This review was written 43 years too late
Depending on how old you are, David Hemmings is the swinging 60s fashion photographer who might have snapped a murder in “Blowup“, the inventor of “Airwolf“, or the pointy eye-browed guy in charge of competition in “Gladiator“. Back in the early 70s, he was a bit of a name for a while, and he used this clout to get “Unman, Wittering and Zigo” made.
Directed with flair by John MacKenzie (“The Long Good Friday“), carrying off the always difficult trick of expanding original stage material to the cinema, he puts Hemmings in the remote Chantry school as the replacement master for the class Lower 5B. It doesn’t take long for the boys, who all carry on with the arrogance of future Tory ministers, to start remarking that they in fact killed Hemmings’ predecessor. (One of the kids is played by actor-turned-Labour-politician Michael Cashman.)
The film introduces this early on, giving a sense of not pulling any punches, and making for an enjoyable first act. With this quickly established, you start trying to figure where the film will go next.
And off it goes into some fun, dark places where, thankfully, restraint is employed to greater effect than pursuing the expected outcomes of an exploitation horror.
It’s “Unman’s…” strength – the film does not set out to be an exploitation orgy, nor is it a by-the-numbers horror or thriller. It’s more discomforting than anything else, creating a sense of unease without any of local weirdo camping-it-up to be found in Robin Hardy‘s otherwise excellent classic “The Wicker Man” a few years later.
Only the finale marginally disappoints, somehow lacking the climactic punch the film deserves as we learn about the titular trio of the title.
Watch a clip: