Tuesday, January 1, 2013
The Psychopath (1966)
After Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in 1960 every producer wanted their own hit starring a dysfunctional family with incestuous atmosphere. Psycho's screenwriter Robert Bloch was himself the man behind several of these similar-themed knock-offs. Tonight's episode features the lesser known, but interesting, The Psychopath. Directed by Freddie Francis, the first half of this thriller feels more like a German Edgar Wallace movie with the same stiff police procedures and cheesy set-up with a mysterious murder leaving doll-copies of the victims beside the body.
The traces leads to the crazy old Mrs. Von Sturm (Margaret Johnston) and her son Mark (John Standing), who's living in a housed filled with creepy dolls - the only interest the old lady had since her husband committed suicide after being falsely accused for something... very serious. Anyway, the victims seems to be connected to this case and the question is: could this dysfunctional family be responsible for the murders?
Here comes the biggest weakness of The Psychopath, it's not surprise at all who the killer is. The rumour says it was re-edited to become more whodunit, and that might also have caused it to be a much weaker movie than it really is. They struggle to keep the killer a secret, while it's not a secret at all (just check the official poster) - which makes the whole set-up quite confusing. What do they want to do with the story? A whodunit or a normal thriller? Hell knows, but it's still worth watching and Bloch uses a couple of very interesting ideas, but feels a lot more rushed than most of his other writing from the same period. I'm the first one to admit that I love good whodunits or early slasher-style movies, but The Psychopath doesn't get really interesting - on several layers - until the last victim is killed and director Francis (and the actors) can focus on the interesting characters.
The ending, which goes on for a while with several endings in one is excellent, creepy delivers a few subtle shocks without being especially violent or graphic (no, I'm not one of them who wants to be pretentious and claims that less gore will generate more tension, that's just bullshit - it's all about storytelling, no matter graphic violence or not). But it works and that's also the part of the film you will remember.
The Psychopath isn't the best film from neither Francis or Bloch, but if you tend to enjoy moderately twisted sixties thrillers or just yet another production from Amicus, this might be something for you.