Tag Archives: John Karlen

Killer’s Delight (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Detective tracks down killer.

Inspired by the Ted Bundy case the film centers around Danny (John Karlen) a middle-aged man with mommy issues who wears different disguises in order to entice young women into his rundown old van where he then promptly assaults and kills them. Vince (James Luisi) is the police detective who, despite having an affair with Carol (Susan Sullivan), is also a dedicated family man with a teen daughter himself and who spends his waking hours trying to track down this killer that the rest of the cops in his department seem almost ambivalent about.

The film tries to take a different approach from the exploitive nature of other 70’s thrillers by emphasizing more the police work than the actual killings although there’s still moments of nudity and violence. The main problem is that the detective work that gets shown and the clues that he finds isn’t all that interesting and comes along a little too easily. At one point Vince breaks into the suspect’s house without a warrant, but any good defense attorney would have any evidence seized during an illegal search thrown out and a competent cop would know this. I also found it hard to believe that Vince would be the only policeman pursuing the case as I’m sure with the media pressure there’d be a whole department working on it much like in the real Bundy case that even included a network of police departments in several states.

The killings are very routine and ultimately comes-off like the same scene get replayed over-and-over again with each new victim that comes along. It seemed hard to believe that any rational person would want to get into such a junky van driven by such a creepy-looking guy anyways. Bundy at least was handsome and in many cases feigned a disability like pretending he had sprained his arm and wearing a sling, which would then make his intended victims feel more at ease, but the guy here doesn’t do any of that. The ultimate explanation for what motivates him to do what he does is straight out of the Norman Bates book of psychology and is cliched as hell. With the real Bundy it was much more complicated and to some extent no convenient explanation at all other than he may have simply been ‘wired wrong’ from birth.

The film’s only bright spot is Susan Sullivan, who looks quite beautiful here, but even she ended up getting on my nerves when her character stupidly forgets to lock her front door allowing the killer to easily walk right into her apartment. What kind of idiot, knowing that she is a mark for the killer and fully aware that he knows where she lives, would forget to do this?

Overall this is just a sleazy excuse for entertainment that is no better than the myriad of other grade-B schlock out there and in some ways is even worse because it pretends to take a more elevated approach to the potentially exploitive material, but it really doesn’t and it’s also painfully predictable at every turn.

Alternate Titles: The Dark Ride, The Sports Killer

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: August 7, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 25 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jeremy Hoenack

Studio: Intercontinental Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD

Gimme an ‘F’ (1984)

gimme an f

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cheerleaders compete for prize.

Bucky Berkshire (John Karlen) is the proprietor of a local cheerleading camp. He hopes to build an even bigger one with the help of some Taiwanese investors. However, they will only put up the much needed capital if Bucky agrees to sign Tommy (Stephen Shellen), who works as the cheerleading coach at the camp, to a 5-year contract. Bucky and Tommy do not get along and Tommy, who is 25, thinks he has gotten too old for the position and needs to move on. Yet Bucky feels he has no choice but to cut him a deal. If Tommy can get a group of teen cheerleaders known as the Ducks to beat the perennial winners known as the Falcons at the annual cheerleading competition then he’ll pay Tommy a whopping $10,000, but if they lose then Tommy will be forced to continue to work for Bucky for another 5 years.

I remember this film being scheduled on Cinemax in the ‘80’s during its late night hours, which gave me the impression that it was a raunchy T&A feast, but in reality it really isn’t. In fact during its entire runtime there is less than 10 seconds of actual nudity, which isn’t enough to make it worth watching. Some may say that makes me sound like just another sexist, leering male, but when the material is this inane what else is there about it to sell? Certainly not its so-called comedy, which is virtually laughless and on a 5-year-old’s level if even that and the plot is equally trite as it clearly conforms to the age-old David-and-Goliath formula where the viewer knows from the get-go that loser will obviously end up winning the thing no matter how much the odds are stacked up against them and what’s the reason to watch something if you know exactly how it’s going to end from the very beginning?

One viewer, who admits this is not a very good movie, said its one ‘saving grace’ was the cheerleading routines done at the end during its climactic showdown, which he felt were well choreographed, but to me it was just more cartwheels, twirling and dance line routines that if you’ve seen once then you’ve seen it a million times. Even if it had been spectacular it still wouldn’t warrant sitting through the rest of it, which is quite trifling to say the least.

Venerable character actor Karlen, who was the only veteran member of the cast, lends some credibility with his presence, but it isn’t much. Star Shellen is completely transparent in the lead despite having a teen heartthrob of a face. His character is shown doing very little training anyways and seems to shift the majority of the burden off to his assistant Roscoe (Mark Keyloun).

Beth Miller is equally weak as the female lead and although she is very cute she has no ability to effectively do a comic pratfall of which she is required to do several. The only thing she does get right is the way her eyes well up with tears from her embarrassment after she does one.

Although her character isn’t any better written than any of the others I could still tell right away that Daphne Ashbrook, in her film debut, was a far stronger actress than any of the others and it is no surprise that her career continued to flourish while the rest of them disappeared into obscurity. Although for the record Jennifer Cooke, who plays the bitchy character of Pam, did find success later in her life helping to run the Celestial Seasonings Tea chain.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: November 16, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Justman

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS