Your Daily NEL: New English Library

Cheap and Nasty Seventies Horror Pulp

Brian Ball – Lessons For The Damned

Posted by demonik on September 15, 2007

Brian Ball – Lessons For The Damned (Nel, 1971)

Brian Ball Lessons

I thoroughly enjoyed Ball’s The Venomous Sepent a few months back, so I’d been looking forward to the day when Lesson for the Damned worked its way to the top of the ‘to be read’ pile – and now that it has, thankfully it in no way disappointed.

Penelope (Penny) Carstairs is an ordinary junior school teacher in the village of Hoggins in the Peak District, except for the fact that she’s a nymphomaniac and bored. She’s screwing two men at the moment, Claude Witherington, the married headmaster of her school, who knows exactly what to do to please her in their pre-school sessions (though the old cleaner is getting suspicious). Bruce Tyler the farmer’s son, on the other hand doesn’t have much of a clue, but is strong, athletic and crazy about climbing rocks, cliffs, even buildings in the village. In one scene he climbs up to her bedroom – “Penny! The bloody catch is fastened! Let me in! Come on! I’m holding on by a fingernail and my right bollock!”

Her two very boring domesticated housewife friends Jean and Anne-Marie (whose particularly ugly baby gets called Sweetie the whole time) persuade Penny to go a night school class run by Alcybiades Barton and learns of a supposed witch buried up alive against the church wall two hundred years ago.

That’s all the plot I’m going to give, as I’d hate to ruin it for those of you yet to read this wonderful slice of 70s kitsch.

The only thing that lets it down slightly is a “To the Devil a Daughter”-type weak ending, but apart from that it’s spot-on. Curt didn’t think much of it at “Groovy Age of Horror”, but then he is a yank  :)  I reckon he missed a lot of the Britishness about the characters, little Jimmy West dropping his pencil and trying to see her knickers in class, the school fete and assemblies, singing rugby songs in the pub on a Friday night – this gets a solid 7.5 from me, just below “Venomous Sepent” and “Tanith” but above “Village of Blood.”

Review by Severance

See also Vault’s Brian Ball thread

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