Based on the true story of '60s thrill-killer Charles Schmidt ("The Pied Piper of Tucson"), Skipper Todd (Robert F. Lyons) is a charismatic 23-year old who charms his way into the lives of ...
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Based on the true story of '60s thrill-killer Charles Schmidt ("The Pied Piper of Tucson"), Skipper Todd (Robert F. Lyons) is a charismatic 23-year old who charms his way into the lives of high school kids in a small California town. Girls find him attractive and are only too willing to accompany him to a nearby desert area to be his "girl for the night." Not all of them return, however. Featuring Richard Thomas as his loyal hanger-on and a colorful assortment of familiar actors in vivid character roles including Barbara Bel Geddes, Gloria Grahame, Edward Asner, Fay Spain, James Broderick and Michael Conrad. Written by
You actually came to see me without any of your baby-pimps? Wow. How do I rate that honor?
I just loved your performance at the pool.
So, you're the one who rides the dune buggy and "services" the little girls huh?
Oh yes... and speaking of little girls, how old are you?
16. Just about your speed too, isn't it?
Ha-ha! It's a good age. It's a little over the hill these days, but it will do.
How old are you?
Why don't you do something besides hang around the pool.
I'm a songwriter. I'm gonna ...
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Intelligent psycho drama inspired by "real life case histories", or rather, the story of an actual thrill killer named Charles Schmid Jr., a.k.a. "The Pied Piper of Tucson". A character who prefigured guys like Ted Bundy and Charles Manson, he is here named Skipper Todd, and is played by Robert F. Lyons. Skipper is a shiftless yet undeniably charismatic 23 year old man. The youths of the town of Darlington are completely enamoured of Skipper; he's one of those guys where the girls want to be with him and the boys want to *be* him. However, Skippers' outwards demeanour masks a dark side. And some of his associates are all too willing to help him cover up his crimes.
All things considered, I can see how some people would find this film off putting. It is a sleazy story, to be sure, but it's compelling in a very sobering way. It does have some pertinent things to say about the way that people can find themselves drawn in by the force of someones' personality, for good or bad. Skipper is a mostly cool, unflappable type who makes it through police interrogations without flinching. His mom (portrayed by Barbara Bel Geddes) largely puts up with a lot of his aimlessness, and his new acquaintance Billy Roy (a pre-'Waltons' Richard Thomas) regards him with awe.
Well photographed in Panavision by Harold E. Stine, with a powerful score by Leonard Rosenman, "The Todd Killings" serves as a rather picturesque depiction of rural California in the early 1970s. Performances are all right on the money, with a large number of familiar faces on hand: Belinda Montgomery, Sherry Miles, Holly Near, James Broderick, Gloria Grahame, Fay Spain, Edward Asner, Michael Conrad, William Lucking, Meg Foster, George Murdock, Harry Lauter, Eddie Firestone, Eve Brent, Jack Riley, and an uncredited Geoffrey Lewis.
The opening sequence is a grabber, and producer / director Barry Shear prefers to just plunge us into the action, saving all of the acting and technical credits for the final few minutes. Close-ups are used to good effect, and Shear gives us an honest, unflattering account of these turbulent times in American history and a memorable antagonist who's very much up front about his contempt towards the world in general.
Seven out of 10.
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