Sunday, April 07, 2013

Drive-in Collection: Anatomy of a Psycho/The Lonely Sex

Coming April 9th is the latest drive-in double feature from Vinegar Syndrome. The set features two early exploitation flicks; Anatomy of a Psycho from 1961 and The Lonely Sex from 1959.

Anatomy of a Psycho
Anatomy of a Psycho was directed by Russian Boris Petroff in 1961. Boris is probably best known among horror and MST3K fans as the director of The Unearthly with John Carradine. Starring Darrell Howe as the titular Psycho Chet, a real son-of-a-bitch rat-bastard who starts to lose his grip when his criminal brother is put to death in a gas chamber. He vows revenge upon everyone involved with his brother's death; the police, the judge, the judge's son, the judge's dog, uh, the judge's barber - seriously, everybody. 

Chet starts by gathering his misfit gang of friends to beat the hell out of the judge's son while wearing creepy sack masks. But Chet completely loses it when he finds out his sister is dating Mickey (Ronnie Burns), the son of the witness who was ultimately responsible for his brother's fate. Soon after he smashes a rival's face against a mirror, burns down a house and frames Mickey for the murder of a member of his gang. No one suspects Chet, despite the fact that Chet is clearly absolutely fucking nuts. One cop isn't fooled however, he's know Chet for years and is certain Mickey is being framed for a crime he didn't commit.

Anatomy of a Psycho is a public domain title which frequently makes it's way onto those 50 Horror Movie packs with names like Pure Terror and Night Screams, only Anatomy is in no way whatsoever a horror film. Anatomy of a Psycho belongs to the Juvenile Delinquent subgenre that was very popular in the 50's. Mystery Science Theater did a lot of these kinds of films, The Beatniks, The Sinister Urge, I Accuse My Parents - I use the MST films as examples because that's honestly the only time I've watched any of these Delinquent films.

Anatomy is pretty tame, but a bit darker than what I'm used to from Mystery Science. There are a couple of pretty rough scenes, the scene with Chet's gang beating the judge's son while wearing sacks over, and a later scene where Chet smashes his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend's face into a mirror during a formal pool party are fairly graphic for the time. Darrell Howe makes for a pretty decent psycho, eyes constantly bulging out like his eyelids have been glued open. When he isn't onscreen, the film slows to a crawl.

Things to watch for:
Sack lunch face mask
I was a Teenage Scarface

The Lonely Sex

Sharing the disc is The Lonely Sex, a well shot psycho-drama filmed by director Richard Hilliard in 1959. You may know Hilliard as director of Violent Midnight and writer of the delightfully goofy The Horror of Party Beach. The story finds Annabelle Greene (Jean Evans) held captive in a cabin by a maniac known only as The Man (Karl Light). 

Clocking in at a swift 57 minutes, there isn't a lot of movie to discuss here but it's an enjoyable way to kill a lunch break. It boasts some nice moody (though occasionally blurry) black and white photography. Jean Evans looks a bit like Maggie Gylenhall, only wider. This was her only movie role, she doesn't do much other than look cute and get locked in a cabin, but she handled her moments of fright well without looking like an asshole. Speaking of assholes, "The Man" as played by Karl Light is an appropriately messed up dude with some real problems with the ladies. He looks a bit like a zombie eyed cross between Benecio Del Toro and James Dean. He's also a Peeping Tom who occasionally murders women who reject his advances.

I think I've discovered the key to detecting a psycho killer. It's pretty simple really, if you refer to your mother as "Mother", you've probably at one point had a female tied up and locked, possibly dead, in a room somewhere. Now, you can say "My mother" at the beginning of a sentence, just make sure you say the word "my" first or you're going to come off pretty creepy.

Back to the movie. The most interesting part of this movie for me wasn't "The Man" but "that fat guy Wyler", a man who boards in Annabelle's house. Matt Wyler's a close friend of Annabelle's father and has lived at this house "for a couple of years" and yet frequently "accidentally" happens to find his way in Annabelle's room. often while she's getting undressed. After doing this he stops, stares at her tits for a good 6 seconds, then says "sorry I thought this was my room". They show the outside of this house at one point, it's not that fucking big. We're talking 3 rooms and maybe two toilets. 5, 6 doors, tops in a two story house and he's getting lost? I've got 6 doors on my second floor, I've never wandered into the laundry room to take a dump.
Things to watch for:
More jazz trumpet than a Popeye's commercial
Diary found by a Madman
The scream at around the 23 minute mark, like Tarzan getting hit by a cab.
42:26 - Goddammit Peggy, cut!

Both of these films are far from classic, but this double feature is a good way to kill a couple of hours (and a half) on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Vinegar Syndrome has done a remarkable job restoring the picture on both of these films, they both really look great. Those of you into early exploitation drive-in films will surely enjoy these on some level. Preorder from Vinegar Syndrome today.

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