March is Sexy Psycho Month at Something Weird Video! Released the same day as the awkwardly entertaining DAY OF THE NIGHTMARE/SCREAM OF THE BUTTERFLY, this double feature pairs a color drive-in thriller with a black-and-white grindhouse sickie. Both deliver the goods in one of SWV's best double feature discs of the year.
It is night. A beautiful young woman undresses in her dark bedroom and as she reaches to close her window, a man's hand grabs her abruptly and forces himself into her room. And so she is introduced to THE PSYCHO LOVER, or as he is known in reality, Marco, a misogynistic nut who is (correctly) suspected of a series of nasty nylon murders. The only man who knows for sure that he is the culprit is smirking psychiatrist Kenneth Alden. But rather than turn into the police, he would rather use Marco's bent personality to his advantage. Burdened with a wife who refuses him a divorce so he can frolic with his sexy mistress ever after (they go sledding down a grassy hill in July while a Partridge Family-clone song plays!), he hypnotizes Marco into committing the perfect crime...or so he thinks....
The best description for THE PSYCHO LOVER is to label it an American counterpart to Renato Polselli's Italian sleaze masterpiece DELIRIUM starring Mickey Hargitay. The murder sequences are unbearably intense, with blaring music, incredible lighting, and women that fight for their life, resulting in superior extended setpieces. And also as in Polselli's film, there is at least one off-the-wall dream sequence that will leave your jaw on the floor. Psychedelic colors, nude women, Kabuki actor make-up, and random hypnotic phrases will stamp an imprint on your brain. The Polselli parallels continue: there is a shower/bath strangulation and a multiple murder finale. All exploitation elements aside, director Robert Vincent O'Neill delivers a taut, well-directed little thriller. The meager budget is made all the more obvious by the number of dialogue scenes (a sure money-saver), some of which slow the film to a grinding halt. But once you begin nodding off, sex, violence, and oh so many plot twists rear their ugly heads! And the surprise ending is a (literally) electrifying twist that will leave you reeling! Most memorable in the cast is Joan Meredith as the bitter loveless wife who has a few tricks up her sleeve. Much more deserving of a cult reputation than most other Something Weird titles (I'm looking at you, STREET OF A THOUSAND PLEASURES!!), PSYCHO LOVER comes highly recommended for any cult/horror film fan.
After the adrenaline rush of PSYCHO LOVER, it's time to settle down with a subtler creepiness in HEAT OF MADNESS. Opening with June Roberts (a cult fave of NYC nudies that isn't even mentioned on the cover!) posing for obsessive photographer John, the scene is interrupted by pretty courier Susan (Jennifer Laird of SCARECROW IN A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS) returning his sketches from an ad agency. Love at first sight leads to the two becoming engaged...but when John is assigned to shoot a series of photos for the book "Great Sex Murders" (for some reason, one of them is a spider?!), he becomes possessed with violence and hatred, lashing out at Susan and working his models to the bone. When Susan breaks their engagement, all hell breaks loose and John's mind crumbles in a flash.
Compared to other roughies of the period that frequented NYC grindhouses, HEAT OF MADNESS must have disappointed the raincoat crowd. And there are bound to be viewers who are let down by the limited amount of skin and gore to warrant multiple viewings. But this is one film that will crawl under your skin, deeper and deeper as the running time progresses. With only a few scenes of naked models and one instance of violence, the film is expected to glide by on dialogue. Surprisingly, much of the film succeeds without the expected sexploitation contents. Kevin Scott and Jennifer Laird are two very good leads; Scott especially gets to work his acting muscles in many of his manic over-the-top speeches and Laird is the typical lovely girlfriend who stands by her psychotic boyfriend. Cult film fans will love seeing cute little June Roberts (a favorite of SWV's Lisa Petrucci) and Diane Conti (the female lead in TEENAGE GANG DEBS!) as some of John's models, and even though there isn't enough vintage footage of NYC pre-Disney, the scuzzy feel of 42nd Street permeates the film's every frame. Not an especially solid roughie, but it's aged better than .
The transfer for PSYCHO LOVER (under the title THE LOVING TOUCH) is a revelation! According to #1 PSYCHO LOVER fan Marshall Crist, the VHS edition of the title was a permanent shade of pink. Not so here. The incredible color pallette of the film has never looked so enticingly beautiful as it has on this DVD. One particular murder sequence recalls the antique store stalking in Bava's BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, echoing the red and green gel flash lighting. The number of dirt spots can be counted on one hand and no lines or grain appear. Stunning transfer, even the darker scenes aren't as muddy as they should be. CONSIDERING HEAT OF MADNESS was distributed by exploitation bastard William Mishkin, it's a miracle any prints of the film exist anymore! One wonders if Lew Mishkin would have destroyed all prints of this one, too, like he did to Andy Milligan's b&w sex flicks, if SWV hadn't grabbed it first. Glancing at SWV's track record with their black-and-white transfers, this is one is expectedly gorgeous. Grain is consistent, but the black and white contrast is superb. The mono sound isn't so bad on PSYCHO LOVER, but the sound on HEAT OF MADNESS is way, way too low. Crank the volume, which is actually quite usual for Something Weird discs.
A collection of incredible psycho-sex trailers was compiled for this disc, and every one of them is a top contender for DVD release! THE PSYCHO LOVER trailer (courtesy of Marshall Crist) is here, but the preview for Heat of Madness no longer exists. Pete Walker's THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW is the only one of his horror films that hasn't been released or announced for the digital format yet. Redemption was supposed to be releasing it a while back, but I guess it fell through? A psycho killer stalks a group of actors in an abandoned theater. The victims are obvious (the couple having sex, the lesbian couple), and the preview introduces each character as a possible suspect while also naming the actor! Wonder if the film's worth it? POOR ALBERT AND LITTLE ANNIE is better known as I DISMEMBER MAMA. The preview sells the film very well, highlighting Albert's hatred for his mother and several misogynistic murders. Great dialogue and little Geri Reischl (Eve Plumb's replacement as 'Jan' on "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour"!!) make it worth seeing. A cheesy theme song, "Poor Albert", is best avoided. AROUSED! is a spectacular NYC roughie. I tracked down the movie after reading a very positive review by David White and was not disappointed; very well-made, well-acted, and the black-and-white photography is mouthwatering. The trailer sells lovely black hooker Fleurette Carter as the star of the film (for good reason; she deserved stardom after this film), there's great library music, lots of footage of 42nd Street, and the inspiration for the ending of MANIAC is completely obvious. Thank goodness it's hitting DVD in 2003! THE EXQUISITE CADAVER looked excellent on the TOY BOX/TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN DVD; starring Capucine as a lesbian who stalks and terrorizes the man who drove her lover to suicide, it's packed with memorable images, jazzy music, and with Ray Lovelock, Victor Israel, and Hammer and Pete Walker fave Judy Matheson. Wish it was hitting DVD (hint, hint). TWISTED NERVE is best-known for starring a grown-up Hayley Mills as the only friend of a schizophrenic murderer. Features some stylish suspense sequences and surprising nudity from the male lead Hywel Bennett. THE WOMAN HUNT is one of the great New World drive-in classics of the 1970s, shot entirely in the Philippines; a sexist version of "The Most Dangerous Game" starring cult fave Sid Haig, Eddie Garcia, several beautiful women, including Pat Woodell (THE BIG DOLL HOUSE), Charlene Jones (UNHOLY ROLLERS), Lisa Todd (THE DOLL SQUAD), and Jennifer Brooks (THE ADULT VERSION OF JEKYLL AND HIDE), and of course, Filipino leading man extraordinaire John Ashley. Who knows if New World is planning on releasing this on DVD, but it looks amazing and, of course, completely politically incorrect!!! SCREAM BLOODY MURDER looks like great fun! It's from 1973, and is not to be confused with two other films with the same title (one from 1972, the other from 1974; good three years for this title!). Matthew is a young man with no conscience who apparently stalks and kills anyone he wants to. One attack on a black maid is particularly disturbing! "See 13 of the world's most gruesome murders", proclaims the ad. Maybe they're right? "The first movie to be called gornography!!!!"
The shorts are a mixed bag. "The Naked Flower: A Fable of Love" tells the twisted story of the history of a house in Mexico. Martin, a gardener, has a perverted obsession with Elaine, the 11-year-old daughter of a general and his wife. He attempts to rape her and is put into an asylum. Years later, the grown Elaine is happily married...until Martin escapes to reclaim his beauty! Featuring a less-than-enthusiastic sex scene, lots of shots of people walking (shades of Barry Mahon), and only a few mild shots of gore, it's worth seeing once for curiosity's sake. The American-produced short was inserted into the black-and-white Argentinean crime drama LOVE HUNGER, and it's the only footage included in the theatrical trailer for that film! "Name Unknown" is a typically sick and twisted Sid Davis mental hygiene picture, telling you stupid young people to stop being so naive and trusting! A couple in lover's lane are held up by a stranger in a business suit, a teenage babysitter is kidnapped by a "prospective client", and a James Garner look-alike and his friend, a Glenn Ford look-alike, pick up two high school chicks for a "date" that goes horribly wrong I love the melodramatic narrator, but as cheesy as the short may seem, I must admit it's also pretty true-to-life. Want to know something really weird? The guy watching the "peanut in the shell game" at the carnival near the beginning of the short is the male lead in DAY OF THE NIGHTMARE!! WOWSA! "Captain Bondage vs. Womens' Lib" is an 8mm short stag film that boggles the mind. A free-thinking woman of the 70s is visited by a masked "super-hero" with a giant B on his belt! The woman hilariously attempts some half-assed judo on the guy, only to be put in handcuffs by the guy, ball-gagged and tied up! He then takes her back to his place where she joins his collection of similarly tied and gagged women! Politically incorrect? You betcha!! Entertaining and priceless? Hell yes!
In what is becoming a fast favorite for SWV discs, a gallery of sexploitation movie magazine covers is presented with the title music from BOOBY TRAP! An Easter Egg on the extras menu presents a trailer for the apparently lost PSYCHODRAMA. It looks like another encounter group sexploitation film (none of them exist any longer). Monica Gayle fans should try to find a print of this, she's one of the group! The whole movie takes place on one set, so it was probably shot in a day. The sex is hardcore, but no penetration is shown. There are dildos and rimming!! "Psychodrama was written, produced, and directed...by women!" proclaims the trailer. Yeah right...
March was a good month for Something Weird, and this double feature is one of the many reasons why cult film fans worship this company: great transfers for great films, a mountain of great extras, and most importantly, more entertainment for your buck. Three cheers for Something Weird! (Casey Scott)
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