Sunday, April 26, 2009


Ray Dennis Steckler's "The Thrill Killers"(1965). What a movie! It starts off as a dark, grim film noir-ish tale about the struggles of life in Hollywood, with some stilted overly dramatic narration. The story mainly centers around a struggling actor (played by Brick Bardo) and his wife (Liz Renay). Once the beginning narrative is over the plot shifts a little and we find ourselves in a dark, seedy hotel room. There is a man, Mort "Mad Dog" Click (played by Steckler himself) and a drunken woman in the room. It looks like they are about have an intimate moment together when Mort snaps, yelling "I hate people! People are no good!" The room is lit only by a flashing neon sign. Light and pitch black, light and pitch black. Mort stabs the woman with a pair of scissors, in time with the flashing of the sign. After he leaves the woman for dead, we hear on the radio that a serial killer has escaped from prison, and that three maniacs have escaped from a mental hospital.

Cut to a scene where a man and his girlfried are looking at a dilapidated barn that he is considering renovating. They go into the barn and are ambushed and terrorized by the three escaped mental patients. The three patients eventually make their way into a diner, and hold everyone hostage in the building, inculding the struggling actor and his wife. All chaos ensues leading to a wild chase scene in the desert mountains. But where is Mort "Mad Dog" Click? He is still around and shows up almost at the end of the movie, kidnapping Liz Renay. We have another breath taking chase scene on motorcycle and horseback, with a big, Wesern style shoot out at the end. Of course, Mort is killed, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Sounds like a fun movie right? It is. Steckler's black and white cinematography in this film is breathtaking. He may be a low budget director, but he uses the beauty of the desert for all it is worth. This is a movie that seems to cross genres. At first, you have a gritty noir film, then a psychologically suspenseful slasher movie, finally leading to a Western shoot out, high adventure chase movie. The last part of this movie reminds me of the action/adventure serials of old. There is a certain child like wonder that the last half of this movie holds. Steckler pulls off this sort of genre bending well, and the movie flows seamlessly. Finally, there is the acting. It is not great, but it has it's moments. Steckler's take on the character of Mort "Mad Dog" Click is especially sinister.

This is my favorite Ray Dennis Steckler movie. Out of all his works (Rat Phink a Boo Boo, Sinthia the Devil's Doll, etc.) this one is the most coherent and the easiest to watch. Highly recommended.
Here's the promotional trailer. It has very little to do the with the actual movie. It was just designed to get people into the theatres. It was originally supposed to be titled "The Maniacs Are Loose".

You can watch the actual movie trailer here.

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