Well, we’d like to scream for them, but in the four films I look at in this post spanning the decade of disco, only the movie with the original psycho scares up enough fun for my tastes.
HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLAN (1970)
Anthony Perkins was destined to play a mental patient for his entire career post-Psycho. In this TV movie, after a fire that leaves the face of his sister (Julie Harris) scarred and him virtually blind, Perkins spends a while in an institution before returning to live with sis.
Often viewed through Perkins’s blind POV (all he can make out are blurry forms), the film is effectively eerie as he becomes convinced that the new boarder staying in one of the rooms in their house is out to get him. He hears the person whispering his name, creeping around the house, and even trying to lure him into the basement (perhaps to remind him that he’s actually Norman Bates, the guy who left his mom’s corpse under a droplight in a basement).
There are some good twists and turns as Perkins tries to figure out who the mysterious boarder is, and his final confrontation has him knocking into a droplight that swings wildly…again, a reminder that he’s fricking Norman Bates! We even get a classic Psycho stare for a final freeze frame before the end credits role.
THE KILLING KIND (1973)
I hate to say this, but the best scene in this psychosexual horror is the gang rape at the beginning. We get right into it as a bunch of guys on the beach pin a girl down and then force a horrified onlooker (a young John Savage) to rape her. The short but effective scene delivers the kind of disturbing look, feel, and tone you expect from the sleaziest films of the 1970s.
After Savage is released from prison, he goes to live at his mother’s boarding house. They have an icky, almost incestuous relationship, making for a rather routine mama’s-boy-turns-psycho-killer plot.
Unfortunately, there’s no intensity, suspense, or gore here. Hell, the dude simply knocks his first victim’s car off a cliff. YAWN. And he doesn’t do much more interesting than act insane for the remainder of the film.
I guess the highlight of The Killing Kind is pre-Laverne & Shirley Cindy Williams as the dumbest young woman ever. She comes to live in the house and takes a swim in the pool with Savage, who immediately tries to drown her. She gets away, and the mother blames her for being a whore that deserved it for tempting him! So what does terrified and shaken Cindy do? She tries to seduce him and is the shocked that he goes insane on her! WTF?
Craze, by veteran horror director Freddie Francis (Tales From The Crypt, The Creeping Flesh), begins with Jack Palance looking like a satanic cult leader as he oversees a ritual in the basement of his antique store. There’s a big freaky statue, a woman dancing topless, a stomach sliced open…you know, the good stuff.
But following that, Craze becomes more of a typical “psycho killer targets pretty women” movie as Palance hits up bars and clubs, brings women home, and kills them to sacrifice to the statue in hopes of becoming all powerful. A young man who works in his store knows all about his practices and slowly begins to crack as detectives come snooping around and he keeps trying to cover for Palance.
The kills aren’t all that shocking by today’s standards, and the only scary scene has Palance pop out of a closet wearing a freaky mask. Hard to believe that this mask wasn’t exploited as his calling card for every kill.
Otherwise, there’s something rather campy about this film. I just love when Palance literally picks a guy up over his head and tosses him out a window, then takes on the police with an axe. Yeah, this one is more laughable than disturbing.
TIME AFTER TIME (1979)
This charming HG Wells/Jack The Ripper crossover film lacks any edge despite the infamy of its antagonist. It is actually more of a lighthearted romance in which Mary Steenburgen and soon-to-be real-life husband Malcolm McDowell (as Wells) meet in modern day San Fran when Wells comes chasing Jack the Ripper (David Warner), who hopped in the time machine to avoid being caught by police.
Seriously, Jack only kills one woman during his stay in San Fran (perhaps women are hard to find in a sea of gay men?), and the most gore we get is a splash of blood on his cheek. Other than that, he simply plays cat and mouse with McDowell and Steenburgen as their relationship grows. Steenburgen gets a handful of lines to indicate that she knows the deal in San Fran – first she tells a friend that she’s glad Wells is cute and not gay, and later swears to Wells that she’s not a dyke then corrects herself by using the word lesbian. Weird how taking a time machine to 1979 sounds a lot like taking one to Trump’s America, 2017.
There’s a fun time travel twist involving Jack the Ripper and Steenburgen, and at the end, she gets a taste of having a long time distance relationship, which she’d experience again a decade later with Dr. Emmett Brown in Back To The Future III.