Something Weird Video // 1970 // 162 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // March 21st, 2003
Make a date and you're dead!
Dr. Kenneth Alden lives the kind of jet-setting, go-getting lifestyle that scenario scribblers for Playboy and Swank only wet dream about. He has a super fast pleasure boat, a far out futuristic automobile, a ritzy, well respected psychological practice, a red hot and panting mistress...oh yeah, and a blousy, libido lynching drunken house frau of a ball and chain to add necessary hopelessness and desperation to his bon vivantness. When this noted nut case noodler gets a call from the cops to examine a guilty sex fiend, Dr. Ken jumps at the chance (and into his Hot Wheels style robot funny car). It's not long before he has Marco, the mincing prince of low self-image, confessing to a series of brutal assaults. When his pickled spouse refuses to grant him a divorce, it's up to head shrinking Kenny to convolute a devious plot to rid himself of future alimony payments. Inspired by The Manchurian Candidate (!), he suggestively sells the misguided Mark on the idea of giving his liquored up little lady a nylon necktie nap. But a foolish doctor and his adultery are soon parted, as the alcoholic Mrs. Alden sets up the shrink's on-the-side slag for a date with Marky Mark and his musky mania. Can Dr Ken save the day, or will his occasional sexual dalliance become the next victim of The Psycho Lover?
For anyone who ever wondered how magazines like True Crime Confidential and America's Funniest Street Muggings got their felony porn photos, they need look no further than Johnny, a categorically uncorked off title snap shooter who clicks Polaroids of pones victims in various stages of undress to fire his strange, brain boiling Heat of Madness. When he meets Susan, a courier from a real live Madison Avenue ad agency, it's love at first glare. Susan finds John's moody near manic depression kind of sexy. John sees Susan as another seductive female member of the human gag reflex factory known as the opposite sex. His hesitance with the honeys all stems from when John was 19. His father took him to a chateau of loose morals. When confronted with the bevy of available red light bed warmers, he proceeded to lose his lunch. So when it turns out that Susan in really some rich witch with a personal life examining law firm (and a pining for the petticoats attorney) on her side, John can't help but detach and delve deeper into his own private insane Idaho. As the chance to shoot the scenes for a book of famous sex crimes comes his way, John's disturbed decision making process hits puree. And it's not long before life imitates art imitates a dozen other movies as boobies and blood flow freely.
Wanna hear something really weird? The Psycho Lover, AKA The Loving Touch, is a terrifically twisted little thriller drenched in professional directing, incredibly intelligent dialogue, and only the merest smattering of depraved nudity to keep the passion pit provocateurs greenback happy. A substantially more serious movie than most of your standard exploitation fare, this is a solid tale that takes its talent and tawdriness seriously, hoping to make a statement about mental illness and those who treat it along the way. Basically a forerunner to films like DePalma's Dressed to Kill and Body Double, it offers a carefully constructed plot with an intricate flashback and dream structure and a few staged sex crimes to please the pervert in everyone. Director Robert Vincent O'Neill, who would gain greater notoriety and fame with 1984's questionable tale of a high school hooker called Angel (featuring Fat City's Susan Tyrell and Dick Shawn in drag), has a wonderful visual style and works the camera and the cast overtime to sell this borderline balderdash bedlam as serious psycho-sexual fare. Sure, the low budget set designs betray the skid row mindset inherent in the film's creation. But The Psycho Lover is in actuality a really good movie, one that keeps the audience guessing up until the very end. Offering good performances (especially effective is the actress essaying Mrs. Alden -- she seems permanently bitter and blotto) and positively painful pop tunes (including the tongue tying "A Woman"), it's a slick flick that puts much of the same style made-for-cable film fodder to shame.
It's too bad, then, that Heat of Madness can't match Lover's mental mayhem mano-y-mano. True, it's far more depraved than the previous story of a suave brain buster with a booze-based quandary, but what Heat of Madness lacks is style. It wants to be a gritty, unsane urban crime saga. All it ends up doing is soiling its call sheets. For a while, one wonders why it is an exploitation movie at all, since it pulls so many of its pulchritude punches. When it has opportunities to pour on the filth and flesh, it recoils in sick disgust, much like the main character of John at the thought of French kissing a woman. Nudity is sparse and haphazardly addressed. The standard sex scenes never manifest themselves. And far too much time is spent in the ersatz courtship between the wealthy heiress and our cracked artist with a bad comb over. They spend eons extolling their love and nary enough moments inflagrante delicto. Even when the law firm threatens to prove that John is a supreme whack job and his deep inner perversions are about to be exposed, the movie again puts on the brakes and retreats to a neutral corner to await an entertainment decision by the salaciousness scoring judges. Heat of Madness is too passive to be provocative and not aggressive enough to satisfy the turgid needs of an exploitation audience. About the only bright spot is the presence, midway through, of the overacting character called Linda Bean. When a homeless waif who looks like a pre-Tallulah-ed Elizabeth Ashley with a flowerpot hairdo and skeletal figure is the highlight of a sex crime film, you know something is amiss.
Still, Something Weird is to be commended for meshing the cracked color Psycho to the black and white blandness of Madness to create a special spectral overview of the entire insane in the membrane school of sinema. The transfers are first rate, with the bright hues of Psycho virtually unmarred by defects or flaws. Madness too looks good, if just a little softer than the contrast correct monotone SWV releases of the past. Both full screen images are dynamite. The Dolby Digital Mono is mastered all wrong, however. Dialogue scenes are far too quiet, and the music score overmodulated to the point of ear piercing prickliness. For added interest, there are a slew of scandalous trailers that really announce and explore a wonderful world of unknown pleasures (The Woman Hunt -- basically The Most Dangerous Game with half dressed "naked prey" -- sounds like a classic waiting to be seen). And the Sid Davis scare tactic known as Name Unknown feeds every parent's phobia about strangers and their teen targets in a skillfully hysterical fashion. The additional short subjects about a fabled Mexican molester (?) and home bondage courses are cute, but a little dull. Still, SWV uncovers yet another treasure trove of gallery material, this time focusing on the lost genre of exploitation and adult film magazines. Many of the titles shown here will bring out the Pavlov's bow-wow in even the most cynical sin cinema fan. So who cares if the disappointingly lame Heat of Madness is attached to it, The Psycho Lover is a strong enough stand-alone title to make this a must own addition to your Something Weird Collection. Just like Dr. Ken's cool kit style concept car, it's one wild and crazy ride.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 162 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Sex-Psycho Trailers
* Twisted Psycho-Sexual Short Subjects
* Gallery of Underground Sexploitation Movie-Magazine Covers with Audio Oddities
* IMDb: The Psycho Lover
* IMDb: Heat of Madness