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CRAWLSPACE (director/writer: David Schmoeller; cinematographer: Sergio Salvati; editor: Bert Glatstein ; music: Pino Donaggio; cast: Klaus Kinski (Doctor Karl Gunther), Talia Balsam (Lori Bancroft), Barbara Whinnery (Harriet Watkins), David Schmoeller (Rejected Tenant), Carole Francis (Jessica Marlow), Tane (Sophie Fisher), Sally Brown (Martha White), Jack Heller (Alfred Lassiter), David Abbott (Hank Peterson), Kenneth Robert Shippy (Josef Steiner); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Roberto Bessi; MGM/UA Home Entertainment; 1986)
“Distinguishes itself only through the masterful creepy performance by Klaus Kinski.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

David Schmoeller (“Tourist Trap”/”Netherworld”) directs an obvious ripoff of Peeping Tom in this tawdry sleaze exploitation film that distinguishes itself only through the masterful creepy performance by Klaus Kinski.

Klaus Kinski plays Doctor Karl Gunther, the son of a Nazi concentration camp experimental doctor executed for war crimes and a former doctor at the National Hospital in Buenos Aires where many of his patients suspiciously died. Three years ago Josef Steiner (Kenneth Robert Shippy), the brother of one of his euthanasia victims in Argentina, obsessively hunted him down in America but can’t prove his crime. Gunther’s now a landlord of a brownstone building in Providence, Rhode Island, where he rents to only pretty females. The sociopath, who claims killing is my fix, keeps a journal of all his murders, and keeps in a cage Martha (Sally Brown)–whom he has rendered tongueless–and reads to her his journal entries. The creepy doctor pretends to be a good guy to the tenants, but without their knowledge crawls through the crawlspaces between the walls peeking at them through the heating vents. In his apartment, he keeps a torture chamber that harkens back to the Nazi days. After watching the tenants in sexy poses he strikes out at them, and after killing them, one at a time, plays his daily ritual of Russian Roulette. If he survives, he says “so be it” and continues on his loony binge.

The four tenants are a man-chasing secretary named Harriet Watkins (Barbara Whinnery), a pianist named Sophie (Tane) who enjoys role-playing sex with her boyfriend Hank, a soap opera actress named Jessica (Carole Francis) after rich older guy named Alfred, and a student at Brown University named Lori Bancroft (Talia Balsam) who is the newest tenant. The idea is to guess the one who survives and how the deranged doctor gets his comeuppance. The problem with all this creepiness, is that the women in peril seem to be devoid of real-life personalities and thereby give the thriller an artificial feel and no real tension.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”