Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Killing Kind (1973)

Here's another picture from the 70s that ended up surprising me a bit. Long forgotten (until resurrected by Dark Sky Films for a nifty DVD release) despite an interesting pedigree. Curtis Harrington, the director, made a name for himself by directing some made for television horror films (most notably, Devil Dog: The Hound from Hell). John Savage, star of Moving Picture Trash favorite The Sister-in-Law, is again featured. This time, he's playing the type of Savage character we've come to expect, one that's completely out of his mind. Ann Southern, as his mother, has appeared in over 100 films and was even nominated for an oscar in a film from 1987 according to the imdb. And then, there's Cindy Williams, appearing before her famous turn as Shirley, first in "Happy Days" and then in "Laverne and Shirley". So, we might be primed for something a bit more special here than usual.

Like I said, this is another unhinged Savage character, but he wasn't always that way. Pre-opening credits we see him as semi-normal. Then his surfer buddies drag some poor woman under the pier and gang rape her (don't worry, i'll try to establish a moratorium on film's that contain anything resembling rape for at least a week or so). Savage, playing a guy named Terry Lambert, isn't too excited about what's going on here, but he doesn't really put up much of a stink. Then his buddies force him on the poor girl and yank down his trunks and this horrific act is what begins his descent into madness.

He gets out of the big house after a few years and makes his way to his mother's house. His mother is one of those overbearing, over-loving types, wonderfully played by Ann Southern. She lords over an apartment complex and, upon seeing just-released Terry at her door says "they let you out" to which he responds "you gonna let me in?" She does and spends the rest of the picture covering up for the boy, plying him with chocolate milk, desperately trying to keep him away from the female tenants, and, eventually covering up for his misdeeds. Oh, and she also insists on mouth kisses which is kinda weird, but, I don't know, this might be one of those progressive mother-son relationships. Nah, it's pretty weird.

This picture is almost always interesting. I loved the bookish neighbor and her elderly crippled father who is disgusted by Terry's release and begs his daughter to stay away from him. So, of course, the daughter drinks alone in their apartment and then later tries to seduce Terry by the pool. Terry isn't really interested in the type of girl that would be interested in him though (this trait is more common in men than one would think). Cindy Williams, as new tenant Lori, plays a little more hard to get (at first), and so Terry spends a night outside her window holding his mother's cat for some strange reason. The cat meows, Lori hears it, and, wow, I haven't seen animal cruelty like this since Deathdream. Mrs. Orland is another fun character, whose fear of rats isn't exactly remedied by Terry. He is a man of contradictions. He seems to love women, but can't help himself from hurting them. He loves animals, snuggles and coos them, but then can't help himself from suffocating them or snapping their necks. This is a pretty well written role as we don't know what to think about the guy (fear, horror, disgust, pity). Hell, he calls his mom an "old, fat slut" after she resists his advances, but later offers a sincere apology. I think his mother failed to establish boundries when he was a child. He might be a lost cause. He needs help, but his mother just mostly sees through his faults and is not the one to provide it. Also, I mean, she was coming on to him with the insistence on the mouth kissing. I mean, come on already, she had it coming.

There are some powerful moments when Terry seeks vengeance upon those who put him away; namely the rape victim ("you still do it under the pier?") and his lawyer (of course, another female). A demented dream sequence involves a grown Terry in a crib next to the rape victim while adults stand around chanting "shame" over and over again. Eventually, Terry is seduced by Lori (Williams) who claims "I've never done it in a bathtub before" after calling him over to help fix a leak or something. Shit man, this is a pretty good movie.

One scene, in particular, is pretty bizarre and involves actions not too well thought out on the part of the characters involved. Terry, in a minor fit of delirium, which is putting it pretty mildly, strangles a girl he's got a crush on (one of the girls from the apartment complex). The next night, his mom finds him curled up on the floor next to the body and I guess this is when she first realizes her son might have actually been guilty of his crimes. She's a mother though, loves her son, wants the best for him, believes he can change, maybe she imagined it or whatever. Anyway, she can help his problems go away and then maybe he'll get better, have a second, third, fourth chance to be normal (again, probably step number one would be to stop insisting he give you a "real kiss" but I digress). Anyway, back to this post-murder scene. What does the mother do? Waits until nightime, wraps the body up in sheets or whatever was available, stuffs it in a tin garbage can, rents a u-haul (I am not joking here) and then takes the "trash" to one of those 24 hour landfills that are probably popular around California (I assume that's the location). Even weirder, she pays the attendant, then leaves. I don't think this is the proper way to dispose of bodies but we can give the gal a break, she's probably new at this.

Anyway, other than the weirdness of that scene, the writing is tight. The performances are all good, the camera work not at all amateurish, even borderline good at times. I love the fact that DVD is allowing us to revisit all these forgotten pictures from an era that most people have little affinity for. The Killing Kind is not an especially graphic film. There's one eerie death scene towards the end, you'll probably know the one I'm referring to. The relationship between mother and son in this thing probably borders on the perverse, without ever getting explicit. I don't know, it's all a matter of perspective. The ending isn't shocking, scary, or anything like that. It's actually god damned depressing and that's probably the way it should be.


elmo said...

I caved and now get 2 Netflix at a time. This will show up eventually.

Even though Wolverine's been panned, I'll see it in the morning. Now, on to Transporter 3.

brian said...

They keep trying to sell me on that 3rd disc. So far, i haven't caved. It's bound to happen soon.