By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Killer stalks cocktail servers.
With a script written by Charles B. Griffith, better known for having done Little Shop of Horrors, the story centers on Tom (Bruce Watson) a serial killer who stalks women who work at a bar called The Swing-a-Ling Club. His first victim is Boo-Boo (Dyanne Thorne), whom he felt ‘disrespected’ him when she referred to him as ‘sonny’ when she served him his drink, so he quietly followed her home and attacked her and afterwards took photos of her in provocative poses. He then changes his appearance and gets a job at the bar as a bouncer. He proceeds to kill two more of the waitresses, Marie (Renie Radich) and Susie (Katie Saylor) before setting his sights on Jenny (Laura Hippe). However, with Jenny he begins to admire the fact that she insists on staying faithful to her fiancée Dave (Jim Travis) and therefore he considers her to be ‘pure’ deserving of respect instead of a gruesome death. While visiting her at the home of her parents (Milt Kogan, Judith Roberts) he tries to convince her to dump Dave and get with him and he won’t take ‘no’ for answer. Will Lieutenant White (William Smith), who’s been investigating the case and does not consider Tom as a suspect, be able to connect-the-dots before it’s too late?
For an exploitation flick this one doesn’t seem all that titillating. The film’s promotional poster seen above alludes to ‘loose women’ having indiscriminate sex, the film was later reissued as Eager Beavers, which pushes this concept in an even more explicit way, but really you don’t see much of that onscreen. The women, who appear to be around 30 and looks-wise are okay, but nothing that would be considered stunning, come-off as basic working-class folks just trying to do their hum-drum jobs and not oversexed vamps in any way. Their personalities are indistinguishable from the other and their conversations deal with run-of-the-mill issues that aren’t compelling, or original. They also speak in a cliched, Flossie-like tough girl way of a New York street hooker, which I found annoying.
Having it shown right away who the killer is doesn’t help matters. Part of the fun of a slasher film, which this isn’t as it was made before that concept came into vogue though still follows the same basic formula, is trying to guess who the bad guy is, but having that quickly revealed losses the potential mystery element that could’ve made it more intriguing. We learn nothing about the killer, other than a police detective ‘profiling him’ as being someone with ‘mother issues’, but this is something the viewer needs to see and learn visually instead of having it explained to them. Smith as the good-guy is weak too. He’s been great in some of his other film roles, but he’s rather detached and downright irritable in this part and there’s long segments where he’s not even seen.
Gus Trikonis’ direction helps to give it a few extra points. While the killings lack blood I did like the way the hand-held camera follows the victim around as she gets chased through her apartment, particularly during the first attack, which lends an authentic, vivid feel as she tries to fight-off her attacker. The underwater photography showing one of the victims getting drowned is impressive as well, but there are some directorial mistakes here too.
One is when Tom kills Marie and then poses her naked body on a deck chair outside on the patio. The club owner Zitto (Zitto Kazann) comes along and finds her there with Tom hiding behind the bushes and could’ve easily escape undetected, but instead he proceeds to attack Zitto, who is his boss and could identify him, so why not just get away from the crime scene instead of making things potentially worse for himself?
Another segment has Susie inside a film studio looking up towards a bright spotlight where Tom is standing, but because the light is so bright she must shield her eyes and cannot make out who’s talking to her. When the viewer though is shown a point-of-view shot we can easily identify him, but if we’re really supposed to be seeing things from her perspective then the light should be blinding for us as well.
Another flawed moment has Jenny’s mother getting a call from a Smith warning her that Tom could be dangerous. She’s to pretend that she’s talking to someone else on the other end, so as not to tip-off Tom, who is sitting close by and can overhear what she’s saying. However, in the film the viewer can hear Smith’s voice through the receiver making it seem that if we can hear it then Tom should be able too. To have prevented this the film should’ve cut away every time Smith spoke showing him at the phone booth and therefore never would’ve heard his voice through the receiver.
Some may enjoy the sleazy storyline and Grindhouse reputation, but even on that level, there’s more explicit and violent stuff out there and it all gets handled in a highly routine way. In fact the only unique thing about the production is that both of the leading actors ended up committing suicide. Hippe’s was in 1986 and Watson, who suffered from manic depression, was in 2009.
Alternate Title: Eager Beavers
Released: July 16, 1975
Runtime: 1 Hour 28 Minutes
Director: Gus Trikonis
Studio: Premiere Releasing Organization