Good Efficient Butchery!!!

This brutal batch of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT highlights a terrible trio of 80’s psycho-slashers. Not for the weak or easily offended, these clas-sick genre flicks all feature violent psycho killers stalking and slashing their sexy female victims.

Ladies, lock your doors – or LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE (1980)

The late, great Nicholas Worth chews up the scenery as Kirk Smith, a deranged Vietnam vet with a voracious appetite for weight lifting and strangulation. Kirk spends his days working as a sleazy photographer, prowling the streets of Los Angeles looking for attractive young women. When night falls the psycho strangler violently breaks into the homes of women that live alone and has his way with them. He enjoys burning them with candle wax, biting their breasts, and violating their every orifice. Kirk favors an unusual Vietnamese method of strangulation: wrapping a large gold coin in nylon and using it as a tourniquet to slowly squeeze the life from his lingerie clad victims.

Not content with the brutal acts of rape, mutilation, and strangulation, Kirk also has a fetish for leaving his victims’ dead bodies in lurid positions in public places. This final outrage is a slap in the face to the terrified citizens, and to the dumbfounded police. The ego maniacal serial killer also enjoys calling in to a local radio show to taunt the female psychologist host – Lindsay Gale, by boasting of his demented crimes. A police detective investigating the case becomes romantically involved with Lindsay, just as Kirk also decides to to set his sights on her. This love triangle quickly turns deadly, because no matter how hard Lindsay tries to stay alive – the murderer is always just a phone call away.

“Don’t Answer The Phone” is equal parts sleazy/disturbing/inept/hilarious. The sweaty psycho killer is fantastic and the numerous scenes of him in action are brutal and convincing stuff. Nicholas Worth does a great job playing an emotionally disturbed character, wildly fluctuating from angry to sobbing – often within the same scene. The movie then takes a turn for sheer unintentional hilarity whenever it features the bumbling police officers that are investigating the case. The comedic value is great enough that the goofballs at Rhino Home Video once released this film (in a heavily edited form) on dvd.

Don’t mistake “Don’t Answer The Phone” for pure schlock though, as it packs a quite a punch in the vein of other crude, yet effective flicks like “Maniac” and “Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer.” The original storyline was based on the Michael Curtis novel “Nightline,” which was a fictionalized account of the notorious “Hillside Strangler” case. The corpses of the female victims being left in lurid, open legged display by the killer and the formation of a “strangler task force” are both taken directly from the real case.

Fans of serial killer flicks, police thrillers, brutal home invasion kills, and occasional moments of odd, out of place cheesy comedy will no doubt appreciate this. BCI released a beautiful looking, 100% uncut dvd release of DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE that includes goodies like a commentary track with director Robert Hammer (no relation), an interview with Nicholas Worth, a stills gallery, and a nifty trailer reel featuring ads for a few of Crown International’s clas-sick genre flicks. Essential exploitation!

NIGHTMARE (1981)

A very sweaty man in tighty whiteys writhes around in his bed before waking up and finding a bloody severed head at the foot of his bed. The freshly severed head then opens its eyes, which causes the man to begin screaming. It was all just a dream – or a NIGHTMARE, if you will. The sweaty man in question is a criminally insane psychopath named George Tatum. George is a homicidal schizophrenic who suffers from mild amnesia, dream fixation, and seizures. After being arrested for the sexual mutilation and murder of a family in Brooklyn, George Tatum is sent to a mental hospital where he is force fed a cocktail of experimental hypnotic drugs.

The doctors hope to cure George of his reoccurring dreams and violent episodes by keeping him doped up and subjecting him to radical behavior modification techniques. The secret experiment is quickly dubbed a breakthrough success and the doctors believe that they have completely rebuilt his damaged mind. The next logical step is reprogramming George for future government and lucrative private sector use. Before George can be sold to the highest bidder, the doctor in charge of the experiment foolishly decides to release him into the general public on his own recognizances. This proves to be a deadly mistake.

George Tatum is still incurably insane. The drugs can only temporarily suppress his desire to kill and mutilate, they cannot completely erase the twisted memories from his mind. George begins cruising the NYC sex shops and the lurid sight of whores behind glass is enough to make him fall to the ground and begin foaming at the mouth like a rabid animal. George then hops into his car and begins the long drive from New York to Florida. George is strangely determined to track down a single mother named Susan Temper and her three children, and he is more than willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. For the Temper family, George’s twisted dreams become a real life nightmare that they can’t escape alive.

Writer and Director Romano Scavolini is the mastermind behind this controversial 1981 slasher flick. His inspiration for the story came from an article in the New York Times, which described how the CIA had been administering experimental drugs to schizophrenics. Scavolini used this disturbing idea as the basis for a horror story, and “Nightmare” was the end result. What makes this film so disturbing is the fact that there has been plenty of real life George Tatums. He is not the boogeyman, or a masked mauler who strikes without any real reason or motive. George Tatum is a psychopath, and one of the most convincing in horror history.

Baird Stafford does a fantastic job in the lead role of George Tatum. He spends most of the movie sweating like a pig in his underwear. He might have been a little too convincing as a psycho, as he only went on to star in one other movie seven years later. The highlight of this flick for me is an incredible sequence where George Tatum suddenly appears behind a unsuspecting victim that is talking on the phone. Baird has just the slightest hint of a smile on his face, and you know the worst is about to come. He slits the woman’s throat and Scavolini treats the audience to a loving close up of her gushing wound. Blood spurts from her throat as she gurgles and struggles to breathe. Then George sits on top of her and begins slowly plunging the knife into her body. What makes this scene really stand out is the way that George appears to be fucking her with the knife. Sweat pours from his hair as he reaches his climax, and the scene is punctuated with a nasty shot of George licking the blood off his hands.

The rest of the cast is horrible, although it’s hard for me to decide if I dislike the actors or the characters that they are playing. The character of Susan Temper is one of the most thoroughly unlikable and unsympathetic I’ve ever seen. She’s a stressed out single mom who spends the majority of the film sleeping, fucking her bearded boyfriend Bob on his boat, and yelling at her children. There’s a scene where she completely abandons her children and thoughtlessly leaves them locked outside of their house while she frolics with her lover. Of course, with children as wretched as hers it’s somewhat easy to understand why she acts like she does. Her daughters are two chubby little pigs that never stop screeching and squeeling. And then there’s the one and only C.J.

C.J. Temper is a purely evil little bastard with a Dorothy Hamill haircut. He’s a rotten little schemer that loves to pull elaborate, mean spirited pranks on his family, friends, and babysitter. He smirks as the police are called in to investigate his dirty deeds. He later pours ketchup all over his body and pretends that someone stabbed him, which causes his frantic mother to almost kill herself racing home. Just when you think you can’t hate this little fucker any more, he then has the appalling nerve to mock the brutal death of his best friend. It’s almost impossible not to despise him and root for his violent demise. C.J. manages to be a formidable foe though, and proves to be an expert shot as he arms himself with a handgun and precisely blasts through a small hole in a door with the trained skill of a professional marksman.

No discussion of “Nightmare” would be complete without mentioning the Tom Savini controversy that surrounds the film. Romano Scavolini claims that Tom Savini was the special effects supervisor for the entire film. Tom Savini claims that he never worked on the film because he was too busy working on Creepshow at the time. Despite Savini’s dismissal, there are several photos of him on the set that prove he worked on at least one scene in the move – the centerpiece decapitation by hatchet.

This incredible scene is the bloody highlight of the film. It is shown in pieces throughout the film, and then shown in its entirety at the climax. Fans of “Friday The 13th” will find this decapitation to be a very close recreation of the classic Betsy Palmer head slice. Watch the blood flow, watch the twitching hands in front of the body. It’s trademark Tom Savini. There’s really no denying that he created that effect. How much, if any of the rest of the film he worked on is debatable. The rest of the effects in the film are all effectively gruesome, but they are perhaps not quite up to snuff with Savini’s usual work.

Tom Savini was furious when his name was splashed all over the posters for “Nightmare,” and he successfully sued the production to have his name removed from the ads. His name still appears in the credits of the film though. Savini claims that the producers offered to pay him for his name value only, not for his work. He found this distasteful and dishonest and refused. Romano Scavolini on the other hand is adamant that Savini was the special effects supervisor on the film, and claims that Savini refused to have his name on the film because he wanted the credit to go to his friend and assistant Lester Lorraine (RIP) instead. Regardless of who you choose to believe, the photos prove that Savini worked on the film in some capacity. It remains one of the great slasher controversies to this day.

“Nightmare” was also a source of much controversy in the UK. The film was banned by BBFC as a Video Nasty, and the head of UK video distributor Oppidan served six months in jail for selling an uncut version of the film! This is the only time in history that someone went to jail for distributing a horror film. Angry critics and bad reviews savaged the film in every country it was released in. The New York Daily News wrote three separate articles attacking the film. Despite, or more likely because of this controversy, the film quickly became a box office success. Variety reported that the film earned over 4 million in 28 cities throughout America and Canada. Not bad for a low budget slasher flick.

I consider NIGHTMARE to be one of the very best 80’s slasher flicks. It works in a big way because of how brutal and realistic it feels. There are a lot of other slasher flicks that are faster paced and have better acting and higher production value, but very few can compare in terms of sleaze, splatter, and an overall sense of shock and disgust. If you want to go inside the mind of a schizophrenic killer, this is a must see flick. This is also essential viewing for all fans of slasher flicks.

 

THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)

The female residents of New York City are being sliced and diced by a rampaging maniac. The press dubs the killer “The New York Ripper” – and he wields the blade with precision, quickly carving his way through the big apple. A hard boiled, whore banging police detective teams up with a closet fag psychoanalyst to hunt for the sadistic slut snuffer with the wacky voice of a duck. Things get personal when the deviant duck slices up the nipples and eyeballs of “Kitty,” who just happens to be the detective’s favorite prostitute! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!

“The New York Ripper” is one of my favorite Lucio Fulci films. It plays out like an ultra sleazy combination of an Italian giallo and an American slasher flick, and reeks of cheesy 70’s police drama. Thanks to the typically atrocious dubbing the characters all sport thick and terrible “Noo Yoik” accents. My favorite character is the tough talking coroner, who delivers the immortal line – “He used a blade. Stuck it up her joytrail, and slit her wide open. He could have done a better job if he had more time. But overall it was good, efficient butchery.” The music throughout also is appropriately funky/sleazy sounding. Clearly not for everyone, but jaded horror fans looking for an unrelentingly grim and sadistic slasher are likely not to be disappointed.

This is quite possibly legendary director Lucio Fulci’s most bloodthirsty effort, which is really saying something. The abundant gore on display here is fantastic. No discreet cutting away from the action. Nothing left to the viewer’s imagination. Fulci delivers the real thing as always. The multiple razor blade slashings are gory as hell. The most disgusting scene has to be the extended razor blade torture that the killer inflicts upon actress Daniela Dora (who had already puked her guts up in Fulci’s clas-sick “City Of The Living Dead”). The best part of that sequence is when the killer slowly drags the razor across her eye. The eyeball even rolls back into her head as it’s being cut, which adds a particularly unnerving and realistic feeling to the scene.

“The New York Ripper” is also one of Fulci’s most controversial films. It is frequently accused of being misogynistic and overly brutal toward women. “The New York Ripper” is unquestionably an extremely violent and unpleasant film. The over the top carnage is almost nonstop, and the motivations and emotions of the mad killer are equally perverse and disturbing. There’s also an abundance of SLEAZE on display – with plenty of Times Square sex shows (including a HOT performance from Zora Kerova of “Cannibal Ferox” infamy!), gay porno mags, and a cuckold husband who gets off listening to tape recordings of his wife having sex with other men. Not to mention the infamous “toe rape” scene, which is another incredibly nasty and unusual highlight.

Bill Lustig’s Blue Underground recently released a fantastic special edition dvd of THE NEW YORK RIPPER that was remastered in blood-soaked high-definition from its original camera negative, and presented completely uncut and uncensored. The bonus features exclusive to this new special edition release include “I’m an Actress! – Interview with Zora Kerova” and “NYC Locations: Then & Now.”  Yet another top notch release from Blue Underground, and yet another flick that no respectable horror collection should be missing!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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One Response to “Good Efficient Butchery!!!”

  1. Davesplatter Says:

    This is one dream I dont want to escape from, Its too much gorey fun. This review would make great liner notes for a Remastered DVD release.

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