THE LOVE BUTCHER (1975) – The Dungeon Review!
The Love Butcher has been in my queue since I discovered it a couple of years ago when I did a 1970s feature. I had trouble finding The Love Butcher to rent and was excited after re-joining zip a few months back that they had it. In my queue it sat in the number one spot for a very long time and suddenly it appeared in my mailbox last week. The Love Butcher was everything I had hoped it would be and more! The major downfall however was the picture. This wasn’t a VHS rip I watched on YouTube, this was an official DVD release. The Love Butcher really looked like hell as you can see from the screen caps I included. Despite the crummy images I have been forced to use this is such a worthy candidate for a review. The Love Butcher definitely deserves to be better known.
Caleb is a gardener with excessively thick glasses and a limp claw-like hand that he is unable to use. He is awkward and uncomfortable around people but is nonetheless gainfully employed by the folks of a small upper class community. Most of Caleb’s employers are real douchebags. The women are particularly cruel to Caleb which causes him to inadvertently summon Lester his handsome alter-ego. Lester is going to give these women what they deserve.
This bitch is going to die. She really was a harsh bitch. There is only one woman who shows Caleb any kindness which infuriates his alter-ego Lester; and you don’t want to infuriate Lester. Actually a lot of things infuriate Lester; he has a short temper. Lester is also quite the ladies man. Lester successfully puts the moves on each of these woman who were so dastardly to poor Caleb (actually one of them gives Lester some trouble but he corrects her pretty quickly). Once Lester gets you in bed you are surely dead. The film is fairly violent with a significant body count. Six folks die and four of those are relatively graphic. The film opens with a woman who has been impaled by a pitchfork. Later in the film another woman is stabbed to death, another is drowned and a couple more (one male) are killed with garden implements. The deaths are evenly scattered throughout always keeping things well-paced and interesting. They let the cat out of the bag early about Caleb and Lester being one in the same so I don’t feel it is a spoiler to mention it. It was such an appealing aspect to the story I don’t really blame the film makers for wanting to blurt it out. Besides, there are other surprises to be had in The Love Butcher.
The Love Butcher is a perfect balance of black humour and horror never straying too far into one or the other’s territory. Lester/Caleb played by Erik Stern is a fantastic and compelling psychotic. Caleb has a mannequin in his house that he speaks to and obviously believes is a real person; Lester to be specific. Lester taunts and berates Caleb like almost everyone Caleb seems to meet. Caleb is definitely a sad sack you root for despite knowing he doesn’t have a chance against Lester. Lester is bat-shit crazy and has some of the best lines. “Fill me with Nymphoid action.” The makeup people do a great job transforming Caleb into Lester physically and Erik Stern does a great job at transforming the character mentally. They look and act like completely different people. The performances are quite decent across the board with a few exceptions of some minor parts but this is really Erik Stern’s film which he most definitely owns.
This gal wasn’t nearly as bitchy as the previous one but she was not keen on Caleb coming over to do the gardening while her husband was out of town. She was pretty smart sensing something wasn’t right with Caleb. This upset Caleb which in turn upset Lester. She doesn’t fall for Lester’s charms either. She was not smart enough to avoid getting herself killed however.
Flo (Kay Neer) is the only person in the film who shows Caleb any kindness. Flo even invites Caleb into her home to have lunch with her. Flo and her reporter fiancée Russell are the subject of The Love Butcher’s subplot. Russell (Jeremiah Beecher) is a frustrated reporter who attempts to help the police in their search for the killer. Meanwhile the killer is his fiancée’s gardener. We are aware of who the killer is early but it takes the film’s characters considerably more time to figure it out. And when they do figure it out, well, it is too late for most of them.
The Love Butcher only had ratings from 129 users on IMDB which seemed extremely low. How could this nifty little film be so unknown? Lester is a unique and memorable killer perfectly played by Erik Stern. The Love Butcher’s balance of humour and horror hits all the right notes. The violence is nicely dabbled through the tight well-paced plot and competently executed. The Love Butcher is a very entertaining horror film from the seventies that is well worth seeking out; even if you do have to watch this miserable print of the film.
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Don Jones and Mikel Angel
Starring: Erik Stern, Kay Neer, Jeremiah Beecher, Richard Kennedy, Robin Sherwood, Eve Mac, Robert Walter, Louis Ojena, Marilyn Jones