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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Psychic Killer (1975) review


Jim Hutton (Arnold Masters), Paul Burke (Lt. Morgan), Aldo Ray (Lt. Anderson), Julie Adams (Dr. Laura Scott), Neville Brand (Lemonowski), Della Reese (Mrs. Gibson), Greydon Clark (Sgt. Sowash), Stack Pierce (Emilio)

Directed by Ray Danton

"The day before I die, I shall kill the pimp that made my daughter into a whore...the day after I die, I shall help you find justice...for yourself."

Wrongfully accused of murdering the doctor that was caring for his mother, Arnold Masters spends time in prison for the crime. Not long after, Arnold's mother dies at the hands of those entrusted to her care. Vowing revenge for his mother's death, Arnold befriends an eccentric inmate named Emilio proficient in the art of voodoo. Giving Arnold a magical medallion, Emilio leaps to his death. Imbued with powers of astral projection, Arnold goes about brutally killing anyone associated with his mother's passing. Meanwhile, the police finger Arnold as the prime suspect. A sympathetic doctor, Laura Scott, Arnold's psychiatrist in prison, becomes entangled in the vengeful psychic killer's web of gruesome murder and death.

Highly entertaining and ambitious low budget production directed with some flair from award winning actor turned director, Ray Danton. An intriguing premise helps keep the movie afloat. Supplemented by a smattering of gruesome murders, the film sports a lot of familiar television faces and cinema personalities. Danton's flick contains a little bit of everything.

In addition to the wild storyline and sleazy shenanigans (including an ending that depicts the police as bloodthirsty as the vengeful protagonist), some scenes contain perplexing comedic moments. It is because of these moments that it is difficult to take the picture seriously. The mix is a bit uneven and the movie just misses greatness by a small margin. It's just another strange and unusual lost gem uncovered by the good folks at Dark Sky Films.

Director Danton was also an award winning actor before taking the reigns as a director helming many television programs. He starred in a few Italian spy pictures and even took over the lead of Sandokan in a couple of films; the character having been previously essayed by Steve Reeves in two pictures. Danton also directed what is called the unofficial second sequel in the Count Yorga series, THE DEATHMASTER (1972) starring Robert Quarry as a free spirited vampire that washes ashore inside a coffin and initiates himself into a commune of hippies.

Danton shoots PSYCHIC KILLER (1975) rather stylishly in some scenes and somewhat sloppy in others. Either way, the film has lots of sleazy potential in both the skin and kill department. It's not all that gory, but some of the murder scenes are inventive and pretty spectacular in execution. Two examples being one scene wherein a hot bodied nurse does a striptease in front of a poor old man hooked up to a machine.

Stripping more and more clothes away till she gets into the shower, the psychic killer of the title uses his powers to cause the self centered beauty to be scalded to death inside the her tub. Another soul is chopped to pieces inside a meat grinder in a butcher shop.

The above mentioned meat market scene is also the funniest bit in the film. Just prior to the butcher's death (played by Neville Brand), Della Reese(!) gets into an argument with him over the cost of his cuts as well as the social and economical implications of food stamps. Another scene that is done for laughs involves one of the victims singing opera before being crushed by a cornerstone dropped from a crane.

The cast is one of the most interesting for a movie of this type. That's what is so special about 70's exploitation movies is that they often have such interesting collections of familiar faces that are either headed for big things, or are entering the twilight phase of their careers. After his career took a nosedive in the 1970's, Aldo Ray made a living out of appearing in B movies and also a plethora of grade Z dreck.

Neville Brand was a highly decorated military man as well as a respectable actor in the 50's and 60's before closing out his Hollywood career in sleazy horror pictures such as EATEN ALIVE (1976) and WITHOUT WARNING (1980).

The stunning Julie Adams was a knockout in THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) and she is still brimming with beauty in this film. Adams was also married to director Danton at the time. Della Reese was a famous singer who appeared in many television shows throughout her career. Schlock filmmaker, Greydon Clark was an associate producer and writer on PSYCHIC KILLER (1975) as well as partaking in a role as a doomed policeman. He would go on to a career directing bad movies such as SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS (1977) and the fan favorite, WITHOUT WARNING (1980).

The music by William Kraft is memorable and often unnerving. Some cues are very reminiscent of Lalo Schifrin's style of film scoring. PSYCHIC KILLER (1975) is an odd, yet strangely enjoyable obscure piece of 70's fluff. Fans of 70's cinema will no doubt want to see it and hard core grindhouse and drive in movie fanatics should add it to their collections. Hopefully, Dark Sky will unearth more obscure and long buried treasures such as this for fans of exploitation cinema to enjoy.

This review is representative of the Dark Sky DVD.

DVD Availability: Dark Sky Films

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