1963/Director: James Landis/Writer: James Landis
Cast: Arch Hall Jr., Helen Hovey, Richard Alden, Marilyn Manning, Don Russell
AKA: SWEET BABY CHARLIE
I have been hurt by others. And I will hurt them. I will make them suffer like I have suffered.Charlie Tibbs
Most all of the movies here The Uranium Café (though not all) are low budget and/or obscure films that I have learned to have some degree of respect for. If a movie is simply too bad or has no special qualities that helps them transcend their b-movie (or z-movie) status I do not do anything with them here. That’s does not mean anybody will like them of course. I love the ted V. Mikles film Astro Zombies as well as Al Adamson’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein, though most people just do not see anything redeeming in them at all. Sometimes a film exists out there that undeservedly gets lumped in with those odd sorts of z-movie schlock. Either they end up in the same category through “guilt by association” or by the fact they were drive-in movie fair at best when they were released. And yet truth be told sometimes they are pretty good movies and deserve much more recognition than they have garnered over the decades. Such is the case with 1963’s The Sadist, produced and distributed by Arch Hall Sr.’s Fairway International Pictures, and starring Arch Hall Jr. in what is surely his most memorable film role from his brief acting career. He would soon quit acting altogether and pursue his real dream of being an airplane pilot, and on the side would be a rock singer and later novelist.
Surely the film was a bit ahead of its time in its portrayal of young thrill-killers on a road rampage. No doubt inspired by the headlines out of Nebraska at the time that told the story of young killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate –the models for characters in later films such as Badlands and Natural Born Killers- The Sadist was an exploration of new types of horror that was emerging in American cinema. While monsters and mutant insects were still popular, the new type of terror patterned after Hitchcock’s 1960 genre masterpiece Psycho seemed to focus on the real dangers in the world, with stories of strange, twisted killers –presented as confused teenagers or nerdy, withdrawn hotel clerks- that were often lifted from headlines of the day. In the end nobody believes insects exposed to radiation will grow to enormous proportions and invade a small town, but everybody lives with the terror of being the victim of some deranged maniac who kills either because he is driven to do it by “inner demons” or because he just likes it. The Sadist is an unsettling film and a couple cases the violence jolts you in way that not too many films up to that time had been able to do.
(SPOILER ALERT!) In The Sadist three school teachers are headed to a Dodgers baseball game in Los Angeles when they have automobile trouble. They pull into a service station and junk yard in the middle of the countryside only to find nobody is available to help them repair their broken water hose. They banter on about baseball, with Carl Oliver (Don Russell) trying in vain to explain the rules to clueless Doris Page (Helen Hovey). Sweet Doris blushes as fit Ed Stiles (played by Richard Alden who pumped weights regularly on the set t seems) takes off his shirt and begins working in one of those Archie Bunker sleeveless type t-shirts. Things seem a little eerie and out of place and they wonder where the owners and crew could be. An answer is soon provided the form of snickering and gun wielding Charlie Tibbs (Arch Hall Jr.) and his girl friend Judy (Marilyn Manning, who utters not an audible sound in the film but rather whispers everything into Charlie’s ear).
The film is full of little twists and surprises. Not the least of the surprises is the freaky performance by Arch Hall Jr. himself. Prior to The Sadist he had played fairly safe roles, good guys in Wild Guitar and Eaagh!, and a juvenile delinquent with a conscience in the Choppers. But here he goes all out and his over the top performance adds to the believability of Charile Tibbs rather than detracts from it. At first his squeaky voice and strange grimacing seem comical and you wonder what is going on, but by the time he blasts the begging Carl in the face with a .45 slug you have become fairly uncomfortable with the character. And while Judy is seemingly mute she is also dangerous and appears to goad Charlie on with whispered suggestions. Of course like movies of this caliber and budget there are some problems and this or that, in 20/20 hindsight, could have been done better. But those issues, as far I am concerned, are so few and far between I see no reason to mention them. Maybe you have heard of this film and have yet to get around to it since you associate Arch Hall Jr. with things like The Nasty Rabbit or Wild Guitar (which is a good movie too in my opinion) and think he is not able to carry the role of a “sadist” for an entire film. But the man does a great job, as did all the players in crew in this sadly over-looked and under appreciated thriller.
>>SEE THE SADIST AND THE CHOPPERS HERE<<
>>LISTEN TO SOME AUDIO CLIPS FROM THE SADIST HERE<<