Tag Archives: John Savage

The Killing Kind (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Always a good boy.

Terry (John Savage) is an angry man suffering from the inner torment of being sent to prison for a gang rape he was forced to participate in. Once he gets out he moves back in with his oppressive mother (Ann Sothern) who dotes over him and ignores all the troubling signs that he clearly displays. Instead of getting a job he spends his time exacting revenge on those who wronged him and then sets his sights on an attractive young lady (Cindy Williams) who has rented a room in his mother’s house. When Terry ends up murdering her his mother decides to help him cover it up because in her mind he will always be a ‘good boy’ no matter what he does.

The film is cheaply made with faded color, grainy film stock and an annoying humming sound that is apparent throughout, but Curtis Harrington’s direction gives it life and keeps you intrigued with its offbeat approach. It reminded me a lot of Paul Bartel’s Private Parts particularly with its emphasis on voyeurism especially how Terry secretly watches their tenant while the neighbor lady (Luana Anders) does the same to Terry.

Unfortunately there’s not enough of a payoff. The action is spotty and the gore is kept at a minimum. It starts right away with the gang rape, but then steps back with the shocks and pretty much implies all the other dark aspects of the story without showing it. The characters are molded into caricatures and more subtlety could’ve been used as to their intentions particularly the repressed neighbor lady blurting out her inner desires and thoughts to Terry without ever having spoken to him before.

Sothern is impressive especially since she was from Hollywood’s Golden Age and spent years working with sanitized scripts, so seeing her jump into such tawdry material with seemingly no hesitation is interesting. Savage’s performance I found to be frustrating as he seems to play the role like someone we should sympathize with, which is hard to do when he kills so many people.

Williams is the standout. Her murder scene is memorable as she struggles quite a bit and then forced to stay still in stagnant water with the same facial expression for several minutes. Later she’s shown lying in a junkyard as rats crawl over her, which proves she’s a dedicated to her craft to allow herself to go through that.

The ending fizzles and seems almost like a cop-out while not taking enough advantage of the other offbeat scenarios that it introduces. Had I directed it I would’ve done it differently. In my version the nosy neighbor lady, would threaten to go to the police about the crime, which she sees, but says she won’t if Terry, who had rejected her advances earlier, agrees to have sex with her. She then forces both his mother and her wheelchair bound elderly father (Peter Brocco) to watch, which would’ve given this potential cult classic the extra oomph to the dark side that it needed instead of coming tantalizingly close, but never truly delivering.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: June 23, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Curtis Harrington

Studio: Media Cinema Group

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

Hair (1979)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hippies versus the establishment.

A young draftee (Savage) goes to New York to join the army. Along the way he inadvertently walks into a ‘happening’ of hippies in Central Park who begin to socialize with him and the rest of the film looks at their efforts at trying to get him not to go.

It is easy to see how during its era this stage play would have been an exciting even vibrant experience. It perfectly captures the moods, thoughts and uniqueness of the period. However this film version doesn’t. It’s made ten years too late and the spirit just isn’t there. Even the protest rallies seem mechanical and manufactured. The period was known for its bright psychedelic colors and yet here everything is gray and bland. The camera angles should have been more unconventional and Twyla Tharp’s much ballyhooed choreography looks like nothing more than jumping around with song renditions that are horrible.

The hippies themselves are also a problem. For one thing Treat Williams looks too old as their leader. They also appear too clean-cut as these guys are literally sleeping on the streets and yet none of them have a beard.

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A few good moments do abound. Williams’ constant confrontations with the establishment are fun. Having them crash a society party and then having Williams dance on a table with Charlotte “Facts of Life” Rae is great. The dramatic twist at the end is powerful and really hits home at how impersonal and sad that war really was.

Savage looks and talks like the country boy he is playing, which is good, but his brief attempt at singing is downright awful. Brad Dourif was the original choice for the part and I think he would have done better.  Beverly D’Angelo is enticing as a snooty girl who transforms into a hippie one and Miles Chapin is amazing simply because he was a 28-year-old man that managed to convincingly look and act like a 17-year-old.

One quibble involves the wearing of the same army outfit by several different people. The uniform is originally worn by a general who is on the short side. They steal it and put it on Williams who is much taller and yet it still fits perfectly. They then put it on Savage who is much thinner and yet strangely it fits perfectly on him as well.

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My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 14, 1979

Runtime:  2Hours 1Minute

Rated PG

Director: Milos Foreman

Studio: United Artists

Available:  DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video