism of Monty Python. And there was of course Hammer Films who, after the outrage had died, were accepted by the establishment and even received the Queen’s Award for Industry – one strains to imagine a Hollywood horror studio ever receiving an equivalent presidential commendation. Deadly Advice feels like an idea that might have suddenly popped it into the writer’s head after a trip to Madame Tussaud’s. It treats its story of murderous dispatch with considerable merriment.

The film brings together a great cast. Jane Horrocks has built a career up out of playing bizarre stick-insect figures, gaining her greatest exposure as the secretary from another planet on tv’s Absolutely Fabulous (1992-6) and her acclaimed dramatic role in Little Voice (1998). Her performance here comes delivered with a gawky, almost spastic, outlandishness, a ditzy high-pitch girlish voice and a series of totally wide-eyed double takes. Double takes are where the film seems to be directed from – Imelda Staunton’s reactions as she first sees Ian Abbey doing his stripper routine are priceless. The murderers are a wonderful bunch – from the jolly urbanity of Edward Woodward’s performance to Hywel Bennett as the prissy Dr Crippen. Although the show is stolen by Sir John Mills as Jack the Ripper, which Mills plays hilariously mild-mannered, he cheerfully explaining how he got away with it all by simply appearing anonymous.

Deadly Advice was the first feature film for British director Mandie Fletcher who has had a long career working in British tv, in particular comedies with shows such as Only Fools and Horses (1981-2003), Blackadder (1982-9) and Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2012) to her name. She returned to cinema screens with Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016).

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