A Movie A Day: PSYCHIC KILLER (1975) You’ll take those damn food stamps or I’ll report you!
Published at: Oct. 15, 2009, 2:10 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the newest October special horror run of A Movie A Day!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf, recorded on the home DVR or streamed via Instant Netflix and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my usual A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
Here we go with two of three AMADs posting today to finally get me caught up.
Of the three flicks I watched today, PSYCHIC KILLER was my least favorite, so I expect this review might be a bit shorter and sweeter than usual.
Psychic Killer is a cheapy fairly straightforward mid-‘70s horror revenge flick about an average everyman (Jim Hutton – Yes, Tim’s dad) who is wrongfully arrested and convicted for the murder of a doctor. While in prison his sick mother dies of cancer and Hutton has some difficulty handling this.
The dude’s angry, of course, so when he makes a friend with another inmate (Stack Pierce) he is gifted a voodoo talisman of some sort that allows Hutton to send his mind out and murder him some unscrupulous civil servants.
Weirdly I watched LAW ABIDING CITIZEN yesterday and it has a fairly similar basic structure. A dude is wronged and he uses his mind to get his revenge. The only differences being a significant amount of money and the fact that Gerard Butler never makes a shower kill a slutty nurse.
Julie Adams (of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON fame) plays the psychiatrist that Hutton has a huge crush on… but she more wants to bone the wound-up cop investigating the series of accidents that he suspects might actually be murders. Paul Burke (THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR) plays the cop.
The movie is cheap, the shoe-string budget showing through in every other scene due to crappy, echoey audio or almost comically sped-up chase scenes, and not exactly the most original thing, but the actual scenes of telekinetic revenge are pretty good. I just wish there were more of them… there’s an especially good one involving an asshole butcher falling victim to his own instruments that has my stamp of approval.
Acting-wise, the movie isn’t too bad. It’s not a great showcase for anybody except for two very brief appearances. One is the aforementioned Stack Pierce as the friendly fellow inmate who gives Hutton the Voodoo talisman. He’s pretty awesome, matter of factly stating that he will help Hutton with his problem the day after he dies… which will be the day after he kills the man who turned his daughter into a whore. This he does, of course, while in his cell, then the next day he throws himself off of a roof.
As you can probably tell, that isn’t a huge role, but Pierce makes it memorable and, frankly, makes me wish the movie had been his story and not Hutton’s. Jim Hutton doesn’t do a bad job, but Pierce was a hundred times more interesting to me.
The other stand-out for me was, believe it or not, Della Reese. Yeah, the lady from TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL. She provides the quote I used in the headline and is only in one scene, but it’s a helluva scene, placed just as the right time to snap me out of the general disinterest zone I was slipping in to. It’s a simple scene, just a lady arguing with the butcher about how times are tough moments before the butcher is himself butchered, and I really don’t know why her character is in it other than to be belligerent and awesome.
I also have to spotlight the great Aldo Ray who plays Burke’s thick-necked partner. Ray’s work in this movie isn’t the best of his career and he’s woefully underused, but when he’s in a movie it’s worth mentioning.
Final Thoughts: The plot gets a bit overly complicated as the cops trace these seemingly unrelated deaths back to Hutton, bringing in both Julie Adams and some random paranormal researcher to join in on the fun, but I never reached the point where I lost interest. Overlooking the budgetary restrictions you can recognize it as a flawed, but somewhat interesting movie.
I had a bit of a hard time trying to find something genuinely good to pair with this movie to be perfectly honest. In the end I took a look at the opening of PSYCHIC KILLER, which starts in a mental institution, and used that to branch out.
Yes. Goddamn Dr. Boll for making me always have to preface any recommendation of this title as “Not that shitty Uwe Boll Alone In The Dark.”
This Alone In The Dark is Fuck. King. Awe. Some.
Just look at the cast list. Jack Palance. Martin Landau. Donald Pleasence. In an early ‘80s horror movie. The plot is simple and fantastic. Palance is the leader of a group of criminally insane people at a loony bin. One night the power goes out, the nuts get out and we get a twist on the typical early ‘80s slasher film.
Give the trailer a view here
Now, that trailer’s a bit deceiving. I saw that trailer at the Alamo years before I actually saw the movie and the end always got me. Why would Donald Pleasence want to cut Martin Landau’s balls in half? It also shows a supernatural aspect that really isn’t in the movie (ie the chains).
I’m going to spoil that bit for you now, but the end of the trailer shows a dream sequence. In the reality of this movie’s universe, Pleasence is the doctor that runs the institution and Landau is some sort of a psychotic preacher.
The main driving force that takes them out of the institution is a belief that the new doctor in charge of the patients, the friendly Dwight Schultz, murdered the old doctor in order to take that position. Of course nothing of the sort happened, but they’re crazy. What can ya’ do?
So Schultz’s family is put in jeopardy as these guys get out… especially his creepily manish daughter thanks to the tubby Erland van Lidth, who has a thing for the little ones.
That’s a taste of what you get with this film, an early genre release from New Line Cinema.
It’s so much fun watching all these masters at play in a fascinating era of genre filmmaking. Jack Palance milks every single scene he's in for every last bit of creep-factor he can get. Plus, you can see where the horrible post-Scream slasher VALENTINE ripped off its ending.
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Wednesday, October 14th: THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)
Thursday, October 15th: THE LEOPARD MAN (1943)
Friday, October 16th: WOLFEN (1981)
Saturday, October 17th: MADHOUSE (1981)
Sunday, October 18th: THE HOUSE WITH THE LAUGHING WINDOWS (1976)
Monday, October 19th: THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945)
Tuesday, October 20th: DEMON SEED (1977)
There’s that. Next up is the Val Lewton produced, Robert Wise directed horror flick THE BODY SNATCHER starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi! Look for that review to hit within the hour! And then I’m caught up! Praise be!
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