I got this on DVD as part of Brentwood Video’s Ancient Evil 10-horror-movies-for-$20 set, which usually turn out to be a good investment, even if the majority of them turn out to be not so great. This set also includes The Killing Kind, which turned out to be kind of a favorite of sick cinema for me.
This film is an exercise in pure vicarious sadism, and as such, it certainly fills the bill. Three good clean decent folks break down and pull into an abandoned-looking house/junkyard [making this a precursor to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and any number of its imitators], and are soon menaced by this overgrown baby-looking redneck goon who essentially tortures them, mentally and physically, for the next 90 minutes.
BUT one of the most notable things about this movie—that I’m amazed that none of the reviews on IMDb mention (guess is takes a cocksucker like me…)—is that the first time the Sadist appears on screen, he HAS A HUGE BONER. The sexualized “subtext” of the film comes to the fore, as they say, because this dude HAS A HUGE DILDO STUFFED DOWN HIS PANTS and there is NO WAY this could be an accident. Watch it again and once you see it, there is NO WAY TO MISS IT. It’s kind of shocking, and provides an interesting view of how sexual menace can be conveyed while avoiding having to outwardly show other aspects. The boner reappears at one point about 30 minutes in, but the first time is the most shocking, and the most noticeable.
In other, non-boner aspects, this film is remarkable for just how tense, brutal and nasty it is. We’re talking real mental torture and sadism here, even showing a direct gunshot to the head, which I was sure we weren’t going to see in 1962. There is an undercurrent of sexuality with the contrast of the three men; the powerless older teacher, the younger hero who “hopes you don’t mind if I take my shirt off,” and the sadist, who as I have noted is presented as brutal and horny. There is also a Madonna/whore contrast between the “decent” woman [I’m sure her torment at the hands of the sadist is meant to stand in for a real rape] and the sadist’s evil and feral girlfriend. So a lot of the fun of watching this movie IS the subtext, and realizing what the filmmakers MEAN but can’t show.
Apparently this was the first American film for famed cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, then working under the name William Zsigmond. The B&W photography is good… I found myself admiring the texture of the trees several times.
The movie grinds on in almost real-time until it’s conclusion, again laying groundwork for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. More vicarious sadism is to be had during the sadist’s comeuppance, which goes on for so long to relieve the audience of any anxiety they might feel from having enjoyed the preceding 90 minutes of torture. See, the bad guys get what’s coming to them, and all’s right with the world.