A Knife for the Ladies (1974)
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1/2 (out of 4)
Mescal is a small Southwest town where not too much happens, which keeps the local Sheriff (Jack Elam) happy. All of this changes when the local prostitutes turn up dead and the locals begin to fear that Jack the Ripper (or a copycat) might be committing the crimes.
This film is out there in two versions with the uncut one being the hardest to find, although it was released to Blu-ray by Code Red. This version here clocks in at 86-minutes and is the uncut theatrical version that went under the title of A KNIFE FOR THE LADIES. The film was much more widely available via countless public domain companies under the catchy title of JACK THE RIPPER GOES WEST but that version clocks in at just 51-minutes. After watching the uncut version I must admit that I would have given anything to see it cut down.
Man, where do you start with a film like this? This movie wants to be a Western, a horror picture, a murder-mystery and I think it also tries to have some black comedy as well. It tries to be a lot of things but sadly it doesn't do anything well and it in facts does nothing but waste the talents of Elam, Ruth Roman and Jeff Cooper. All three people are wasted in their rather silly roles, which is too bad because the idea behind the film is an interesting one and it should have made for a better picture.
The film really kills itself because it just doesn't do anything right. The horror elements are rather watered down and you never once care who the killer is. It also doesn't help that as a Western it feels a lot cheaper than those old B films from the 1930s. There's no sleaze or anything else to hold your attention and in fact the only thing that does hold your attention is just waiting to see how much worse it gets.
I'm not sure what all is missing in the cut version but I'd have to say it would be better to watch since the 86-minute cut just features non-stop dialogue scenes and is a real chore to sit through.
Overall, A Knife for the Ladies is one lousy movie. Neither the horror nor the Western elements work. Until the final scene, it's a total failure. Much of the problem comes from the fact that nothing looks real. The town is obviously a set it doesn't feel "real". The people are obviously actors playing parts. They're not "real" either. Jack Elam's old grizzled hard-drinking sheriff is so over-the-top that he's ridiculous. And Jeff Cooper's Burns is too 1970s to be authentic. A Knife for the Ladies' lone highlight comes in its finale. It's actually a nice twist that I honestly didn't see coming. I could have never guessed the killer's identity. But as nice as the ending may have been, I still can't bring myself to rate A Knife for the Ladies any higher than a 3/10 and that's being generous.
Finally, one especially annoying aspect A Knife for the Ladies is the way it tries to play the old-school sheriff against the more modern detective. But it's all talk. There's no evidence presented of any real clash between the old vs. new law enforcement techniques. It's as if someone involved with the movie's production thought this conflict would make a good storyline so they threw it into the movie without really adding it (if that makes any sense). Predictably, the old and new get into a completely unnecessary fistfight before they can work together. It's so forced it's painful.
Mildly entertaining drive-in trash, this benefits from the old low-rent sets and ancient costumes that were pretty much a sign of the times in the early seventies. You can practically smell the mothballs, though they (the set-pieces not the mothballs) make this low, low-budget western/horror flick almost look like a million bucks. The weird, very exploitative climax is fun too, as are the presences of Elam and Roman.
For a better Jack-the-ripper-goes-west story, watch the Episode of Dead Man's Gun aptly titled "The Ripper".
Boring, boring, boring, even by 70s standards. Boring characters where I didn't care who lived and who died. A western setting that is painfully obvious it's a movie set. And decided lack of tension or suspense in a movie that touts itself as a murder mystery. All in all, if you wanna fall asleep, put this crap on. If you wanna watch something even the tiniest bit memorable, don't bother with this.