(director: Walter Strate; screenwriter: William Paul Mishkin; cinematographer: Pat Rich; editors: Don and Robert Jacques/Bill Henry; music: Tony Mottola; cast: Wim Holland (Jan C. Verbig), Sally Peters (Ellen Tinker), Lili Dawn (Lili De Mar), Mitchell Kowal (Lt. Det. McCarthy), Vicki Carlson (Sue Grant), Michael Keene (Gardner), Jason Niles (Dr. Jason), William Paul Mishkin (Louis Quinto), Fred Lambert (George Mastro), Wambley Bald (Dist. Atty. Henderson), Mary Noble (Mother Grant); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Wim Holland; Sinister; 1953)

“Tawdry low-budget crime drama about the day’s headlines.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tawdry low-budget crime drama about the day’s headlines. It offers a bogus public service message to be on the alert for perverts who help pretty girls pick up things they drop. But it mainly just tries to titillate by showing some strippers in action. Walter Strate, in his only film credit, directs this turgid serial killer story that’s set in NYC. It features poor production values, acting, directing, dialogue and story line. Though the photography by Pat Rich is not all that bad. Eschewing suspense, as the killer is soon known, for an unconvincing character study, the film stumbles along as an awkward police procedural thriller. Even if the film is terrible, it’s watchable as a time passer (I watched it late at night on DVD when insomnia struck and slept like a baby afterwards).

It opens with the gruesome murder of an 8th Avenue prostitute (Sally Peters) in her apartment. Locks of her hair were cut and she was slashed numerous times with a scissors. The blowhard police shrink at Bellevue Hospital, Dr. Jason (Jason Niles), brilliantly tells the smug lead investigator, Lt. Det. McCarthy, it’s the work of a psycho and shows him photos of his sicko sexually violent patients.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

Before a sane person can say Bellevue, there are a few dead showbiz ladies (all killed like the prostitute) and we soon learn the killer is this wacko Greenwich Village photographer, Jan C. Verbig (Wim Holland), who we see killing his latest vic, after she rejects him in her dumpy pad. She’s a bitchy Burleque Queen (Lili Dawn) he photographed and wanted some nooky from. Then the crazy photographer is about to off a naive young aspiring model (Vicki Carlson) in his studio for also rejecting his advances, but the police barge in before he can strangle her and do his usual ritual killing. One must give the coppers credit for checking out every cleaners in Manhattan and looking for girl’s hair in a man’s sports coat. If the killer gave his business to a cleaners in Long Island, they might not have saved the model’s life. After his arrest the crazy killer is given a truth serum by the psychiatrist, as the creep reveals a painful childhood of finding his neglectful actress mother with another man who was stroking her hair (we are led to believe that’s what made him carry a scissors in his coat pocket and have a murder compulsion, as the shrink pedantically says it’s a classic case of some kind of psychological disturbance that if treated would have prevented the murders).

I love brainy films like this one that offer plugs for mental health to get more funding as a way to reduce crime and at the same time smarten me up for the world with such valuable knowledge about crazy people.

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