I have to say, I was a little worried that after all the great things I had heard about "The Sadist" that I would be let down in the end. After all, its an early sixties cheapie thriller starring Arch Hall Jr. and its probably just overrated for its bleak attitude which is so uncommon in films of that era. Right?
The plot is simple but strong. Three teachers on the way to an L.A. Dodgers game have car trouble and pull into a house/car garage on the side of the road. They search for help but the place seems to be abandoned... However there is warm pie and uneaten food on the kitchen table of the house. Something is definitely amiss and all three teachers are feeling somewhat uncomfortable when suddenly the find out they aren't so alone after all... A cackling Charlie Tibb (Arch Hall Jr.) and his twisted lolita of a girlfriend (Marilyn Manning) creep out of the graveyard of abandoned cars and take the situation into their control...
"The Sadist" is truly a great movie. Arch Hall Jr. gives us one of cinema's greatest maniacs, some one on par with the likes of Anthony Perkin's Norman Bates or Klaus Kinski's Don Lope de Aguirre. Never for a moment did I find Charles A. Tibb to be unbelievable. Marilyn Manning is equally strong as Charlie's child-like girlfriend Judy, seemingly even sicker then Charles. She whispers deranged activities in his ear and giggles constantly and in the end I found her to be the more disturbing of the duo. The three teachers are not quite as strong, Helen Hovery and Don Russel put out solid performances but unfortunately the resident "big-talker" Richard Alden gets some what obnoxious.
What is perhaps most remarkable about this film however, is the way it is shot. Vilmos Zsigmond's (here credited as William Zsigmond) camera lingers on the sweat, pain and suffering of the three teachers only to cut to a playful and giggling couple of psycho's happily sipping their Coca-Cola's. The whole film is filled with a feeling of heat and agony, a constantly blazing sun shining down into a barren waste land of dead cars and dead bodies. Flashes of hope are rare and always beaten down with such hatred and force that the viewer almost hopes it wont come back... One of the most high tension films I have ever seen.
While some of todays viewers may lose sight of the strength and message of this film, I believe that it is as strong as it ever was. Required viewing for any fan of low-budget thrillers, and required viewing for any one interested in just how powerful the media of film can be.
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