Handsome American recording star, Nick Cooper (Jack Jones), returns America to kick start his music career in England after an absence of six years, and on the back of enduring the heartache of a crumbling marriage. Under the guidance of cynical recording manager, Webster Jones (David Doyle), Nick tries to dedicate himself to singing once again but soon discovers that his manager is a man of fickle loyalties. Unbeknownst to Nick though, his wife Gail (Holly Palance) has also returned to England and is discovered brutally murdered by a squawking woman-like creature... Strange things are afoot in Nick's house at night with the eerie sounds of mysterious crying and moaning coming from the walls. Disturbed by the murder of his wife Nick is told by his manager that he must be imagining it, but when he comes face to face with a skeletal corpse and discovers a rotting head that looks like Gail's, it seems that either Nick is going mad or something frighteningly real is occurring. But then the killer strikes again…
In a move Director Pete Walker describes as ‘making a rod for his own back’, ‘The Comeback’ swaps genders for the usual ‘woman in peril’ motif of many of his films by making singer/songwriter Nick Cooper (Jack Jones, very effective in a role for which power-crooner Bryan Ferry was also considered) the victim of nefarious goings-on.
Cooper secludes himself in a mansion in order to write a follow-up to his last successful album, released six years before, after which his career was put on hold because he wished to concentrate on his then new wife. Sheila Keith is sublime as the sinister house-keeper Mrs B, whose superficial old-school pleasantries seem to mask something infinitely more sinister – the kind of role that Keith excels at. Whilst this is happening, Cooper’s ex-wife has been murdered in their marital apartment and is caked in a riot of the brightest blood you ever did see – and that is where she remains for a vast chunk of the running time.
Cooper has an unfortunate ability to surround himself with unpleasant types. Or red-herrings. Apart from his selfish ex, there’s sleazy right-hand man Harry, his cross-dressing manager Webster (Charlie’s Angels’ David Doyle) as well as Mr and Mrs B. The exception to this unpleasantness is Webster's beautiful secretary Linda (comedienne, sex therapist and future Mrs Billy Connolly Pamela Stephenson), who instigates a relationship with Cooper.
The killings continue at a leisurely pace, by someone in a shawl and a mask, which could mean Webster. Increasingly it seems as if Mrs B might have something to do with it. As in many Pete Walker films, she represents the respectable (but frequently psychotic!) older generation disgusted with the lapsed morals of the young (if 40 – Jack Jones’ age at the time - is considered young). Equally, Cooper hears a young girl sobbing at night, and Linda could be responsible for that. He also suffers what he believes are several gruesome hallucinations.
The film comes across as a television thriller with horror overtones, and is played very well by its cast (including Bill Owen, and ‘House of Whipcord’s Penny Irving). The revelation at the end, [SPOILER] is that Mr and Mrs B had a daughter who worshipped Nick Cooper’s music, and killed herself when he got married, and it is them and their madness that were responsible for everything that had happened.
Cooper is understandably shocked, but relieved he wasn’t going mad after all, but as he leaves the mansion at the end, he turns to see the dead daughter at the window.