His gardener will never accept his offer of lemonade, and Judge Daryl Loomis can't figure out why.
Your feminine pulchritude is detestable and you were trying to drain the energy from me!
While Bob Clark directed the first true slasher movie in 1974 with Black Christmas, the genre really didn't get going until 1978, when John Carpenter took horror by the throat with Halloween. In the decades since, it seems like I've seen everything there is to see but, luckily, that turns out, once again, to be untrue. The Love Butcher comes in between those two classic genre entries and, while it doesn't really even qualify as a slasher and is a decidedly terrible movie, it's something that every hardcore horror fan will want to watch.
Caleb (Erik Stern, WarGames) is a gardener for wealthy couples who lusts after the hot young wives, though with his bald head, bad eyes, crippled arm, and limp, none of them ever come near him. It frustrates him daily, but he has a solution to this little problem. When he goes home at night he argues with his handsome lothario of a "brother," Lester. Lester mocks Caleb for his lack of lady-skills and loves to rub it in his face by proving his own virility with the women who rebuff Caleb's advances. Unfortunately, Lester's just Caleb in a wig, and he's not only virile when he dons it, he's also a homicidal maniac who, after bedding these poor souls, murders them with Caleb's own gardening tools.
By all rights, The Love Butcher is abjectly horrible, but it's also one of the most purely enjoyable horror experiences I've had in some time. Not for the scares, which are non-existent, nor the blood, which is there but not in spades, but for the absolute craziness at hand. It all starts with Erik Stern's dual performance which, honestly, is pretty good given what's around him. In his Norman Bates-style performance, he actually has to do more than Anthony Perkins, not only pretending to be the other person, but express jealousy and anger towards him, arguing and yelling at a Styrofoam head (which comes to its demise it hilariously satisfying fashion). Plus, as Lester, he seduces women in various costumes and accents, giving a guy who barely acted after this a huge showcase for some actually surprising talent.
The rest is not good, but it's also funny as hell. The super angry cop who can't read a line without screaming it; the various garden implements used to murder young women; a drowning by garden hose (!); incredibly elaborate, terribly read lines. This thing has it all, at least when you're talking about terrible cult films.
So, I basically hated this movie upon first watching it, but Code Red's DVD for The Love Butcher made me change my tune. The 2.35:1 anamorphic image suffers from print damage, but the colors, overall, look pretty good and flesh tones are accurate, at least given the obscurity of the movie. The mono sound is perfectly average, with nothing special at all about it.
It's in the lone extra, though, that cinched it for me. It's an audio commentary that features Don Jones, R.A. Thorburn (a producer of Frank Hennenlotter's Bad Biology and a frequent guest on Code Red commentaries), and Code Red representative Lee Christian. It's very funny to listen to, especially Thorburn, who absolutely loves the film and all of its ridiculousness. His enthusiasm and the information provided by Jones changed my tune on the movie; that is very likely the first time that's ever happened to me.
Sure, it's awful in nearly every way, but fans of cult exploitation will have a hoot with The Love Butcher. It's the kind of movie that would have warranted an MST3K treatment had it not been so obscure, but here it is now for everyone to enjoy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
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