Director: Curtis Harrington
Dark Sky Films/MPI

Thanks to several shoddy distribution deals, THE KILLING KIND had but a brief theatrical run, playing only a handful of drive-ins in middle-America before ultimately being shelved. It would be several decades later, during the height of the initial DVD boom, before the film could eventually be found in a variety of public domain DVD compilations. Often paired with James Landis’ THE SADIST, these bargain bin releases where of varying quality, often taken from either BETA SP or Digital BETA source tapes. Fortunately, cult film fans and drive-in aficionados can rely on Dark Sky Films to continue fighting the good fight as they have gone straight to the vault materials for their release of Curtis Harrington's seldom seen psychological opus.

Having been just released from jail after serving a two year sentence for sexual assault, Terry (John Savage) finds himself uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the California town he once called home. He immediately heads for recognizable ground, surprising his mother Thelma (Ann Sothern) on the doorstep of her Hollywood boarding house. Thrilled to see her young man after so many years, she drops everything to pick up from where they last left off, as if not a day has passed. Terry’s homecoming is promptly followed by the arrival of a new tenant to the inn, Lori (Cindy Williams). Breaking her usual rule of only letting to aging widows, Thelma rents Lori the room but warns her to keep her distance from her son. Unbeknownst to Lori, Terry has his own intentions, peeping in through her bedroom window at night unaware that he is himself being spied upon by his cloistered neighbor Louise (Luana Anders, DEMENTIA 13). Lori is not the only woman to capture Terry’s imagination though, as both Tina (the lovely Sue Bernard, FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!), the girl whose accusations set him to jail, and Ms. Benson (Ruth Roman), Terry’s lawyer (the back of the disc's case incorrectly lists her as the judge who sentenced him) are tracked down and confronted. Eventually any female who crossed Terry’s path discovers they may be in for more that they bargained for.

Originally titled ARE YOU A GOOD BOY?, THE KILLING KIND's strongest assets rest on the performances of its principal cast, particularly Ann Sothern, who steals the show as Terry’s doting mother Thelma. Her interactions with her son allude to an almost oedipal relationship but do so subtly, without forcing the odd nature of their bond in your face. Her insistence on being kissed on the lips as apposed to the cheek and the fact that any stressful situation (even cleaning up after a murder) can be calmed with a glass of chocolate milk, illustrate Thelma’s desire to have a man around the house and her reluctance to let go of her little boy. Perfectly complimenting Ann, John Savage's (best known for his role in THE DEER HUNTER) take on Terry is one of confused innocence. His interactions with members of the opposite sex are similar to those of cat with a new toy or recently discovered rodent, at first inquisitive, trying to get a feel of their nature and temperament. However gradually, his exchanges become more playful and eventually are taken to the next level of seeing how much taunting it takes before his new toy will break. I was also surprised at how attractive and capable Cindy Williams was as Lori, as I was never a fan of "Laverne and Shirley."

While the film sets up Terry's past sexual indiscretion before the opening credits, it is not until several scenes later -- when he is peeping on the disrobing Lori -- that his darker side starts to shine through. Holding his mother's white cat, Terry hides in the bushes just outside Lori’s bedroom window. When the felines meowing gets Lori’s attention, Terry clasps the cat's throat shut and hides just out of sight. Terry watches Lori intently; seemingly unaware that he is strangling the pet until after the fact. From that point on, Terry’s rage and confusion begins to spiral deeper and faster with each female encounter. While Curtis Harrington’s pacing may seem a little slow for some, it is nonetheless an effective psychological study of a murderer. Although compared to similar fare, such as HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, THE KILLING KIND can feel quite quaint.

Presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the film looks fairly well for having been sitting a vault in L.A., collecting dust for the past few decades. Some daylight scenes are a bit too bright and there is film grain that shows up throughout the film's 95 minute running time, but neither is for the most part distracting. English audio is on hand in a strong Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track with optional English language subtitles that are legible and without error.

The disc’s one and only bonus feature is a sit down interview with Curtis Harrington, his last before his death in May of 2007. Mr. Harrington reminisces about his years at USC and how he was able to parlay his early short avant-garde films into an office on the Paramount lot. The interview never touches on his involvement with a variety of television shows throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, but instead focuses solely on his theatrical works. Touching on his early involvement with Roger Corman and his very vocal displeasure of Steve Krantz, producer of RUBY, the featurette is an interesting look at a director through his own words and recollections. (Jason McElreath)