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Case Number 12748

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The Killing Kind

Dark Sky Films // 1973 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Eric Andis (Retired) // January 14th, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge Eric Andis kinda dug this grisly cult flick from the '70s.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Killing Kind, published April 2nd, 2004, is also available.

The Charge

He loved his mother…He loved pretty girls…All Dead!

Opening Statement

If you've ever wondered what you'd get if you crossed The Graduate with Psycho, then this is the movie for you!

Facts of the Case

After being convicted of rape, Terry (John Savage, The Deer Hunter) is paroled and returns home to his mother, Thelma (Ann Sothern, Lady in a Cage). Their relationship is a bit unconventional, what with him calling her by her first name, her taking nearly-naked pictures of him, and constantly telling him that no girl is good enough for him while giving him countless glasses of chocolate milk.

She runs a boarding house filled with little old ladies, but when young and sweet Lori (Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley) takes up residence, Terry just doesn't really know what to do with himself. He decides to pass the time by exacting revenge on everyone that put him behind bars. Hilarity ensues, and the body count starts piling up. But his hair still looks great!

The Evidence

The Killing Kind has been largely unseen since it's original release in 1973, but the few who did see it walked away plenty disturbed, and it's gained a bit of a reputation over the last 30-plus years. Finally released on DVD, it's a prime example of low-budget grindhouse filmmaking, but with a touch of class lent it by director Curtis Harrington.

Best known for movies like What's The Matter With Helen? and Ruby, Harrington's career was chock full of shady distributors, dishonest producers, and tiny budgets. A great number of his pictures were either barely released, or cut without his participation, and he's been largely forgotten by Hollywood today.

And yet, that's probably just fine with him, because he was one of the original mavericks, preferring to stay outside the studio system, and using movies like this to comment on a Hollywood system filled with losers, has-beens and never-weres, always wishing for a past that was shoddy to begin with. Harrington's directorial style is intense and gripping, tightly filling his frame with the faces of his actors and not being afraid to hold a take long enough to guess exactly what's on their minds.

This is especially true of John Savage's portrayal of Terry, who seems like a pretty decent guy, until the moment when he strangles one of his mother's housepets on camera with almost a grin on his face. Yes, he's around the bend loco, and yet Savage makes him almost sympathetic for a serial killer with a bad case of arrested development.

After all, if you lived your life with Ann Sothern as your mom, you might be homicidal too. Her performance as Thelma is completely overbearing, and you'll want to strangle her after she's been on screen for 10 minutes. In a list of the Top 10 Worst Screen Mothers, she ranks somewhere between Mama Bates from Psycho and Angela Landsbury from The Manchurian Candidate. I'm sure Ann Sothern was a lovely lady in real life, but her performance in this is much creepier than Savage's Terry.

Made on an extremely low budget, the production values aren't lavish at all—about on par with a TV-movie from that time. But the scripting and editing are effective and better than the typical films in the genre.

A special word must be said about a sequence where Terry pays a visit to the lawyer who defended him. She invites him right into her home, which features probably the single most hideous display of '70s decorating this reviewer has ever seen. I cannot describe it in any detail (this is, after all, a family site), but suffice to say, it should probably not be beheld by those with heart conditions or sensitive natures.

Video quality is actually better than expected, with good blacks and skin tones. Portions of the film appear to have been shot with some slight soft focus, which shouldn't be considered a fault of the transfer. The mono soundtrack is just fine. Seventeen chapters are provided, which is adequate.

The single bonus is an interesting interview with Curtis Harrington himself, in which he comments on the film, as well as his career overall. It's refreshing to hear him speak honestly about his past experiences, and the interview is over way too soon.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Although Dark Sky Films gets some props for releasing this cult flick, the DVD extras are completely underwhelming. How about some brief bios of Harrington and the actors? How about some trailers from other Harrington films to stir some interest in his other work? Heck, how about a trailer for this film? Releasing this movie was obviously a labor of love, so why not just put a little more labor into it?

Closing Statement

For horror and thriller fans, this is a twisted little movie that's definitely a cut above average. But for those with mother issues, this might be a little too close to home.

The Verdict

Not guilty. This DVD is free to go anywhere except into the custody of its mother.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 70
Audio: 70
Extras: 20
Acting: 80
Story: 70
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile

Studio: Dark Sky Films
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Cult
• Horror
• Independent
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• 23 Minute Interview with Director Curtis Harrington


• IMDb

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