The Killing Kind Curtis Harrington

Thanks, apparently, to a sketchy and incompetent crew of financiers and distributors, putative psychological thriller The Killing Kind received only a notional, cup-of-coffee theatrical release in 1973 before being unceremoniously consigned to the vaults and promptly forgotten. Now, through the good offices of gore-happy revivalists Dark Sky Films, the movie gets its first home release in any format. Predictably, and virtually a legal requirement in the DVD aftermarket, it’s being pitched as a "lost classic.” Also predictably, the flick falls short of the hype. Starring a baby-faced John Savage (still five years from transient Deer Hunter glory but already rocking his thousand-yard stare of dysfunction), KK opens with a broad daylight gang rape, in which Savage’s Terry, not so much a nice guy as just too screwed up to deal, is forced to participate. Sadly, perhaps, but not surprisingly (there being, as we know, no justice in this world), Terry is the only miscreant nicked. Flash forward two years, as Terry, now 21, gets out of prison and returns to the capacious but ratty rooming house run by his mother (a blousy, muumuu-bedecked Ann Sothern, understandably having trouble finding the good gigs after My Mother the Car but having some "what the hell?” fun channelling the borderline deranged, Baby Jane-model Bette Davis). Cue awkwardly rendered filial horseplay, revealing icky oedipal weirdness, which, possibly along with rape guilt (the filmmakers aren’t sure), has left Terry something of a sexually twitchy mess. (Jail can’t have helped on that score, but that’s left unsaid.) With the entrance of an uber-perky, pre-American Graffiti Cindy Williams as a nubile new roomer, Terry’s hormones are jangled to their limit. Thus roiled, he embarks on a haphazard and essentially bloodless revenge binge against all those who’ve done him wrong, including the tattletale rape victim and, more happily, the posh, pant-suited lawyer who botched his defence. In this, it appears we’re meant to feel some measure of sympathy for Terry. Despite some lazily tossed-off psychotherapeutic hoo-haw though, he never successfully inhabits Norman Bates-ian wing nut victimhood, reading instead more as a garden-variety sociopath a-hole. Things come to a head when Terry rebuffs an unfulfilled neighbour harbouring some very un-PC rape fantasies. Embittered, she goes all Rear Window on him with her binoculars, precipitating his quasi-redemption, which, in the movie’s only real surprise, comes from an unexpected direction. The sole extra is an interview with director Harrington, who unapologetically recounts his drift from Dali/Buñuel-esque art film beginnings through Roger Corman sponsored B-movie psychological thrillers to middlebrow episodic TV (Charlie’s Angels, Dynasty), endearingly regarding each element of the oeuvre with the same dignified seriousness. (Dark Sky)