LOVE ME DEADLY (1973)
Director: Jacques Lacerte
Shriek Show/Media Blasters

In the 1970s, a decade when it seemed every cinematic taboo had been broken, LOVE ME DEADLY was the only horror film to tackle necrophilia as its main focus, years before the German-made NEKROMANTIK ushered the subject into the video age. Little seen throughout the years (except for those who rented the big-boxed VHS tape from “ma and pa” rental shops back in the 1980s), the film was to be released on DVD by Grindhouse saviors Code Red, who instead have licensed it to former distributor Media Blasters for their horror-oriented “Shriek Show” label.

Young, attractive and independently wealthy Lindsay Finch (Mary Wilcox) drops in on funerals, veiled and garbed in black. Lindsay is not mourning anyone she actually knows, but rather is looking for deceased men in their 30s to make love to, as she can not do so with any breathing man. Lindsay’s occasional beau Wade (Christopher Stone, THE HOWLING) gets his cheek cat-scratched when he attempts to kiss her breasts, but he keeps coming back despite her frigidness. In the meantime, Lindsay keeps having sepia-toned flashbacks to a seemingly happy childhood with her loving father, and gets stalked by the creepy Fred McSweeney (Timothy Scott), a funeral director who knows about her necrophilia urges. Through stalking, Fred tries to initiate her into his small sect of devil-worshiping, murderous corpse mongers, who hold secret meetings behind closed doors. Lindsay is able to find love with handsome art gallery owner Alex Martin (Lyle Waggoner!!!), and agrees to marry him, but her icy wedding night jitters and hidden secrets are more than he bargained for.

Although necrophilia should be an exceedingly disturbing and nauseating theme for any movie, LOVE ME DEADLY results in mostly a camp-fest directed by someone who obviously had little knowledge of the horror genre and no film experience whatsoever. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not a watchable time capsule curio, and the backdrop of early 1970s Southern California is just as interesting as the actors themselves. The sight of statuesque Mary Wilcox kissing actors pretending to be corpses while not trying to crack a welcomed smile is amusing, and this is about as intense as her necrophilic activities get. Actually, the film’s most unsettling bit has Timothy Scott's sleazeball Fred McSweeney character picking up a male prostitute in front of a gay moviehouse, bringing him back to a mortician’s lab, strapping him naked to an operating table, and slicing into him and embalming him alive as he screams for mercy. Some of the film’s sporadic gore make-up was done by Bob Westmoreland, who also makes a cameo as a casket-bound cadaver.

Morbid scenes juxtaposed with romantic “walking through the park” interludes make the film all the more bizarre, especially when accompanied by the over-optimistic score by Phil Moody and a duo of self-profound ballads crooned by Kit Fuller in full Shirley Bassey mode. But it’s the presence of Lyle Waggoner that brings the film to another level altogether. Sure, it wasn’t uncommon for a TV star in the 1970s to do an exploitation movie at the same time his or her series was still on the air (Susan Sennett from “Ozzie’s Girls” is a good example), but we’re talking about the guy from "The Carol Burnett Show", the top rated sketch comedy show of its time in a drive-in movie about necrophilia! Waggoner certainly wants to leave this one off of his resume.

With her offbeat good looks and killer body, Mary Wilcox did a number of guest spots on television series and made sexy appearances in horror films such as THE BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT and THE PSYCHIC KILLER before disappearing. The IMDB mixes her credits up with Mary Charlotte Wilcox, the Canadian-born comic actress who replaced Catherine O’Hara on SCTV and later became an Anglican priest – they are not the same person. H.B. Halicki, the late renaissance man behind the original GONE IN 60 SECONDS, appears briefly in a party scene and also served as an associate producer. If you have a taste for early 1970s independently made psychological horror films shot in California (such as SCREAM BLOODY MURDER and THE BABY) you’ll definitely want to seek out LOVE ME DEADLY.

Transferred from original 35mm vault elements, Media Blasters presents LOVE ME DEADLY in a fine-looing DVD presented anamorphic in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image looks quite good, with very bright colors, vivid detail and very few blemishes – several brief shots look soft or grainy, but this probably attributed to the film’s ultra low budget. The mono English audio has a few hissy parts, but is still a strong enough track.

The supplements include an audio commentary with producer Buck Edwards (who sadly, passed away in late 2007) moderated by Greg Goodsell. While sometimes the participants tend to just talk about the on-screen action, the commentary still has some revealing stories about guerilla filmmaking, such as when Edwards describes how they shot in various places without permits, or how female and male prostitutes were hired to do nudity (for the film’s ceremonial cult scenes) because they would do it for $50 bucks each. Edwards and Goodsell must have been watching an un-matted version of the film, as several times boom mics are referred to which we don’t actually see in this properly letterboxed variant. Other features include a still gallery (various video covers, poster art and black and white photos), a theatrical trailer (“WARNING! THIS FILM IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR CHILDREN” – ya think?!!) and a second one which looks to be TV spot (and oddly, it has an MGM logo in front of it!). An “Easter Egg” on the “features” menu is “Exhumed: The Nether Regions of LOVE ME DEADLY." This showcases scenes matted and un-matted (with side by side comparisons) to reveal a few interesting things that the letterboxing hides (e.g. below the belt nudity). (George R. Reis)

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