Shout! Factory // 1973 // 85 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // September 16th, 2012
He loved the girls to death.
Handsome gym teacher Eddie Collins (Tab Hunter, Polyester) is a real lady killer. Ladies want to have sex with him, and he kills them. Eddie's got this "mother hang-up," see, and if a woman is too forward, he calls her a whore and stabs her to death. To compensate, he frequents an actual prostitute, who dresses up like his mom and lets Eddie have at her.
That's pretty much the sum and total of Sweet Kill, a skeevy bit of exploitation from future Oscar winner Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), with Roger Corman serving as executive producer.
Notable mainly for the presence of one-time, pre-packaged leading man Hunter, Sweet Kill is pretty dreary and uninspired, despite tons of nudity and a few decent kills. There's really nothing to the story; we open with a scene in which Eddie is spying on his mother as she gets undressed, then flash forward to present (1970s) day, where our strapping lad lines up his first victim.
Victims come pretty easily to Eddie; it seems every woman he meets wants to sleep with him. Maybe it's a California in the '70s thing, or maybe it's a Tab Hunter thing. That they're so easily disposed of, I guess, is an inept cop thing, as we surmise from a scene in which a missing person investigation is derailed by the discovery of a couple of grams of pot.
Sweet Kill is an awfully low-rent affair that seems to exist solely to show naked women being slaughtered by a one-time Hollywood heartthrob. There's nothing in the way of insight or explanation, no scenes of Eddie's mom railing against whores or anything like that (though the lady herself gives off a definite trashy vibe...could it be because she's a pouty-faced bleached blonde who struts around in the buff?). All we know is that Eddie graduates from panty-sniffing voyeur to full-blown serial killer in the opening moments, and the hits keep coming after that.
Sweet Kill does have some queasily interesting scenes, a few bits of reasonable suspense, and a couple of fun eccentric moments, including some funny sequences involving Eddie's landlady (Isabel Jewell, Gone With the Wind). Hanson directs for maximum sleaze value -- reportedly, after a disappointing first run, Corman had him insert more nudity, so virtually every woman in the film gets at least a topless scene. Strangely, the abundant nudity actually had the opposite of what I'd imagine was the desired effect: It made the film seem nakedly exploitative, and coupled with the violent kills, ultimately unpleasant.
Hunter is actually pretty compelling as the deranged Eddie; he might not have been considered a great actor, but he certainly had presence, although the competition in this film is pretty lackluster. Almost all the other characters are women who are merely trotted out for nakedness and destruction, and while a few of them get some reasonably entertaining bits of business, none really makes much of an impression. Most of the film is just people running around in bathing suits or cable-knit sweaters, fornicating and then bleeding to death, which is the best I can do for a recommendation.
Sweet Kill comes from Shout! Factory's Roger Corman's Cult Classics line. While here and there, Shout! Factory turns out a worthwhile Corman disc (Humanoids from the Deep, for instance), most of their Corman releases are just dumped out there with no supplements and no remastered tech; Sweet Kill is one of these.
The film opens with the title The Arousers, which was the name given it for the rerelease. The inside cover of the case features posters for the film under the two names, and clearly, the reissue was being pushed as a sexploitation film ("They Take on All Comers" screams the tagline, with photos of the semi-clad actresses adorning the one-sheet).
The standard definition 1.33:1 full-frame image looks pretty poor, with wonky colors and lots of print damage; the tech here is bad enough to be distracting. Audio is a serviceable 2.0 Mono track. There are no supplements. I'm sure it's not cost-effective to spruce up the image (or release it in the correct aspect ratio) or add supplements, but frankly, if Shout! Factory had put some effort into this release, it might have been easier to look at it as a lost sleaze classic it might be.
If '70s exploitation sleaze is your thing, you'll want to check out Sweet Kill. I wish Shout! Factory had given us a better release, but it'll have to do.
Review content copyright © 2012 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Rated R