Teenage farmboy Lonnie(Schuylar Hayden) rides the rails in search of the high life. He's traveling light, packing little more than his saccharine charm, boyish good looks, and coldhearted ambition. With unconscionable zeal, he seduces a middle-aged housewife and robs her blind, then casually heads toward the community dance hall. The headliner attraction is a garden-variety hip-swiveling rock & roll upstart, and Lonnie envisions himself twisting and shaking in those teen-idol shoes. Driven by jealousy and pitiless greed, he douses the young performer's car with petrol, sets him ablaze, and makes speedy headway toward the Hollywood office of his agent. Thus begins his dramatic rise to super-stardom, one which leaves a liquor-slicked trail of death, despair, and broken hearts.
The long-presumed-lost RAT FINK spent a good many years in the top-ten of several noted cinephiles' "most wanted" lists. Now available in a great-looking Blu-Ray release, it's a welcome addition to the recent windfall of similarly rediscovered B films.
Director James Landis has long been known to genre fans for his revered 1963 B classic THE SADIST, a potent little thriller which centers on a frighteningly savage and reckless spree-killer(Arch Hall, Jr.). RAT FINK, a decidedly larger-scale production, explores similar foundations, but with a markedly different, though no less formidable antagonist. Lonnie is expressionless, icy, and one-dimensional...a towering wall of self. He is also cunning, calculating, and just intelligent enough to size-up potential victims-to-be, and, perhaps most importantly...he's handsome(and knows it). His guilty conscience does nettle him from time-to-time, a problem easily remedied with a cocktail, a pretty new female conquest, and a quick dip of the wick. Despite being wholeheartedly dissociative, he frequently hosts lavish and debaucherous house parties, attended by a prismatic mix of lowbrow movers-and-shakers, flagitious swingers, and beatniks of the typically misrepresentational Hollywood variety.
As with THE SADIST, RAT FINK is adroitly lensed by phenom cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, and is a more polished and roundly professional effort than that film overall. Schuylar Hayden can't hold a candle to Arch Hall, Jr.'s unforgettably evil, frenetic intensity, but it's a heady screen debut nonetheless. Performances from the supporting players range from adequate to impressive in this procacious and, for its time, purblindly cruel slice of B movie Heaven.
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