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The Sadist
Profile of Terror / Sweet Baby Charlie

USA 1963
produced by
L. Steven Snyder for Fairway-International
directed by James Landis
starring Arch Hall jr, Richard Alden, Marilyn Manning, Helen Hovey, Don Russell
written by James Landis, music by Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter, cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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When their car's gaspump breaks down on their way to a baseball game, 3 highschool teachers (Richard Alden, Helen Hovey, Don Russell) seem to be in luck when they hardly make it to a gas station somewhere in the wastelands. Oddly enough there seems to be noone around, so the trio decides to fix the gaspump by themselves in order to reach the stadium in time ... when all of a sudden Arch Hall jr & his gril Marilyn Manning show up. It soon becomes apparent they don't mean good, as Hall forces the teachers to do his bidding at gunpoint (which, in the case of Richard Alden, is still to fix the gaspump). Soon he shoots Don Russell - just for fun - & hardly surprising he turns out to be a wanted serial killer. As 2 cops arrive, he shows no hesitation in shooting them down neither, & he makes it clear to Alden that his lease of life does run out once he fixed the gaspump - unless Alden wants to be shot on the spot. But after Alden makes a few (failed) escape-attempts, Hall decides to shoot him just now. A struggle ensues in which Hall accidently shoots his girl Manning. Infuriated, he chases Alden until he has him cornered & empties his gun on him. Then he sets out to get Hovey, but having almost caught up with her, he falls into a snakepit - facing the maybe only creatures even more ruthless then he is - & is killed by the snakes. Her ordeal over, Hovey hears about the baseball game's first strike on the radio ...

 

That this movie is actually filmed in real time (in the beginning someone comments on the game starting in 1 ½ hours, at the end, 1 ½ hours later, the game begins) is actually only the least of its merits (& it might not have been a merit at all, wasn't the direction of this movie extra-tense). First of all, this movie deals with a topic quite unusual for a thriller of the early 1960s (serial killers didn't become a big budget-Hollywood mainstay until the early 1990's actually, with movies like Silence of the Lambs, Kalifornia or Seven, to randomly name a few), & Arch Hall jr, who was previously ridiculed for playing a wannabe teenage heartthrob in movies like Wild Guitar or Eegah (& rightfully so), does an excellent job in playing the psycho (based loosely on the then current serial killer Charles Starkweather). Alden's character on the other hand does not show the same self assuredness of the usual B-movie hero, often acting cowardly when he could have easily won the day (a particularly good scene is when he tries to figure out how many bullets Hall has left in his gun. Hall does notice this, though, & gives him a chance to find out. Alden loses his courage, though - Don Siegel, or at least someone who worked on Dirty Harry, must have been pretty impressed by this scene, for the trademark-line of Clint Eastwood's character was outrightly stolen from Arch Hall's "... but you don't know how many bullets I have"). The camerawork by Vilmos Zsigmond is outstanding, too, making best use of the outdoor wasteland locations & actually turning them into a claustrophobic setting, while many techniques to heighten the suspense do show a genuine cinematic language that wouldn't be expected from a cheap contryside thriller (particularly impressing is the scene when Hall & Manning are making out on the carseat, high on the power they (think to) have while outside, on the other side of the hood, Alden & Hovey desperately try to contemplate their escape - with the emphasis on desperately).

In all, even though this movie has found some admirers over the past few years (mainly 'cause of Hall's unusual performance, though), it is still unjustly underappreciated and more than ripe for rediscovery & reevaluation.

Highly recommended !

 

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD