Sandra Barlow is a 70's girl looking for kicks in the form of sex and drugs. One day, she decides to have an orgy drug party and invite some "freaks" led by Moon to entertain her and her rich friends. Moon has other things in mind as his friends are looking for an orgy of sex and gore. Written by
Perhaps the initial draw of 'The Love Thrill Murders' is the novelty of seeing late-'50s teen heartthrob Troy Donahue play a Manson-like cult leader, but the movie holds up beyond this bit of stunt casting. With shoulder-length blond hair, a full beard and wearing a leather jacket, it's hard to believe is the same Troy Donahue who starred in "A Summer Place." In this New York re-telling of the "Manson family" murders of Sharon Tate and her house guests, Donahue is Moon, leader of a commune where sex, drugs, religious/flower child psychobabble and overwrought acoustic guitar songs are the order of the day (and pretty much in that order). In the movie's second act, Moon and a select few of his followers attend a party thrown by an actress who's supposed to be so famous she has to dodge tabloid reporters, yet she lives in a middle class suburban house and serves a spread that looks like church potluck. The actress' friends include a middle-aged playwright and his vapid girlfriend, a predatory lesbian and Fritzi, a gay man so effeminate he makes RuPaul seem butch. It's here that the movie becomes a cheesy soft core sex film (it's been diluted slightly from its initial release to get an R rating). After snacking on cheese puffs and smoking pot, the guests pair up. Oddly, to be members of a cult that espouses freedom from hang-ups, a couple of Moon's followers sure are whiny when assigned partners of the same sex. (Then again I wouldn't want to be paired with Fritzi, even if we are on the same team.) While the lesbian has her way with her pet hippie (who plays dead for the experience) and Fritzi dresses up in drag (the ploy wins over his jittery stud, even if Fritzi's get-up makes him look like Betty Thomas impersonating Tammy Wynette), the incomparable Talie Cochrane does a sexy dance for Moon. Then, after a subliminal flash of some orgy action, the killing starts.
'The Love Thrill Murders' is a sleazy, exploitive exercise (more so when it was first released, as 'Sweet Savior,' a mere two years following the Manson murders), but it's a fascinating movie nonetheless. Donahue gives an effective, understated performance, and Cochrane evokes a rough-trade sexiness that enables her to easily steal scenes from her more demure co-stars. Aside from the laughably unconvincing portrayal of upscale living, the production values are above average for this sort of film. This movie even has a fairly decent soundtrack, a cult-member's heavy-handed folk song notwithstanding. Director Robert L. Roberts was not one to let taste get in the way of his 'artistic vision.' After exploiting the Manson murders, Roberts sunk even lower in 1976 by writing and directing 'Patty,' a retelling of the Patty Hearst kidnapping laced with hardcore sex scenes. Both the movie and Roberts appeared to have faded into obscurity since.
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