(director: Curtis Harrington; screenwriters: Barry Schneider/George Edwards/story by Steve Krantz; cinematographer: William Mendenhall; editor: Bill Magee; music: Don Ellis; cast: Piper Laurie (Ruby Claire), Stuart Whitman (Vince Kemper), Roger Davis (Doc Keller), Janit Baldwin (Leslie Claire), Crystin Sinclaire (Lila June), Paul Kent (Louie), Len Lesser (Barney), Sal Vecchio (Nicky Rocco), Jack Perkins (Avery); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: R; producer: George Edwards; Congress Video Group VHS; 1977)
“No matter how flawed, the horror pic is always watchable.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Ruby was the last theatrical film that the promising filmmaker Curtis Harrington(“The Killing Kind”/”Night Tide”/”Games”) directed. Despite his talent and a number of previously acclaimed films, the horror film maven never caught on and unfairly faded to oblivion.
Ruby is a quickie production that’s based on a mindless story by Steve Krantz, and is absurdly written as an exploitation film by George Edwards and Barry Schneider (it tries to cash in on its star Piper Laurie’s recent acclaimed role in Carrie). The writers pile on the horror pic cliches. Unfortunately Harrington was replaced during the shoot by Stephanie Rothman, the former Roger Corman protege, who altered the delicate melancholy ending for the studio bosses against the wishes of both Harrington and star Piper Laurie.
The tale is set in 1951. It’s about big-time 1930s gangster, Nicky (Sal Vecchio), who was executed gangland style in 1935 and returns from the dead to possess his deaf-mute daughter (Janit Baldwin). The demonized girl avenges dad’s murder committed by four of his associates, who now work for her mom, Ruby (Piper Laurie). Ruby is the former torch singer and gangster’s moll, now running a drive-in. The movie house features flicks such as the Attack of the 50 Foot Women (1958).
Laurie over acts playing the gangster’s moll, and the performances from the supporting cast is below average. Also the film was remade in post-production, that left it incoherent. Nevertheless there are a few dazzling scenes that show Harrington’s creativity and flair for the weird, such as when a mobster is slain and hooked up inside a soda machine. When a fat customer puts in her coins for a Coke, out comes a cup of blood. Though it never became as eerie as it should have been, there’s the eerie Piper moment when she embraces her lover’s skeletal remains at the bottom of a lake.
No matter how flawed, the horror pic is always watchable.
REVIEWED ON 12/21/2014 GRADE: B-