1 August 2008 | Coventry
Oh Brother, Why Are Thou So Disturbed?
Stephen Thrower's bible of American exploitation highlights entitled "Nightmare USA" is rapidly becoming the most expensive spending I ever made! Not just the book itself is quite costly, but the way he extendedly glorifies certain obscure and incredibly rare movies simply make you crave to own them yourself and you unwarily start browsing the Internet for copies. But hey, so far all purchases were worth every single penny I spent on them and Thrower's reviews albeit sometimes a little over-enthusiast are always 100% reliable if you too are into demented and raunchy 70's cinema as well. "The Love Butcher" sounded like one of those titles I simply couldn't afford to miss and indeed it certainly didn't disappoint. This is a wondrous example of cheap, sleazy, grainy and tasteless exploitation madness, with a simplistic but effective plot and a handful of shockingly misogynistic scenes of violence. The creators looked for inspiration in Alfred Hitchcock's notorious horror film "Psycho" (like many aspiring horror directors did around that time) and unscrupulously imitated the concept of a schizophrenic killer. However, this film doesn't keep it a secret until the end. The crippled Caleb works as a gardener in a fancy neighborhood where a lot of pretentious and bored housewives spend their days twirling around in sexy outfits. Caleb is a quite pathetic figure with a shiny bald head, exaggeratedly thick glasses and a malformed hand, so he's usually the target of mockery for his obnoxious female customers. But when Caleb returns home, he talks to his brother Lester a black foam mannequin wearing a blond wig and then suddenly becomes him. Self-confident Lester is, and I quote, "the great male Adonis of the universe" and he pays a charming visit to each woman that mistreated his "brother". The result of these visits is a disturbing murder spree that baffles the local police, even though the victims all live on the same block and have the same gardener. I wonder how they could overlook that pattern
As far as I'm concerned, "The Love Butcher" is vintage and delightfully prototypic exploitation stuff. The atmosphere is thoroughly unpleasant, the male characters are despicable yokels (ending every sentence with "yes, ma'ammmm) and the overall tone of the film is extremely women-unfriendly to say the least. The murder sequences aren't as repulsive as I expected (or hoped) but there nevertheless are a couple of highly memorable bits of nastiness, like the creative use of various gardening tools and a brutal butchering in an outdoor swimming pool. Besides, the slight and already forgivable lack of bloody carnage is widely compensated by the awesome and over-the-top demented use of dialog! The conversations between Caleb and his alter ego Lester, and particularly the latter's monologues, and indescribably entertaining to listen to and they even single-handedly uplift "The Love Butcher" to the level op pitch black comedy. The supposedly heart-breaking flashback near the end, clarifying what tragic event overcame Caleb and Lester at young age, is literally the cherry on an already delicious cheesecake. It has to be said the film owes a lot of its powerful impact to the performance of Erik Stern as the schizophrenic. Stern is stupendous and maintains the exact right balance between comical and disturbing during the numerous sequences where he just talks against a foam mannequin or empty gardening outfit. The male supportive cast is pretty forgettable, but the female victims give good performances, most notable Eve Mac (as a lewd Texan co-ed), Robin Sherwood (as the cocky rebellious chick) and Kay Neer (as the cherubic good-hearted woman you really wish she survives the ordeal).