Daughter of Darkness: The Horror Films of Chloe Franks

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Chloe Franks was a staple of British horror of the 1970s. DAVID TURNBULL takes us through the horror films of the former English child actor

Daughter of Darkness: The Horror Films of Chloe Franks 1

If come across a British horror film made in the early 70s which features a little girl playing the daughter of one of the main characters the chances are you will be watching Chloe Franks.

Born in Hammersmith in 1963 Franks, as child actor seemed, for a while, to have cornered the market for such roles, regularly appearing alongside horror icons such as Christopher Lee.

Although her appearances were not exclusively horror she clocked up an impressive eight horror film appearances between 1970 and 1977.

Her first appearance was in Trog (1970), starring Joan Crawford (in her last film) and Michael Gough. The plot centres on the discovery of a prehistoric troglodyte deep in a cave in the English countryside and the experiments by an anthropologist (Crawford) to communicate with it through drugs and hypnosis, and attempts to get it to engage in play with children’s toys.

When the creature rebels and escapes into a nearby village it goes on a murderous spree before snatching a young girl (Chloe Franks) from a school playground and taking her back to its cave. The troglodyte, played by professional wrestler, Joe Cornelius, is then impaled on a stalagmite during an assault and successful rescue attempt by the army.

Mark Lester and Chloe Franks in Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?
Mark Lester and Chloe Franks in Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?

A year later she appeared as the daughter of Christopher Lee in the Amicus Productions anthology film The House that Dripped Blood. In the segment called Sweets to the Sweet, Nyree Dawn Porter is hired as her private tutor. It is revealed that her departed mother was a witch and Lee’s strict parenting methods are designed to avoid Chloe’s character’s dark magical powers coming to the fore. Acquiring mother’s skills she tortures Lee via the use of a voodoo doll, finally burning him to death when she coldly tosses the effigy into the fire.

In the same year she had a walk on part as a girl in a darkened alleyway in Milton Subotsky’s 1971 Amicus Production’s Jekyll and Hyde inspired I, Monster, again starring Christopher Lee, accompanied by Peter Cushing, who also appeared in another segment of The House That Dripped Blood.

I, Monster, is considered to be one of the closest cinema interpretations of Robert Louis Stephenson’s original novella, although the names of the characters were changed for the film.

Chloe went on to appear in another daughter role in scenes filmed for Sam Peckinpah’s controversial Straw Dogs also in 1971. These were, however, deleted from the final cut.

But she was back the following year with a much bigger role in the 1972 Hansel and Gretel reimagining Who Slew Auntie Roo? –  appearing alongside Mark Lester star of the musical Oliver! For some notion of grammatical correctness the British release was renamed Whoever Slew Auntie Roo. Which doesn’t role off the tongue as half as nicely as its rhyming counterpart.

Chloe Franks with Joan Collins in Tales From The Crypt.
Chloe Franks with Joan Collins in Tales From The Crypt.

The plot concerns Auntie Roo (Shelley Winters), a deranged but wealthy widow, who keeps the mummified corpse of her dead daughter locked up in the nursery. Her tradition is to invite local orphans to a Christmas Party at her country home. When brother and sister, Christopher and Katy, played by Mark Lester and Chloe sneak into the party Auntie Roo kidnaps Katy and then captures Christopher when he tries to rescue her. Convinced she plans to cook and eat them like some fairy tale witch the pair make their escape and burn down the house with Auntie Roo locked in the pantry.

Another Amicus Productions anthology film followed in the same year. In Tales From the Crypt, based on the 1940s EC horror comic series of the same name, she plays Joan Collins’ daughter. In the segment entitled And All Through the House Collins has just murdered her husband on Christmas Eve. While trying to figure out how to dispose of the warm corpse she hears on the radio that a psychotic killer has escaped from a mental institution dressed as Santa Claus.

When Collins sees the killer outside the house she realises that she can’t call the police for fear of exposing herself as a murderer. Unfortunately her daughter, Carol, played by Chloe opens the front door and lets him in, believing him to be the real Santa. Murderous Collins then gets her comeuppance through strangulation at the hands of the madman in front of the seasonal Christmas hearth.

Chloe then played a daughter again in the 1976 film The Deadly Females, in which a group of glamorous housewives lead double lives as hired assassins.

Chloe Franks in The Uncanny.
Chloe Franks in The Uncanny.

In 1977 she returned once more to the genre of horror anthology. While the film The Uncanny wasn’t an Amicus production, it was co-produced by Milton Subotsky. Chloe plays Angela whose cousin Lucy (Katrina Bronson, adopted daughter of Charles Bronson) comes to live in her house when her parents are killed in an accident. She brings with her a black cat who Samantha despises and engineers through a series of false accusations to have thrown out of the house. In act of revenge Lucy uses a spell from her dead mother’s spell book to reduce Samantha to the size of a mouse (the mother was a witch plot from The House that Dripped Blood revisited with a twist.)

Chloe then appeared in the musical A Little Night Music with Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Rigg. Her television appearances in the 1970s included episodes of The Persuaders, Follyfoot and Heidi.

In the1990s she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and became an active disability rights campaigner.

She is not to be confused with another actress named Chloe Franks who has appeared in Dorian Gray (2008), John Carter (2011) and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (2011).

Other child actors with roles in classic horror film include.

Who is your favourite creepy kid – and what horror film, or films, did they appear in? Tell us in the comments section below!

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