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THE PSYCHO LOVER (1970) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in movie, movies, Something Weird Video, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2013 by goregirl

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“I’m like the proverbial bloodhound. I can smell him in this room and the hairs on my ass stand on end every time I catch his scent.” -Lieutenant Morlock

Before embarking on this Stepping into Something Weird project I had thoroughly perused the Something Weird website and read the synopsis for almost every film they have and watched clips and or trailers if they were available. I made a list of top priorities; these were the films that I was particularly excited to check out. Although The Psycho Lover was in my top three in my zip queue, the DVD service sends what is available first and The Psycho Lover was getting skipped over week after week. Besides the Herschell Gordon Lewis films I had not seen a lot of straight up horror titles from the Something Weird catalog and I was starting to feel anxious as the feature was coming to its end. The Psycho Lover which was on a DVD double feature with Heat of Madness finally arrived a few days ago and it was better than I could have possibly anticipated! I can not wait to check out more of the films of Robert Vincent O’Neill! Unfortunately O’Neill only has one other film on the Something Weird label called Wonder Women which I will be watching in the next week. Hold on! Watching in the next week? But Goregirl, won’t Stepping Into Something Weird be over next week? I am having far too much fun and have not covered nearly everything I wanted to so I am extending Stepping into Something Weird through January! No more of this posting everyday business though! I will be back to posting five days a week. Now back to The Psycho Lover; one of my favourite new horror film discoveries of the year!

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Before the credits start we get our first beautifully executed murder sequence. For more images from this scene click here. Beautiful, creepy, intense; the perfect start to any horror film.

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The Psycho Lover aka The Loving Touch directed by Robert Vincent O’Neill (Blood Mania, Wonder Women, Angel).

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After we witness the violent death of a woman we are taken to a serene lake where a motorboat is being driven by a handsome middle-aged man. We learn immediately through a bitter conversation between he and his wife Valerie that the man is Dr. Kenneth Alden; a psychiatrist with a mistress named Stacy. Dr. Alden is clearly a man of prestige and wealth with his home on the lake, motorboat and that crazy car! By the way, does anyone know what kind of car that is? Dr. Alden receives a call from a Lieutenant Morlock. Alden’s assistance is required on a case involving a young man named Marco Everson who has vivid dreams of killing women that match the facts in some actual crimes.

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Dr. Alden speaks to Marco who relays to him his most recent dream. The woman was an artist who he kills in the shower and rapes after she is dead.

“When I woke up I was laughing. Yeah laughing. The first time she ever had a man, I mean a real man and she couldn’t feel it.”

In my books you absolutely can not beat a killer who wears a stocking over his head; so effectively ugly and disturbing the way it distorts the facial features!

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Dr. Alden with his 25-year-old mistress Stacy; they have a very lengthy scene with the two of them being romantic and lovey. It is well-filmed like every scene in The Psycho Lover but I found it a little gag-inducing. When all was said and done I could see how it was a necessary evil that needed to be included. It still could have been a little shorter though.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Dr. Kenneth Alden and his wife Valerie. Valerie is a bitter woman with a drinking problem. Valerie was still in love with Kenneth when he started his affair. Valerie refuses to give Kenneth the divorce he desires.

“Do you get some perverse sense of enjoyment out of this relationship?” -Kenneth

“Yes. That is exactly the answer.” -Valerie

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Marco follows a woman carrying groceries home. He kills her under the glowing light of the fluorescent signs outside the victim’s window. Another absolutely stunning looking murder sequence.

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Another romantic love scene between Kenneth and his young mistress; this one was a more reasonable length.

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Marco is now under the care of Dr. Alden on a full-time basis. Marco relays the story of one of the women found dead who we do not see being killed. The woman is found on her coffee table with a ketchup bottle inserted into her vagina. There is little doubt that Marco is the killer. He has definitive psychopathic symptoms, he hates women and he has spoken about facts in the case that only the killer would know. There is however no physical proof.

“I saw her blood turn to water. I was all wet, and she was too. And then she died.” -Marco

“What about the ketchup bottle Marco?” -Dr. Alden

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Lieutenant Morlock meets with Dr. Alden and his mistress Stacy to discuss the case over some lunch. Note ketchup bottle on table.

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In a film full of esthetically pleasing scenes this one was the best of the best. Marco has a dream sequence that is a stunning mind fuck. What an imaginative, surreal and sinister portrait of a man’s psychotic mental state!

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Marco makes a call to the home of Dr. Alden to inform him of what the voice in his head has asked him to do. Valerie answers the unsettling phone call.

I am going to leave the rest of the story for you to discover on your own. The Psycho Lover insinuates early, or at least mid-film of the potential finale for its story. There are however many variations on how this finale might go down. Knowing what could happen does not soften the impact at all. The cast were well-chosen. Lawrence Montaigne looks the part of the respected psychiatrist Dr. Kenneth Alden and has a confidence bordering on arrogant that suits the role well. Despite having a speed boat, a sports car and a young mistress he is a rather uptight and overly serious guy. Jo Anne Meredith looks like a woman who goes to the beauty salon regularly and has an elegance about her but at the same time a touch of tackiness. Her character is a lush but Meredith plays it in a proper “keeping up appearances” fashion that sees her stewed and mildly vulgar but never falling on her face drunk. Lieutenant Morlock is a bit of a goofy character; he is the film’s comic relief. John Vincent as Morlock gets some pretty amusing lines including the quote at the top of this review. Elizabeth Plumb as Stacy is a sweet, likable, bubbly gal; although a touch too sweet and bordering on air-headed. It is easy enough to see why the anal retentive Kenneth would fall for her though. Frank Cuva is excellent as Marco Everson. The Marco character has the perfect balance of everything that makes a good horror film antagonist. He is reasonably intelligent and unassuming in appearance and when unprovoked is your next door neighbor who seems like a decent enough guy. Needless to say, he can not always hide the anxiety and threat bubbling just below the surface waiting to boil over. When Marco goes into killing mode he is cruel, brutal, relentless and frenzied to the extent that he literally foams at the mouth. A well drawn character and a spot on performance. The Psycho Lover is an extremely well made horror film. The Psycho Lover has intense well-executed murder sequences, an excellent story, strong performances and it is one of the most visually stimulating and pleasing horror films I have had the pleasure of watching during this feature; or in recent memory for that matter. When I stumble upon a horror film as solid as The Psycho Lover I get all giddy with excitement. There is no doubt about it, this would have gotten the number one spot on my top ten for 1970 hands down had I seen it when I completed that feature. Although I did have a minor complaint about an overly long love scene this film was far too outstanding overall to give it anything less than perfect marks. The Psycho Lover gets my highest of recommendations; a perfect score.

For more images from The Psycho Lover click here.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Robert Vincent O’Neill

Starring: Lawrence Montaigne, Jo Anne Meredith, Elizabeth Plumb, Frank Cuva, John Vincent, Sharon Cook, Diane Jones, Luanne Roberts, David Astor, Lynn Lyon, Judy Lang, Charles Victor

THE PENALTY (1920) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2013 by goregirl

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I had seen a handful of Lon Chaney films before starting this feature and had four others I wanted to watch before I put together my list of top twenty favourite horror films from the 1920s. Two of these were re-watches that I had seen too long ago to remember details. Bizarrely they all showed up last Monday. The vast majority of the DVDs I watched for this feature came from The Vancouver Public Library which had a phenomenal selection of silent horror films. The only problem with the library is the films are often in abysmal condition. I guess some folks feel they don’t need to treat the property of others with the same respect they would their own. That really sucks for the rest of us and those people are douchebags. I had to re-rent a few of the damaged DVDs through Zip (our version of Netflix). So yeah, I pick up two Lon Chaney films from the library on the way home on Monday and when I checked my mailbox there were another two waiting for me! It is sort of freaky that four Chaney flicks should all enter my life the same day. Eerie. A Blind Bargain, While Paris Sleeps, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and today’s subject review The Penalty. What is even more peculiar is these are all directed by the same man; Wallace Worsley! When I did some homework however it wasn’t really all that peculiar at all; Worsley directed Chaney in at least six films that I could find (Voices of the City (1921) and The Ace of Hearts (1921) were the other two titles). I enjoyed all four of these films but I only intended on reviewing one so I chose my favourite of the quartet. Chances are you will see a couple of those other titles on my top twenty favourites list. The Penalty is adapted from the book by Gouverneur Morris who also wrote the screenplay for the film. Morris’ pop was a statesman and founding father of the United States! I wonder what dad thought of his son writing pulp fiction for a living? He should have been damn proud if you ask me because The Penalty is a rock solid bad-ass crime drama! IMDB lists the film as crime, drama, horror and while I am not really seeing the horror I enjoyed this film so damn much that I am sneaking it in as a genre film anyway.

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The vast majority of the 1920 horror films I watched have been from Germany and USA. There is no two ways about it, the Germans bitch-slapped the American’s visually speaking. The American’s however certainly know how to tell a story. The Penalty did not wow me with its beauty but it sure as hell impress me with its details! I can not believe the effort that was put in to making Lon Chaney’s character’s environment. Lon Chaney plays a character named Blizzard who is an amputee. Every aspect of his environment has been created to accommodate his legless stature. Pegs used for climbing walls, door knobs lowered, ramps, ladders; even a freaking fireman’s pole has been installed to take him from one floor to another! It is extremely admirable. Chaney goes to great lengths when he plays a character. In The Unknown he plays an armless knife thrower (wrap your head around that) and he not only throws knives with his feet, he plays the guitar and smokes a cigarette effortlessly; like he was actually born that way. In The Penalty he moves about with that same natural ease of a man who has actually been without legs from childhood. It is impossible not to admire an actor who goes to this sort of effort. Chaney’s Blizzard is “lord and master of the underworld” and he is a brutal sonofabitch who is not afraid to rough up the ladies or have someone snuffed out for the most minor of infractions. He isn’t only a mean sonofabitch, he’s an intelligent one. The Penalty focuses on Blizzard’s elaborate plans for revenge. Blizzard should not have been an amputee and he intends on making not only the doctor and his family pay but the entire city. All of San Francisco shall feel the wrath of Blizzard! Bloody Hell! I love how rotten and nasty Chaney is in The Penalty. I have watched several Lon Chaney films over the course of this year, including some outside of the genre and I think Blizzard is one of his best baddies; and the man has played a few. I was unfamiliar with The Penalty before embarking on this 1920s project and I am hugely pleased to have stumbled upon it. If you appreciate a good crime drama with some punch from the silent era you really need to check out Wallace Worsley’s The Penalty.

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The Penalty opens with a prologue. A boy is the victim of a traffic accident and a young Dr. Ferris makes a bad call. The boy has suffered a contusion at the base of his skull and his legs have been badly damaged. Dr. Ferris makes the call to amputate both of the child’s legs above the knee. His mentor is horrified by his decision.

“Good God! You should not have amputated!”
“You’ve mangled this poor child for life!”

The boy overhears this conversation.

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We jump ahead twenty-seven years to San Francisco; the richest city in the Western world.

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Barbary Nell is attacked and killed.

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Blizzard, “lord and master of the underworld” ain’t afraid of no copper.

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Lichtenstein of the Federal Secret Service with Rose one of his top operatives. Lichtenstein has asked Rose if she would be willing to go undercover as one of Blizzard’s employees. Rose accepts the detail. Lichtenstein believes Blizzard is hatching something huge that will put the entire city at risk.

“It means living in that devil’s house til you find out what he is up to.”

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One of Blizzard’s cronies.

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Blizzard has the gals from his dance hall working in his home making hats. Here he is checking in on their handiwork and finds some shoddy workmanship. Chaney roughs one of the dames up good as a lesson to them all. Her co-workers look on in horror.

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This is Blizzard’s flavor of the month. The gals in Blizzard’s favor get the opportunity to peddle while he plays the piano. Feeling bolstered by his plans for revenge and city wide domination he barks;

“And I shall walk as men walk! I shall be the master of a city! And for my mangled years the city shall pay me with the pleasures of a Nero and the powers of a Caesar. But you won’t live to see it if you don’t pedal better!”

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Barbara Ferris; daughter of the aforementioned surgeon Dr. Ferris. Barbara has dedicated her life to art. Here Barbara is pictured with her father’s assistant Dr. Wilmot Allen; who is also her intended.

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Lichtenstein is disappointed that Rose has yet to uncover anything about Blizzard’s plans.

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Blizzard uses a fireman’s pole to move from one floor to another.

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Rose finds Blizzard’s hidden underground lair below the fireplace.

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Wanted: Model to pose for statue of “Satan after the fall” if you think you look like Satan apply at studio of Barbara Ferris 32 Institute Place.

Blizzard has the perfect “in” to begin enacting his revenge. Who better to pose as the devil than he?

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Blizzard aka “Satan after the fall” in clay form.

“Why do you live in the underworld?

“When Satan fell from Heaven he looked for power in Hell.”

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Rose attempts to send Lichtenstein a note about what she has found in Blizzard’s hidden underground lair. Unfortunately Blizzard intercepts the letter. Blizzard has a bit of a soft spot for Rose on account of her top-notch peddling.

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Blizzard and Dr. Ferris “the now famous surgeon” finally meet.

“I have followed every step of your career and you have indeed profited by your early mistakes.”

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Blizzard’s plan is hatched.

“Your ten thousand foreign malcontents will filter into the city in small detachments.
By fire and riots I shall draw the police and military into the suburbs.”

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Blizzard tells Rose he intercepted her letter. Instead of fearing for her life Rose is relieved as she has bizarrely fallen in love with this most unlovable of men.

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Blizzard has one of those nasty trap doors built-in the floor. He has found himself a nice pair of replacement legs.

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He prepares his “replacement legs” for surgery.

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He blackmails Dr. Ferris into conducting the surgery.

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Blizzard recovering with Rose at his side.

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No spoilers kids. The Penalty ends with the following:

“Fate chained me to evil – for that I must pay the penalty.”

Dungeon Rating: 4.5/5

Directed By: Wallace Worsley

Starring: Lon Chaney, Charles Clary, Doris Pawn, Jim Mason, Milton Ross, Ethel Grey Terry, Kenneth Harlan, Claire Adams