Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Monday, June 9, 2008

WICKED, WICKED


WICKED, WICKED (1973). Writer/Director: Richard L. Bare.

The premise is excellent: what if a psychotic killer was on the loose not in a small motel a la Psycho, but in a huge resort hotel with hundreds of rooms and potential victims? The problem -- or asset -- of the film depending on how you look at it, is that the entire movie (except for the murder scenes) is shown in Duo Vision, which simply means a split screen approach (later employed by Brian DePalma). Sometimes this is effective, such as when a character says one thing on one side of the screen and the other side of the screen is showing the audience what really happened. Bare's screenplay has some interesting characters, aspects, and dialogue, but the (somewhat ahead of its time) black comedy approach often makes the often gruesome film seem too ugly.

With his intense eyes and boyish, innocent features, Randolph Roberts is the perfect choice to play electrician's assistant Jason Gant, the appealing lead character of the film; he's a good actor as well. The second best performance -- and second most appealing and well-written character -- is Lenore Karadyne, an aging show business casualty who can't pay her rent, expertly limned by Madeleine Sherwood. Tiffany Bolling of Kingdom of the Spiders is the nominal heroine, a pretty lousy lounge singer, and David Bailey plays her ex-husband Rick, who is now in charge of Grandview Hotel security. Arthur O'Connell is Jason's boss, and Scott Brady is a police sergeant. Edd "Kookie" Byrnes from 77 Sunset Strip shows up sans comb and looking great as a room service guy who's servicing some of the women in the hotel. Periodically we see shots of a woman campily playing the organ score from the silent version of The Phantom of the Opera, which is effectively used as background music for this movie. Philip Springer provided two songs: The title tune is fairly snappy; the other is forgettable.

Verdict: No world beater, but more interesting than you might imagine. **1/2.

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