Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why THE SADIST is the best torture you can experience

Don't mind the fact that this is a low-budget film made in 1963. Or that Arch Hall Jr. has a cheesy filmography to boast (or not) about. The Sadist is one of those B-movies that stands the test of time and deserves every bit of recognition it could get. The only thing that's dated in this film, aside from the clothes, is the Coca-Cola bottle. 

It's seriously one of the most tension-filled movie I've seen from start to finish - especially that climax! Modern film makers could learn a thing or two from this little black & white exploitation movie that's unfortunately, undeservingly buried in obscurity - unbeknownst to most people. I haven't even heard about this film before. Thank god for Timeless Classic Movies in Youtube!

So what makes this under-appreciated gem a timeless classic? Before I start my nonsense, here's a short info about the movie.

The Sadist is loosely based from the murder spree of serial killer, Charles Starkweather, and his 14-year old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, which other movies such as Badlands (1973), Kalifornia (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994), and Starkweather (2004) were also based from.

"Three people driving into Los Angeles for a Dodgers game have car trouble and pull off into an old wrecking yard where they are held at bay by a bloodthirsty psycho and his crazy girlfriend."
Also known as Profile of Terror, and Sweet Baby Charlie
Written & Directed by:  James Landis
Cinematography by: 
William Zsigmond
Starring:  Arch Hall Jr., Richard Alden,
Marilyn Manning, Don Russell, Helen Hovey
Running Time:  95 mins.

Watch it on YT here

First of all, script didn't feel stilted which is surprising given the genre this movie is categorized in. Dialogues flow naturally, maybe it's the actors' delivery or the script itself, but it's one of the things I've immediately noticed and enjoyed.

Next is the film's photography/cinematography. I admit that I wasn't able to fully appreciate the movie's quality as I've only watched it in Youtube (only 480p) but the sophisticated use of film techniques and camera angles is quite noticeable - which I totally didn't expect. I also need to mention that Vilmos Zsigmond (William), regarded as one of the most influential cinematographers (Deer Hunter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), is responsible for this movie's cinematography, which is his first project in the United States (makes it all the more a must-see if you're a film buff).

This awesome handheld gun/camera shot transported me back to my highschool years playing Counterstrike hahaha

The acting was (another surprise) nicely done. The three protagonists gave off convincing portrayals as victims trapped in a situation where the one deciding if you should live or not is a unibrowed lunatic with a giggly, non-talking, purse-stealing girlfriend. One is bound to break down (though I won't say who). While Hovey, Russell, and Alden handled their characters well (or good enough), the scene-stealers here are Arch Hall Jr. and Marilyn Manning playing some kind of a twisted, less appealing Romeo and Juliet. Insane & child-like are the best words to describe them. To mesh sinister playfulness, egotism with a touch of inferiority complex, and just plain bad-to-the-bones evil nature is as complicated as trying to navigate through a minefield - blindfolded. It takes skills (or sheer luck) to pull that off. One wrong move, and your villain becomes an overacted caricature. Why do you think greatly-portrayed villains are remembered more than their equally greatly-portrayed goody-two-shoes counterparts? Great villains are not as commonplace as great protagonists. But they are as important (if not more) as the lead good guy. They're the ones that make you root for the lead character. The more you hate them, the better. The more effective they are, the more you get involved in the film. That's what Charles & Judy did - they intrigued me, pulled me in, convinced me to stay focused and see how the scenes unfold. They made me unsure of the protagonists' fate. Will they survive? Will they be able to watch the game? Even during the climax, I was still unsure what's gonna happen. I didn't know and I was nervous the whole time. That final scene was so cool that I gave an extra .5 to my rating.

Like I said, this movie is suspenseful and thrilling from start to finish. It has no gore (you can see a bit of blood in some scenes but that's about it), no over the top violence, no sex, it was made in the 60's with a budget of more or less 33,000 dollars - and yet, the terror is so thick, the scenes are taut - this is a truly well-directed film and in my honest opinion, a far more superior movie than most big-budgeted horror-thrillers nowadays. The extra long climax was one of the most well-executed scenes I've seen. Although I had a slight problem with the way (SPOILERS!) Charles died. I mean it felt cheesy - falling into a snake pit and dying of snake bites. So only by sheer luck that the protagonist survived. BUT! The only reason I didn't like that part was because I wanted the survivor to deserve her life being spared. I wanted her to be a part of Charles' demise. Other than that, Charles falling into that pit was actually funny and fitting. He said "nothing scares him" and yet he was screaming like a girl that had her first ever period, seeing blood on her panties and thinking she's gonna die. Well he did die. And it's hilarious.

My Rating: 4.5/5

"The words of a sadist, one of the most disruptive elements in human society. To have complete mastery over another, to make him a helpless object, to humiliate him, to enslave, to inflict moral insanity upon the innocent. That is his objective, and his twisted pleasure!"

Who's your favorite Starkweather-inspired movie character?

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