Another Grindhouse Sexploitation entry in what we should call the "Transitory Noir" canon when Classic Noir unshackled from the Motion Picture Production Code was unravelling and sans restraints was morphing into Neo Noir. Blame Hitchcock, Psycho (1960), cracked the door open for some Noir to deviate into a psycho-sexual taboo direction, what before had been hinted at or cloaked in subtext was now openly becoming exploited.
"FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…
THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!" (The Last Drive In)
The Sex Killer aka The Girl Killer was directed by Barry Mahon. Barry Mahon who (believe it or not) was a distinguished fighter pilot during WWII. He was shot down and imprisoned in Stalag Luft III where Mahon worked on the same escape tunnels made famous by the movie The Great Escape (1963). It has been said that the part played by Steve McQueen in that film was in fact partially based upon Mahon. He's mainly known for legitimately producing a couple of Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida pictures Crossed Swords (1954), Cuban Rebel Girls (1959), as well as four children's films, but mostly for the quickie, low budget, mostly bad, sexploitation features.
With 70 director credits to his name roughly 85% are trashy sexploitation features and shorts some quite hilariously titled i.e., Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico (1969), Fanny Hill Meets the Red Baron (1968), A Good Time with a Bad Girl (1967), Run Swinger Run! (1967), Fanny Hill Meets Lady Chatterly (1967), The Art School for Nudists (1965), Nudes on Tiger Reef (1965), The Girl with the Magic Box (1965). Out of this substantial oeuvre of essentially, what even most devotees of sexploitation deem cheap celluloid crap, it's not particularly surprising that at least one would get enough of all the elements and ingredients right to make a Transitory Noir. That two of them, The Sex Killer and the previously reviewed Hot Skin and Cold Cash (1965), did is remarkable. What tips both these two features into a "thumb's up" inclusion into the Noirsville universe is the noir-ish, neo-realistic nature of the uncredited cinematography, combined with the unique also uncredited storyline for Hot Skin and Cold Cash, and in the case of The Sex Killer its particular bizarre, again uncredited, storyline.
Unique gritty time capsules for the 1960's New York City's Mid Town Time Square/42nd Street area and lower Manhattan's Greenwich Village area. Just like Los Angeles' Bunker Hill and Downtown Broadway functioned in 1940s and 50s Classic Noir so does Times Square, Greenwich Village, and Harlem function in these New York City based, amorphous, Transitory Noirs.
The film "stars" and we use the term loosely, (info from IMDb) Bob Meyer as Tony (uncredited), Bob Oran as Tony's Boss (uncredited), Rita Bennett as Sunbather (uncredited), Helena Clayton (uncredited), Uta Erickson as Hooker (uncredited), and Sharon Kent as the Blonde on Couch (uncredited), from their performances all pretty much amateurs. The rest of the cast are probably just real people doing their everyday jobs.
Like Norman Bates in Psycho, Tony (Meyer) is a loner with issues. Tony's standoff-ish. Tony is a peeping Tom. Tony is also a bonafide, sexually dysfunctional, a dangerous sicko, a whack job. He works on the Hell's Kitchen side of Times Square among " the naked mannequins with their Cheshire grins," in a Mannequin Factory (shades of Kubrick's Killer's Kiss (1955), Experiment in Terror (1962), and Aroused (1966).
We first meet Tony in one of those ubiquitous forever "Going Out Of Business," merchandise stores in the 60s-70s pre disneyfied Times Square. He's buying a pair of binoculars. Back at work he tells his fellow questioning workers that he's going to use them for "bird watching" up in Central Park, they don't believe him.
|That look is guaranteed to get you women....|
|Punching the time clock at the Mannequin Factory|
|Heading home to "bird watch"|
After he clocks out he puts his newly hatched peeping tom plan into action. He heads downtown to a new "Now Renting" apartment tower near where he lives. The fact that it just opened assures that most of the apartments are still empty and that he probably won't be noticed. He still wisely goes down the buildings driveway and in through a service entrance and from the basement, up to the roof. He's hunting for "birds' alright, topless sunbathers scattered on the various "tar beaches" that surround the West Village tower. For those of you wondering unfamiliar with the term, "tar beach" is what New Yorker's call the roofs of their walk up apartment houses.
|Scoping out his vantage point|
|It's the (new for 1967) Village Tower, 15 Charles St. at Waverly Place in The Village|
|Charles St. looking West, notice the "now renting" banner above the canopy.|
|the service entrance|
Who says seploitation is just uncultured junk? The gal on the left is actually sporting some Haute couture, she's wearing Rudi Gernreich's sensational monokini, the first topless bathing suit, it was initially published in Women's Wear Daily on June 4, 1964.
Tony's wildly successful first attempt at voyeurism jump starts his other compulsions. His libio shifts from park into first gear, he now needs not only to, passively watch, but also to actively possess, but he's still not quite ready for a real "live" woman. Back at the job Tony starts getting overly friendly with some of the mannequins.
The Mannequin Factory (Tony's budding romance")
|"Hi honey wanna go on a date?"|
|They are watching|
|your place or mine?|
During the day Tony is getting excited and turned on as he moves mannequins around. He hatches a simple plan to "borrow" one of the gals from storage and taker her home. Now, hey, Tony is just a mental case he's not stupid. He knows he can't sneak a whole mannequin out of the shop so for his woman, he'll settle for a head and tits. Hey, Tony's trying, just look at it like practice, doesn't The Red Cross have "Annie." Of course he gets caught by the boss at the door who asks he what the hell does he think he is doing? He takes the mannequin away and tells Tony to go home.
|WTF is this?|
Shot out of the saddle without ever getting out of the barn Tony is now frustrated. Tony is desperate. Tony is pathetic. Walking down the sidewalk it's love at first sight, he passes a sort of whatnot/antique shop window display. Beckoning him, with a come hither look, is a "cute" mannequin head sitting on a chair. She's making "eyes" at him. "are you looking at me, are you looking at me!, What, You think I'm sexy,.. are you calling me sexy?" He slips into the shop, looks around a bit sees nobody around watching and snags her right out of the window. Holding her gently, caressingly, under his arm he whisks her to a bar down the street.
Tony orders a drink, and it looks like he chats up the head.
Hey baby, how about a drink? I think you got a real nice mouth.
Of course Tony attracts a couple of looks from the patrons and the bartender. One thing you learn being a native New Yorker, being born and raised around a lot of people you learn young the important art of getting along with your fellow travelers in this World of ours. Everybody's got their own personal kinks, none of us are perfect. You see someone acting weird but harmless you usually don't want to but in. It's live and let live.
|Hey baby let's go to my place|
Tony leaves the bar date in arm. What follows is a great neo realist guerilla shot sequence, a piece of visual history, an archive of a typical subway ride downtown on the old BMT 7th Avenue line in 1967. And, you damn well know, that with the low budgets of these sexploitation films had to work with, that it's shot without permits, an excellent candid time capsule of the 60s.
NYC Subway circa 1967
|It won't be long now honey|
So Tony heads downtown, the film is edited a bit out of sequence however. Apparently he got on at 42nd street Times Square Station, and went downtown, then apparently got off at 14th. Where above he's shown waiting for a train. But in the next sequence below we are back to the downtown train pulling into the 42nd Street station. When Tony finally leaves the train for his neighborhood he's shown riding an Astoria bound QT train that's heading uptown. The only New Yorker explanation I can give you is that perhaps he was on a downtown express, had to go past his local stop to the next express stop, then double back on a local. This strategy can sometimes be quicker than riding a pokey local through every stop all the way downtown, and Tony's in a hurry to score.
|"Boy.... I wish I had a real girl"|
|real passengers notice the two men in the shot are wearing fedoras.|
|The uptown, Astoria bound OT.|
|Tony and the Hooker|
|I only have $10|
|Hooker (Uta Erickson)|
|Oh, agony, agony, Blue Balls Tony|
|Blonde on Couch (Sharon Kent)|
In High gear now Tony's deviancy turns deadly. First targets from peeping, and now just randomly following women to their offices or home. He pulls them into whatever is handy, i.e., the ladies room or breaks into the women's apartments, strangles them and then (always off camera) has sex with their bodies, like warm mannequins. Tony is a necrophiliac wing nut.
Of course with Tony really going of the deep end and taking more and more chances he inevitably hops on the crazy train express to Noirsville.
|There was a round opening in the black painted window of The Metropole, so that you could watch the GoGo Dancers, if you met the eye-height requirements.|
|56 Chevy Pick Up|
|Loew's Sheridan theater to lt. at the North corner of &th Ave and Greenwich Ave.|
|in elevator downshot|
|scoring makes Tony feel good|
|the one that got away|
|The church to the fat rt. is the 7th Day Adventist 232, W. 11th Street.|
|Jefferson Market on 6th Ave.|
Again, the film is about a 6/10, it's no technical masterpiece there are peeping tom sequences where the camera angles change inexplicably, and one sequence completely out of left field, it's just an insert voyeuristic peek at a woman in her apartment, though I'm not even sure if it's one of the sunbathers. Maybe the creative "team" though the film needed a bit of a jolt at this juncture. Who knows, it may have been left over footage from another Mahon opus, snicker.
For me originally a native New Yorker, it gets another point for the neo realist captures. The smoggy Manhattan depicted is the city I spend my late teens and early twenties in, that's my Times Square. It was my high school backyard. I went to school between 6th and 5th Avenue on 54th Street, it was one long block over to 7th Ave., then five short blocks down to the North fringe of Times Square. The mid 60's Times Square, where just casually walking down the street you'd see women wearing see-through tops, clusters of Hookers gravitating around 47th street, or encounter a myriad of grifters, Sabrett hot dog and pretzel vendors, shoe shiners, and people wound just a bit too tight.
The Metropole, across from a big Playland Arcade, afforded a nice free peek at topless dancers inside to sidewalk gawkers. Around the corner South of Playland between 7th and Broadway on 47th St., there was a Burlesque supply store with an a large audacious display window. There were still active Dime a Dance Joints around with genuine taxi dancers, one was the Majestic Ballroom above the Playland in the triangle block bordered by Broadway and 7th and 47th and 48th. The Follies Burlesque was above the Howard Johnson's further South in competition with the numerous "Live Nude Girls" peep shows and adult bookstores. All this among the the the legitimate Broadway theaters, the Movie Palaces and 42nd St. grindhouses.
Added to the above, the candid cinema verite like "Vanishing/Forgotten New York" subway and the West Village sequences are just surprise bonuses. It's interesting to note, to a subway geek, that the complete conversion from the original incandescent to fluorescent lighting in the subway stations had not been completed.
The story holds both faint similarities to the works of Peckinpah, and Lynch and cinematic memories to Kubrick. Screencaps are from the Something Weird Video. Archivally interesting and culturally entertaining, an oddity of a time past. Remember though, it's still a grainy sexploitaion film with a depraved story at heart. When it comes to these Times Square centered films there is always the distinct possibility that one of my friends or even I may have been candidly caught on film. A 6-7/10 and that's being sentimentally generous.