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As a result of being wrongfully accused of murdering a doctor and being put in a mental institution, Arnold Masters plans bloody vengeance on everyone directly or indirectly responsible for the death of his poor old mother. Luckily (for him) he inherited a medallion carrying a supernatural force and this allows Arnold's spirit to step out of the body and to commit the murders without leaving a trace. The premise of "Psychic Killer" is giant nonsense but it does guarantee a lot of fun and thrills. Besides, there are more than enough elements that indicate that this movie shouldn't be taken too seriously, like the over-the-top acting and the exaggeratedly ludicrous killings. This movie looks suspiciously much like a standard Roger Corman production: the budget is extremely low, but the ingeniousness of the script and the enthusiasm of the B-cast widely make up for it (Neville Brand and Julie Adams are particularly splendid). In case you like older horror and you have a morbid sense of humor, you're destined to like this cute piece of 70's schlock. The climax is tremendously hilarious and it looks quite a lot like a demented version of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho". No essential viewing whatsoever, but a gigantically entertaining 'video-nasty' I can't recommend highly enough.
Psycho killer flicks are a penny a dozen, but at least this one has
something about it. Psychic Killer was released before the slasher
craze really kicked off, and is surprisingly more original than many
films in its class. The idea behind the plot is, of course, pure
B-grade horror hokum, but somehow it works out better than many 'man
with a knife' flicks. The film was obviously hampered by budget
constraints, and this comes across by way of the fact that much of the
movie is dialogue based. The film also has something of a cheerful tone
about it, and despite messy scenes that see hands ripped apart by meat
grinders and someone crushed under a slab of cement, the movie never
really shocks all that much. The plot follows a man who is in a mental
institute after being wrongly accused of murder. While there, he learns
the ability to 'psychically' leave his body, and upon getting out and
realising his mother has died while he was locked away, he vows to use
his new found power to get his revenge on everyone that he believes has
The film moves slowly throughout, and since a lot of the scenes focus on dialogue, Psychic Killer never really gets a good rhythm going, and every time we see an exciting sequence, it's generally followed by a slow one. This is obviously a result of the budget constraints, although the screenplay is also somewhat at fault as the movie could easily have made more of its central sequences without over stretching the budget. The plot idea is actually one of the film's strongpoints. It's silly and ensures that the movie is very much on the 'B' side of cinema, but it's also really rather interesting. The characters drag the piece down, however, as none of them are given any time to develop and there isn't anyone on the roster that is particularly easy to identify with. The gore scenes are few, but the one that takes place in a butchers shop is a treat. Other murders that see people killed by 'accidents' are rather sinister, but also rather humorous and overall, even though this film isn't brilliant; there's enough to recommend it to genre fans for.
Kirilian photography is featured throughout this intriguing film. Although promoted as horror, the sci-fi element is strong. Mental patient, Jim Hutton, eliminates his enemies with "accidents" carried out through psychic phenomena. Naturally this series of bizarre killings has the police quite perplexed. Such creative dispatches to the beyond as dropping a cement slab on his shyster lawyer, could easily be interpreted as "black comedy". The lets get right down to "business" romance between policeman, Paul Burke, and Hutton's Psychiatrist, Julie Adams, even has some levity to it. The movie has sexual titillation, nudity, splatter, creative kills, and an original and impressive ending. In short, a good exploitation film, with an interesting sci-fi premise. - MERK
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Psychic Killer" of 1975 is a highly enjoyable and underrated little flick that should appeal to all my fellow fans of 70s low-budget Horror. This is, of course, pure camp fun, and in no way essential or great, but the ridiculously low rating of 2.6/10 is completely unjustified. This has a somewhat corny and yet quite original storyline. Arnold Masters (Jim Hutton) is wrongfully accused of a murder and put in a mental institution. When the real killer is found, Arnold gets released, vowing revenge on those he holds responsible for his arrest and the death of his mother, who died while he was locked up. Arnold has learned some things about paranormal phenomena like astral projection from a fellow inmate, and he is willing to use his new psychic powers for his revenge... The plot is corny, of course, but it is also great fun. The actors are often overacting, but not in a bad way. On the contrary, the performances were one of the film's best qualities, in my opinion. Hutton fits in the role of Arnold very well and the cast furthermore includes actors such Neville Brand ("Eaten Alive"), Neremiah Persoff ("The Harder They Fall"), Paul Burke ("Daddy's Gone A-Hunting") and, most memorably, Julie Adams ("Creature From The Black Lagoon"), who was married to director Ray Danton. The murders are quite bizarre and fun to watch but, with one exception, not really bloody. The bloody one is quite well-made, especially regarding the obviously minimal budget. Even though often illogical, the film is very imaginatively executed, and occasionally quite humorous. Also, the low budget does in no one lessen this one. If anything it increases the film's cult-factor. Overall, "Psychic Killer" is no masterpiece, but it is definitely better than its reputation. Overall, this is a camp and original little flick that is highly entertaining and recommendable to all fans of low-budget Horror.
To be honest, I actually looked forward to watching the entire
movie...but then again I'm used to watching the worst of the worst
But the acting was actually really good. Of course all the characters names have already slipped my mind, but the female psychologist was really good, can't remember if I've seen her in anything else - guess I should research that.
The 'meat' scene was a lot more graphic than I expected. It was cool to see Judith Brown in something else other than all the Pam Grier movies I've seen.
One thing to improve Psychic Killer would have been more of Stack Pierce (THE black Visitor from the TV Series 'V') in the film (at least some more flashback shots would've been cool). Another thing may have been a non-matted widescreen print. Couple of things were cut off in this print. In other words, I think it was shot in 4:3, but matted for the DVD/theatre release.
I really liked this movie, and will keep it in my collection.
Decent performances by a cast of familiar TV faces enliven this routine horror yarn about a mental patient (Hutton), hospitalized for a murder he didn't commit, who learns astral projection, and uses his new powers to bump off the people he holds responsible for his arrest, his mother's death while he was imprisoned, and the price of meat! One of the murders is unwisely played for comic relief, and Hutton's monster makeup at the end makes him resemble Michael Sarrazin on a five-day bender.
PSYCHIC KILLER is certainly an effective little horror film, very much
a product of its era. It's a film with many flaws, not least the shoddy
construction of certain scenes and the general slow pacing that never
pays off, but at the same time it remains interesting. The plot is a
unique one that mines the late '70s craze for 'psychic' thrillers (see
also THE EYES OF LAURA MARS, PATRICK, THE MEDUSA TOUCH) and the creepy
atmosphere is spot on.
The weird-looking Jim Hutton stars as a guy sent to prison for a crime he may or may not have committed. Whilst inside, he befriends a black guy who gifts him the power of psychic ability, and on release the guy simply sits back in his chair and wills the deaths of those who have wronged him or his family in some way.
Much of the running time consists of a series of weird death scenes more than a little reminiscent of the likes of the FINAL DESTINATION series. They're well staged and avoid cheese for the most part, and an interesting cast and production team adds to the fun. Paul Burke's investigating cop is a great character and the actor's very likable. Aldo Ray has a minor role as a supporting detective and the evil-looking Neville Brand plays a butcher. There are roles for two famous faces from the 1950s, Whit Bissell (I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF) and Julia Adams (THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON). The script was written by Greydon Clark, who went on to direct WITHOUT WARNING, and the direction was by Ray Danton, the SANDOKAN actor. Give it a look.
We've all heard the expression "if looks could kill," but how about
thoughts? What if it were possible to kill somebody, no matter the
distance, using the power of the mind to manipulate objects. Well, that
is precisely the setup of Ray Danton's 1975 horror outing "Psychic
Killer," an undeniably shlocky yet undeniably fun exercise in
out-of-body homicide. In the film, we meet a 33-year-old mental patient
named Arnold Masters (Jim Hutton, father of Timothy, 42 here in his
final film), who repeatedly declares his innocence of the charge of
murdering his dying mother's doctor (his mother had had no health
insurance, and so that doctor had refused to perform a lifesaving
operation on her; a situation that resonates even more strongly today,
36 years later!). Masters' luck soon takes a decided turn for the
better, however, when his innocence is established, a fellow inmate
gifts him with a voodoolike amulet, and he is released from
confinement. Too bad, though, for all the folks who crossed Masters in
the past, as the amulet soon confers on him the ability to slay from
afar. As the film's trailer proclaimed back when, "The Evil of the
Future Has Arrived"....
"Psychic Killer" has a rather simple, straightforward story line, but to the film's credit, it also boasts a cast of pros who seem to be having fun with it. As the investigating cops on the case, we have TV vet Paul Burke and Aldo Ray (not quite 50 here but looking much older). Masters' therapist (and God knows he needs one; the poor guy has almost as many mother issues as Norman Bates!) is played by Danton's then-wife, Julie Adams, who viewers will perhaps best remember as the bathing-suited beauty who is carried off in "The Creature From the Black Lagoon," and Israeli-born Nehemiah Persoff chews the scenery winningly as an expert on parapsychology and Kirlian auras. As for Arnold's victims, three of the unfortunate bunch are Whit Bissell, here nudging toward the end of his remarkably prolific career, Mary Wilcox, who had recently greatly impressed me playing the beautiful necrophiliac in the highly underrated film "Love Me Deadly," and Neville Brand, as a butchered butcher. It is a pleasure to watch these old pros dig into this dubious material and help put the conceit over. As for former actor turned director Danton, he does just fine in this, his third film (his two earlier pictures were "Crypt of the Living Dead" and "Deathmaster"), giving "Psychic Killer" some nice jolts and really keeping things moving; still, the picture cannot help but give off a decided Kirlian aura of cheese. The film is hardly a sleek-looking affair, and seems at times a bit crudely put together, but again, the enthusiasm of the cast, Danton's evident skill and William Kraft's occasionally freaky-deaky background score help smooth over the rough patches. Really, my only beef here is with that car that topples over a cliff, falls hundreds of feet...and fails to give the viewer a nice, satisfying fireball explosion to cap things off. Danton, apparently, should have watched some '60s Bond films to learn how to give such scenes a nice dramatic topper! Other than this quibble, though, my seal of approval to "Psychic Killer"...straight through to its incinerating conclusion.
"Psychic Killer" is a strange story about... guess what? A psychic
killer! A killer who wants revenge and is able to get it from a rather
considerable distance. Beyond that, there really isn't much to know
about the plot.
The film comes from director Ray Danton, who is/was largely a TV director. This is rather evident in the style of the film, which seems like it could have been made for television or at least used similar equipment. There's a different feel from television to cinema, and this just didn't feel like a silver screen production. Not that this makes it a bad film, necessarily.
What does make it a bad film is pretty much everything else. We early on get a body falling off a building that is about as fake as can be. And this wasn't a comedy. Other deaths are equally cheesy, with maybe one that was at least a bit worthy of respect -- though not praise.
There was also bad music which doesn't match the scenery. I'm not sure if the music would have matched much of anything, but it certainly didn't go with what we saw. That Internet Movie Database users have given this film a 2.7 out of 10 is no surprise once you've seen it. I have to give the movie more credit than that, but not much.
One interesting thing about this film is discussion of Kirlian photography. In the 1970s (when this film was made) there was some serious discussion about the Kirlian photography and its connection to the paranormal. Dr. Thelma Moss of UCLA led the parapsychology laboratory and much of her time was devoted to efforts to avoid factors proposed by skeptical peer-review in order to confirm some connection. How successful she was is unclear, though I doubt she had much luck.
The film is hyped up on the back of the box comparing the killer (Arnold) to other notorious movie killers. But don't be fooled. Even if Arnold came first (and, being from 1975, that's a valid point) he didn't really leave a lasting mark then and he won't leave one now in the film's DVD release. Horror fans may find this a good film to pass the time with, but unless you're drinking or have a high tolerance for bad movies, this one isn't anything special.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Psychic Killer" is fun 1970's horror at its best. Peppered with a cast
of B-vets such as Paul Burke, Aldo Ray, Nehemiah Persoff, Julie Adams,
and Whit Bissell, and starring Jim Hutton (in a nicely scary
performance), the movie goes at a nice pace and features some tense
moments. There are even bits of gore tossed in for good measure.
The film has Hutton as a man wrongly convicted in the death of his terminally ill mother's doctor. It seems the doctor refused to treat the lady once he found out she had no medical insurance. An argument between Hutton and the doc results in a brief scuffle where the doctor falls to his death. Hutton is arrested, found guilty, and sent to a mental institution. Once there, he encounters a fellow patient who has the power of astral projection with the aid of a medallion and several books. After this patient uses this power to kill one of his enemies, he dies and leaves the medallion and books to Hutton. Shortly after, Hutton is finally exonerated (the real killer confesses to the crime)and freed. He goes home and uses his newfound power of astral projection to begin a mission of revenge against the people who wronged him and his mom. Police Lieutenant Morgan (Burke) and his partner (Ray) are baffled at these seemingly unrelated "accidents". Hutton's psychiatrist (Adams)and a local expert on paranormal research (Persoff) try to help.
"Psychic Killer" benefits from tight direction by former actor-turned-director Ray Danton, good camera-work and location shooting to cover up a small budget, clever dialogue that mixes in bits of humor amongst the hokum, and solid turns by a top cast of veteran genre stars. Even Neville Brand and Rod Cameron show up in bit parts.
"Psychic Killer" is not the type of film that pretends to be anything other than what it is: sturdy, B-grade entertainment for genre fans.
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