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John G. Avildsen
A busboy at a disco has sexual problems related to events in his childhood. He becomes obsessed with a disc jockey at the club, leading to obscene phone calls, voyeurism, trips to the porn shop and adult movie palace, and more! A police detective is similarly obsessed with sexual materials, leading him to become personally involved in the case. Written by
Steven Rubio <email@example.com>
Mineo heads odd but savvy cast in New York story that's a genuine creepshow
Every now and again, a movie washes up on the fringes of the industry that's unlike anything else of its time or any time. Who Killed Teddy Bear (no question mark) certainly qualifies; rarely discussed or even mentioned, it's not quite forgotten, either it's hard to forget.
By 1965, the barriers were starting to be breached in what could be shown, or even implied, on the screen (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf dates from that year). But Who Killed Teddy Bear rubs, brusquely and suggestively, against just about every taboo obtaining then or now. It's a New York story, but of the grotty 1960s, when Manhattan led the nation as an example of how American cities were surrendering to crime and vice and ugliness at the core.
Spinning platters in a seedy discotheque, Juliet Prowse starts getting obscene phone calls then finds a decapitated teddy bear in her apartment. Police detective Jan Murray takes the case, which holds an obsessive interest for him. Four years earlier his wife had been raped and murdered; now the world of perversion and fetishism has become his life, both professionally and privately (despite a young daughter, who listens to him listening to his lurid tapes from her bedroom). Prowse becomes so shaken by the stalking that she can't quite trust him, or for that matter her tough-as-nails boss Elaine Stritch, who, invited home to serve as protection, makes a pass at her. Shown the door, Stritch, in a slip and fur coat, wanders the dark streets and back alleys, where....
Top billing goes to Sal Mineo, 10 years after his debut as Plato in Rebel Without A Cause, as a waiter in the club. Back home he has a child-like grown sister, whom he locks in the closet when he's making the rounds of the porn shops and peep shows near Times Square. Though his character isn't gay, he's served up like prime, pre-Stonewall beefcake, halfway between raw and blue; towards the end, when Prowse teaches him to dance, he erupts like a go-go boy.
The movie bears all the marks of a starvation budget, but for once the saturated photography and jumpy cutting seem just right. The odd but savvy cast even the young Daniel J. `Travanty' makes his debut as a deaf-mute bouncer brings from Broadway and east-coast television a rough edge that's far from Hollywood's buffed and smooth product. But it's the vision of the TV-reared director, Joseph Cates, and writers Arnold Drake and Leon Tokatyan that makes Who Killed Teddy Bear so hard to shake. Neither a tidy thriller nor a nuanced character study, it nonetheless has a trump card to play: It's the real McCoy,a genuine creepshow.
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