After eating hospital food, the whole "massacre" business makes far more sense to Appellate Judge Tom Becker.
The check-up that became a nightmare!
When Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus purchased Cannon Films in the late '70s, the goal was a simple one: turn out quick, cheap product and turn a quick profit. Thus, the '80s saw a glut of cheesy but successful films with the Golan Globus stamp, including Breakin' 2: Electric Bugaloo, Making the Grade, American Ninja, and many other forgettable action or horror or comedy films.
Now, Shout! Factory's Scream Factory gives us a Golan Globus double feature, just like we might have seen at a drive-in three decades ago: X-Ray and Schizoid.
With slasher movies, we generally don't spend a lot of time focusing on logic, and motivation is often provided in a prologue. Films like Terror Train, Prom Night, Slaughter High, and the entire Friday the 13th series give us our set-up early on: Something bad happens to a teen or pre-teen, and years later, the victim or a friend or relative exacts vengeance.
But here we have X-Ray (a.k.a. Hospital Massacre), which takes this simple trope and mucks it up so badly that you have wonder if it wasn't intentional. But then, X-Ray is such a weird-for-weird's-sake experience that it's hard to really figure out what the filmmakers were going for.
In 1961, 11-year-old Susan (Elizabeth Hoy, Bloody Birthday) is hanging out at her house on Valentine's Day with a little boy. But another little boy (Billy Jayne, also from Bloody Birthday) wants Susan's attention, so he leaves her a valentine. Unfortunately, Susan and her playfriend laugh at this offering, so the spurned does what spurned boys so often do: breaks into the house and murders Susan's friend by hanging him on a coatrack.
Nineteen years fly by in the blink of a title card, and Susan has grown up to be the lovely and voluptuous Barbi Benton—Hee Haw Honey, Playboy model, consort of Hugh Hefner, and recording star. Well, that's Barbi; Susan's just a working stiff who needs to pick up her medical records at the local hospital. Unfortunately:
• She chooses Valentine's Day to perform this task.
• Her hospital, as someone helpfully points out, was the scene of a massacre the year before.
• Guess who's working at that hospital now? Someone who has a picture of the 11-year-old Susan on the wall along with some paper valentines, and who isn't above some record-shifting to convince doctors that Susan's sick and needs to be admitted.
Oh, and someone who isn't above murdering all sorts of people just to get at Susan.
Perhaps to cover the fact that there's not much story here, X-Ray features an endless stream of weirdness. Non-sequitoresque characters drift through the frames as chainsmoking physicians and patients make peculiar banter; a kind of improvised Gregorian chant—that sometimes sounds like "iced coffee"—blares during the kill sequences. Benton, famous for her work in Playboy and her then-past relationship with Hefner, gets an achingly gratuitous and creepy nude examination scene.
While it's fun for a while, X-Ray runs out of steam long before the ending, in which the killer is unmasked, to the surprise of probably no one. An extended final chase also goes on way too long. While the oddness here can be a bit charming—including a bizarre bit that has three elderly women looking for a doctor in a closed-off part of the hospital—it's a few rungs down from "must-see, " even for fans of '80s slasher sleaze.
Moving on from the world of physical medicine to the world of mental medicine, it's Schizoid, the story of a lunatic making mincemeat (literally) of the members of a therapy group.
The therapist who is shepherding this bunch of loser-in-love oddballs is the aptly named Dr. Fales (Klaus Kinski, Fitzcarraldo). In addition to listening to this female-heavy crowd complain, the good doctor is also making a couple of the ladies a little less lonely…although, since it's Klaus Kinski, it's really less lonely, more creepy. One of those ladies is Julie (Marianna Hill, Medium Cool), an advice columnist going through a difficult divorce from fellow writer Doug (Craig Wasson, Body Double).
Into this miserable arrangement comes a real downer: someone starts stalking and offing Dr. Fales' patients. And someone—the killer, perhaps?—is sending Julie those crazy words-cut-out-of-the-newspaper letters talking about killing.
Who could it be? Dr. Fales? The crazy, lonely Gilbert (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future), one of the few men in the group? Dr. Fales' half-nutty daughter, Alison (Donna Wilkes, Jaws 2)? Or, is it just some random schizoid?
Schizoid seems to have borrowed heavily from the Italian giallo films, but it only gets it superficially right. It's got a heavy sleaze quotient, and a killer who wears black gloves and uses scissors as the preferred weapon, but the film isn't as stylish or over-the-top as its Euro cousins. It also makes a bizarre mistake: If you look even just a little closely, it's pretty easy to identify the killer during the run-up to the first murder. If you don't catch it there, trust me, you'll figure it out well before the reveal.
While it's not the worst time waster, Schizoid isn't particularly good, either. There aren't all that many killings, and only a few bits of suspense, some nudity, and a Klaus Kinski sex scene. The dialogue is atrocious, the set ups ridiculous, and the ending as terrible as you'd expect. On the plus side, it's nice to see Wasson, who seemed on his way to a successful career as a character actor in the '80s, but who just didn't really take off. He's actually miscast here, too young for the role, but he's also the most interesting actor on the screen.
Scream Factory has done its typical good job on this set. Both films are on a single Blu-ray, plus a DVD. The tech is overall good, if not great, with solid images and clean-sounding PCM mono tracks. We even get a couple of supplements: X-Ray offers up an interview with director Boaz Davidson, while Schizoid includes an interview with Donna Wilkes, plus a trailer.
So, not everything from Scream Factory's a gem. If you're looking for a low-impact return to the '80s experience, this double feature should fill the bill. Case dismissed.
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