29 July 2014

The Love Butcher (1975)
85 min.
Directed by Donald M. Jones and Mikel Angel.
With Erik Stern, Kay Neer, Jeremiah Beecher, Richard Kennedy, Robin Sherwood, Eve Mac, Robert Walter, Louis Ojena, John Parker, Marilyn Jones, Joan Vigman.
At its best, this 1975 drive-in cult fave is uneven going.

The performances are painfully broad, and the pacing is slipshod. Nevertheless, The Love Butcher does manage to deliver a few satisfying (if all too brief) sequences.

The plot: Caleb (Erik Stern) lives a rather uneventful life as a shy, introverted gardener. Catering to the eccentric whims - and verbal abuses - of his wealthy and pampered clientele, each day Caleb takes it all on the chin, and returns wearily to his lonely home.

Then the real fun begins.

That's when Caleb's brother Lester comes out to play. Suave and sophisticated, handsome Lester is a charming lady killer. No, really, we mean that literally: he's a lady killer!

The psychotic Lester targets those unwitting, libidinous females who have tormented his meek brother Caleb...and then mercilessly proceeds to send the gals to their maker.

(Unsurprisingly, Lester is really Caleb's alter ego, rather than his sibling who died at an early age. Turns out, Caleb is embarking on a bit of wish fulfillment. Trust us, the plot contrivances are so obvious, we're not giving anything away here.)

Alas, The Love Butcher is hardly the transcendent grindhouse classic it could have been.

The "Ed Gein meets Sisters" premise is promising enough. However, it's executed in such a hamfisted manner, it'll likely have you chuckling rather than genuinely chilled or thrilled.

Kudos to Stern for injecting the right dose of charisma into the part of Caleb/Lester. But his enthusiasm is undone by the roughshod production and the kooky, distracting supporting players.

There are a couple of interesting death sequences, like the one in which Robin Sherwood (from Tourist Trap) is drowned in a pool via a garden hose to the mouth! And the salacious opening shot, of one of the Butcher's victims run through with a pitchfork, is promising enough.

Yup. We won't deny it: aficionados of slashy trash will get find some enjoyment here.

To our minds, it could have been so much more. The total lack of any underplaying, of any subtlety or nuance - combined with some of the most outrageous dialogue courtesy of Lester ("You emasculate a man with your bottomless body pits!") - make The Love Butcher more of a low-burn horror parody rather than a respectable showing on its own terms.

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