10 August 2000 | gavcrimson
Butchering the Glamour Models
Nineteen years before Mary Millington crossed paths with a misogynist murderer bearing a grudge against bust models in The Playbirds, B-movie actress Felicity Young (Play it Cool) had to deal with the late Fifties counterpart in this enjoyable Butcher's Film Distributors programmer. Set in the era of Soho Strip-tease, smoky coffee bars and rock and roll, The Cover Girl Killer opens to its titular character, a bogeyman by way of a Soho dirty mack leering at a non-stop follies marquee. Dressed in a raincoat, pebble glasses and a wig The Cover Girl Killer is played by future Steptoe, Harry H Corbett who remains unrecognisable from his later TV incarnation. Motivated by the `unsavoury obsessions of his twisted mind' and a need to `give back man his dignity to free him from the prison of lustful images that foul his mind and his sanity' the anti-smut Cover Girl Killer poses as a photographer in order to murder models who have appeared on the cover of Wow, a typical late Fifties cheesecake magazine. Canadian Spencer Teakle (a Butcher's mainstay) inherits music hall stripclub `the Kasbar' and the magazine Wow, both the source of the Cover Girl Killer's rage. Attempting to woo June, one of the showgirls by posing as a journalist, Teakle is unaware that The Cover Girl Killer is luring Gloria his showgirl `with the most on show' to her death. A leopard skin themed photoshoot ends with Gloria being found dead and bikini clad, in a kinky fashion she's posed identical to her sexy cover shot. Initially invistigated as the murderer Teakle helps the police, who are constantly outwitted by `the man' (as he is billed in the credits). Going through the back issues of Wow for his next victim The Cover Girl Killer locates last month's model Miss Torquay 1959 (Christina Gregg another Butcher's player). Contracted to shoot a Sun Cream commercial, when Miss Torquay emerges in a bikini the Cover Girl Killer can control himself no longer, meaningfully stating `your nudity means nothing to me' before strangling her. Running just over an hour The Cover Girl Killer is rarely dull- the police actively encourage Teakle's Harrison Marks wannabe to publish his exotica in order to catch the killer. The Cover Girl Killer poses as Mr Fairchild an outrageous bowler hat wearing toff alter-ego to throw the police off his trail, the police subsequently put June on the cover to trap Corbett's well respected man, the detective in charge drinks a lot of tea, The Cover Girl Killer goes to a showbiz impresario with plans to make a movie version of his killings `I'm all for the good old X-certificate if you can get it'. Given that Wow is portrayed as the cutting edge that 1959 had to offer The Cover Girl Killer's climax, with the Cover Girl Killer dressing June in lingerie, chasing her around a studio and forcing her onto a four poster bed to reinact her front cover must have seemed raw stuff indeed. Some of the dialogue is wonderful, you can almost imagine the hack screenwriter sitting in a Soho office on a wet afternoon turning out headline dialogue like `surely sex and horror are the new Gods in this polluted world of so called entertainment'. As the Soho Bogeyman Corbett is never anything less than surprising, making up for some of the other less than credible performers. Corbett's career was bookmarked by exploitation, for after fame cameos in Adventures of a Private Eye and the Fiona Richmond vehicle Hardcore Corbett demanded high fees for limiting roles. Soft spoken, sinister and creepy his performance in the Cover Girl Killer suggests he did deserve better. Cover Girl Killer is a delusion from the mind of righteous filmmakers who believe themselves worthy of greatness but can only score sensational tack. It's full of acid comments on the illiteracy of readers of cheesecake magazines (and by association viewers of films with titles like The Cover Girl Killer). At times the film totally identifies with the killer's ideology especially in its depiction of the victim's husbands and fathers- sad broken men whose inability to keep hold of their women lead to their loved one's demise. This fashioning schizoid edge however says more about the filmmakers than it does the audience, never is the film more true than its depiction of it's chicken in a basket showbiz crony which draws impossible to ignore comparisons with Butchers themselves who were known for paying people as low as 35p to £2.50 for scripts. Butchers Film continued grinding on in the polluted world of so called entertainment making countless B pictures up until the late Sixties. Like their counterparts Tigon they freewheeled throughout the Seventies distributing foreign sex films like Erika, The Fabulous European Strip-Tease and The Sex Artist. One of their last releases was Norman J Warren's 'alien rape' movie Inseminoid. For years considered a lost film but kept alive on the strength of Corbett's appearance and historically being one of the earliest slasher films, The Cover Girl Killer now enjoys a second life as a stable of late night television, guaranteeing that the Ghost of the Cover Girl Killer will haunt insomniacs and the curious for many years to come.