Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I Killed Cap'n Crunch!!

Confessions of a Serial Killer shows us the jet-set life of a down-home serial killer/rapist, and introduces us to his wacky partners in crime. Oh, the hijinks they get up to!

Okay, that's pretty much how Hollywood would try to spin this movie if they ever decided to do a remake. Or maybe they would make the movie a statement about how we should be more accepting of serial killers because they live an alternative lifestyle and are really just expressing themselves in a way to draw attention to their rejection by society.

Okay, enough ragging on Hollywood.

Our film today popped up on video back when VHS was king. So, let's take a look at the packaging for this film so you can see how, even then, the release undermined the film before you ever rented the thing.

Here's an idea: Let's rip off an image from The Silence of the Lambs to promote our movie which has little to do with that big-budget smash of a movie other than serial killers. If you were around back in the 80s and wrote off Confessions as an attempt to cash in on the success of Lambs based on the cover, you could hardly be blamed.

Unfortunately, you would have missed out of a genuinely uncomfortable film that removed all the glamour and glitz of Hollywood-style films on the same subject matter. Sure, Confessions is on the same basic level as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but with one feather in its cap -- it came out before Michael Rooker's classic role.

Confessions gives us a lightly disguised retelling of the crimes of Henry Lee Lucas. If you aren't aware, Henry Lee Lucas was, at least in his own mind, one of the most prolific serial killers in history. He confessed to nearly 3000 murders, but he also changed his story on almost all of them. He was pretty much implicated in at least 12 murders, including his own mother's death.

Our movie works through flashbacks as our main character relates details of his killing spree to the police holding him in a Texas jail. For those who enjoy such things, there are a good number of set pieces that are fairly well done given the size of the budget, and the horror of the crimes are evident in the expressions and struggles of the victims.

The best thing about this movie is that the lead actor, the late Robert Burns, provides a performance that seems too casual at first, but as the film progresses, you see that his actions are those of some inner demon that the character has made his peace with. Pretty much a killer who gives no lingering thought to what he has done and rarely plans what he will do.

Other performances in the film range from stiff to pretty good. For those looking for blood, you get a reasonable amount of that, along with a solid helping of well-mounted tension during the various killings. The minimal use of music also gives the film an unnatural quality.

Overall, Confessions is a gem in the rough, for those who like their films as dark as the inside of a well digger's ass at midnight. It would be a prime selection for a re-release on Blu-Ray, though I can see how it would be a tough sell.

Monday, May 01, 2017

I Scream, You Scream...Basically, Just Scream

A Scream in the Streets (1973)

Oh, what to say about this film?

This movie isn't boring. This movie is sleazy. This movie works fairly well within its very low budget. This movie has probably never crossed your radar.

A Scream in the Streets is the story of a killer rapist and the mostly ineffectual police who attempt to capture the criminal. The rapist is a nasty one who not only has a deep sense of anger towards women, but seems to also be jealous as he dresses like a woman to get closer to his victims. Maybe he is killing that part of himself that he sees as corrupt or wrong. Maybe he was raised in a broken home. Maybe he is just doing what the script called for.

Well, the movie is a softcore porn/action hybrid, so I doubt the writers were going for any real depth. What sells tickets better than violence and sex? No, not Justin Bieber. The correct answer is NOTHING! Well, maybe videos of cute kittens, but you can get enough of that on Youtube for little trouble.

On a positive note, the movie does attempt to give you actual characters. Even a hooker who is beaten with a belt is given enough screen time that you feel bad for her. Then you have one of the main cops whose wife was apparently raped earlier in life, so we are given a sense that her fear of the current rapist is valid. Oh, and one of the cops likes to bowl. If that doesn't endear him to you, you have no soul!

The most amazing thing about this movie is that, once it is over, you are left wondering how they managed to fill the run time when very little really happens. Well, it's those drawn out sex scenes that aren't very sexy, but they aren't dull either. One fine example is the two bisexual housewives putting on a fairly convincing sex show for a peeping tom while one of them covertly calls the police. 

Yes, this is one sleazy film, but they know how to set up their scenes to keep you from becoming bored enough to shut the thing off. Giving credit where credit is due.

A Scream in the Streets is difficult to find now. Something Weird did release it, but the rights to the film are held by the estate of Harry Novak, and Something Weird's license to his films expired a number of years ago. Harry Novak is a good subject for a future posting. He is both famous AND infamous in exploitation history for the films he helped distribute and for his cutthroat tactics in dealing with filmmakers.

Is it worth watching? Oh, hell, yes! It makes a perfect companion with Drive-In Massacre, another sleazy film with a focus on the two cops trying to solve a series of murders at a drive-in theater.