This film goes mostly in the “I Cannot Believe I’m Seeing This” category, as the subject matter is just something that is not normally covered in a film, and would be quite unlikely to be made today, and if so, it certainly wouldn’t include all the bizarre permutations this film does.
The story concerns Terry [John Savage] returning from incarceration for rape to live at his mother’s boarding house. The rape opens the film, a bunch of guys surrounding a woman and forcing Terry on her, but it’s hard to tell from that [or some of the flashbacks later] what actually happened. It sort of looks like Terry froze up, or froze up but then did something really brutal… it’s impossible to tell, but the impression one gets is that only Terry went to prison for it. What quickly becomes apparent is that Terry has some very deep and unresolved sexual issues.
Terry’s mother is played by Ann Sothern, former beauty of B-movies who eventually moved up a bit, got her own TV show in the 50s, and rather bizarrely was the voice of a automobile in the TV series My Mother The Car. But she works perfectly for the part because her character is supposed to be an over-the-hill, overweight former beauty. Her relationship with Terry has this semi-incestuous edge that is both fascinating and disturbing. She also has a notable scene in which she laughingly describes the death of a former friend as she absently flings a piece of raw bacon around.
Poor pre-Shirley Cindy Williams moves into the house, and is promptly tortured by Terry. This film, let it be said, is NOT very PC in regards to its treatment of women, and I have to say that’s a lot of the reason I like it; rather than being sanitized of all genuine sexual content like movies are now, this movie explores women’s masochistic impulses. Some of it rings true, some of it doesn’t, but it’s still fascinating. For example would Cindy Williams really still be flirting with poor Terry after he tried to drown her in the pool? Doubtful… but there is a priceless sense of shock when the librarian upstairs essentially ASKS Terry to rape her, saying “I wouldn’t have told on you.”
Watch out for Terry’s creepy stroking of the white cat, and then later the hand sticking out of the garbage can. You’ll know it when you see it.
Eventually the film kind of bogs down into “Terry tortures someone/something else, and this time it’s even MORE extreme” territory, but until then it’s kind of perversely fascinating, if only for exploring areas of violence, sadism and sexuality not often seen on screen.
I think it's awesome.