Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hammer Time: "The Toolbox Murders" (1978)

This infamous little slasher flick with the infamous little title is full of blood, violence, and nudity. It is everything you expect from something of this ilk.

Supposedly based on a true story, four women in an apartment building are brutally murdered by items normally found in a toolbox. The killer (and the film makers do not hide this fact) is Cameron Mitchell, the building owner. Mitchell is a religious nut who recently lost his daughter in a car accident. He then begins punishing "sinful" women. The last third of the film sees the deaths of two major characters, and wraps things up nicely with the end credits crawl describing what happened to the "survivors" of this "real life" crime spree.

Although rated (R), this is some very violent stuff. The first half hour, when the majority of the crimes take place, is unpleasant. One of the first murders includes the now infamous murder of the model taking a bath.

The video copy I have of this is awful. The sound is scratchy, the colors bleached out, and it is fantastic. I felt like I was watching something on a screen at a drive-in. The blood flows freely, and the murders are punctuated by some truly bizarre country and love tunes. The film makers build up a subplot between Ferdin and Beauvy's mom and the standard driven police detective that never pans out, or is resolved. Ferdin and Eure were mainstays on television in the 1970's. They do well, considering the material.

Donnelly's direction is pretty basic, a camera shadow can be seen here and there. Gary Graver, the cinematographer, is known as Orson Welles' cameraman later in the great director's career. Graver seems to have made a career of this kind of film, his involvement usually sets you up for what to expect.

I cannot explain why I am recommending this film. Genre fans might appreciate the gore effects, and the reputation this film now celebrates. This is a serial killer film before the term "serial killer" was coined. The events are so watchable, however.

"The Toolbox Murders" is not "Scream" or "Urban Legends," this is the type of film that no more motive than to scare and disgust its viewer. If that is all they wanted to do, they succeeded. (* * * *) out of five stars.