The IMDb lists The Rape as a video title for this 1973 Low Countries giallo (aka Niet voor de Poesen), but I vividly remember seeing a lurid trailer for it under that title in the mid-1970s. Directed by Fons Rademakers (the ‘mother’ in Daughters of Darkness), who also co-wrote the script (with Hugo Claus), it’s adapted from the novel by the English crime writer Nicolas Freeling, has a mix of British and Dutch actors (including a young, pre-Emmanuelle Sylvie Kristel) and seems to have been filmed in English. Freeling’s books feature Amsterdam cop Inspector Van der Valk, most familiar in Britain from the TV series starring Barry Foster (which had an irritatingly catchy theme tune that was a Euro-hit for months), who is generally seen as an elder, home-making Maigret-type figure – his wife is co-sleuth in some stories – but is here played by Bryan Marshall as a younger, studlier character. Though it’s established early on that Piet Van der Valk is married, nearly his first move while on an out-of-town case is to shack up with a call-girl (Alexandra Stewart) who becomes his prime informant.
It opens with a group of dissolute suburban youths, all the sons of the wealthy, stealing a car and setting out to burgle and vandalise the apartment of an antique dealer. Then, in an odd bit of flash-forward-and-back, van der Valk comes onto the crime scene and interviews the victims, who suffered a Clockwork Orange-style attack as the husband was forced to watch while five of the six youths raped his wife – when one of the criminals refuses to join the rape, he is told ‘the Cats won’t like it’, which is the crucial clue that takes van der Valk to a seaside town where the local rich kid gang are called the Ravens and their bike-riding elite girlfriends are the Cats. The initial rape is a nasty sequence, though it’s not the strangest scene in the film, which comes when the Cats lure a recalcitrant Raven to the sea by stripping naked and skinny-dipping with him (Kristel has sex with the lad underwater) and then set upon him like killer mermaids and drown him. The real-life inspiration for Freeleng’s story becomes apparent when van der Valk deduces that the prime mover in all this evil-doing is Jansen (Sebastian Graham Jones), the Manson-like owner of a gaming arcade where the kids hang out who has been filling their heads with weird, lunatic philosophy.
The film see-saws between vicious and cosy, with familiar British faces (Edward Judd, George Baker) and old-fashioned sleuthing (another significant clue is a talking parrot who quotes the title) co-existing with exploitation-style shock and a seamy, slightly stylised vision of the kids’ made-up cult. But it drops the Ravens and the Cats surprisingly early, almost dismissing their responsibility for their own crimes, and comes down to a face-off between van der Valk and Jansen – Marshall (I Start Counting, The Long Good Friday) is aptly moral but macho (he even has a full-frontal scene, since this offers equal opportunity nudity in the 1970s European manner) and Jones (whose only other major role was as ‘John Pentacle’, a nemesis of the hero magician in the Ace of Wands series) makes for a louche, Mick Jagger lookalike Pied Piper of Evil. Stewart is good too as the gun-toting hooker who saves the day, just as Jansen has promised to stamp on every one of the hero’s ribs. The storytelling is slightly awkward, with several logical leaps that seem like ellipses, but the mood is effectively unsettling.