THE INTRUDER (1975) Blu-ray
Director: Chris Robinson
Garagehouse Pictures

Chris Robinson's long-lost third directorial effort THE INTRUDER comes to Blu-ray in a new restoration/recovery from Garagehouse Pictures.

Summoned to an isolated island mansion for a secret meeting, the relatives of "Old Man Axel" Luben find their host Henry Peterson has been delayed and it is up to attorney McGowan (Robert Leslie) to explain to them that Peterson claims to have the gold that reportedly went down with Luben in a plane crash in Bogota, Columbia. Fearful of the attention drawn on him and Luben's assets by the suits brought against the estate by Luben's relatives – among them suave Reardon (Robinson, STANLEY), fearful Tuttleman, rotund martial artist De Sarro (Warren Siciliano), Nichols (Patricia Hornung), sour DuPriest (Yvonne De Carlo, HOUSE OF SHADOWS), and Luben's fragile mistress (Robinson's wife Phyllis) – Peterson has called them to the island to split the gold among them. They are understandably skeptical about the proposal and even suggest that Peterson and a possibly still-alive Luben are lurking in the shadows to knock them all off one-by-one. Someone certainly is, and the bodies start turning up as they search the estate for the killer and the gold.

Yet another play on the "Ten Little Indians" formula with some proto-slasher POV shots and bodies dropping out to scare the survivors, the Florida-lensed THE INTRUDER is no great lost work but its rediscovery is welcome despite its many weaknesses. The scenario is played-out enough that the plot specifics are not really necessary after the setup, but the script is so threadbare that there is almost nothing approaching characterization of the guests who do not even merit first names and some not even that (as in the case of Phyllis Robinson's pivotal character). The largely non-professional acting is such that the characters barely react to the murders and largely sleepwalk even when they are not actually sleeping onscreen. Professional actor Robinson has barely given himself much to do but Ted Cassidy (THE ADDAMS FAMILY) actually gets some dramatic moments. There are some suspenseful bits, including a striking and jolting shot of the killer illuminated by lightning outside the window of an unsuspecting character. The cinematography of Jack McGowan (CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS) is of a surprisingly high standard and the Florida mansion location and surrounding swamplands provide some much-needed atmosphere along with memorable score of Tommy Oliver (ACAPULCO H.E.A.T.) which juxtaposes classical piano against willowy synthesizer. Mickey Rooney pops up long enough to ferry the guests to the island before getting killed atop a lighthouse. Had the film not been lost, one could easily imagine it as a daytime TV or late night mainstay during the 1980s.

Unreleased theatrically or on home video, THE INTRUDER comes to Blu-ray in a 4K restoration of the only 35mm print struck from the now lost original camera negative, and the seldom-if-ever projected image is remarkably clean throughout with stable colors, deep blacks, and crisp detail apart from the opening titles which were likely cheaply made. The LPCM 2.0 mono track is also very clean with sound effects and music having a nice presence compared to the muttered dialogue of the low-key performances (optional English SDH subtitles are helpfully included but must be selected via remote). The extras include an audio commentary by Robinson who recalls that the film's quick development and production were necessitated by his brother-in-law's need to write-off a sum of money before the end of the year. He proudly recalls how he was able to fund the entire production on this $25,000 sum including union wages for the cast and crew as well as his own DGA and WGA dues and salary thanks to the free use of the mansion by the owners who were impressed by Rooney and de Carlo (who each worked one day), employing non-professional actors including his wife and two men who worked for his sailing company, and how screening the film for Quinn Martin lead to the opportunity to direct some episodes of BARNABY JONES and CANNON (Robinson having previously and subsequently appeared in a number of Quinn Martin productions including a regular role on 12 O'CLOCK HIGH and a number of guest appearances).

Robinson also appears in 2008 video interview (24:42) conducted by Daniel Griffin in which he covers the whole of his career from elementary school acting to extended college semesters to have the opportunity to play some lead roles on stage, how he got an agent to be an actor but into acting via make-up effects on THE BEAST FROM THE HAUNTED CAVE, his subsequent television career, and his directorial work (at the time of the interview THE INTRUDER was lost). The disc also includes trailers for THE DISMEMBERED, NINJA BUSTERS, and the two TRAILER TRAUMA collections but the inside of the cover includes an informative essay by Garagehouse Pictures' Harry Guerro who reveals that the print was discovered in a neglected collection in the Mojave desert – the same treasure trove that netted the sources for Gargehouse's Blu-rays of NINJA BUSTERS and THE SATANIST – and was nearly left behind because he had never heard of the film and could find no information on it until Temple of Schlock's Chris Poggiali came across a single British Film Institute catalog listing for it (and even he assumed that the film might never have been completed or made at all). (Eric Cotenas)