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Crawlspace - MGM - DVD Print E-mail
User Rating: / 3
Written by Jay Creepy   
Wednesday, 18 February 2015
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AKA: Perversao Assassina, Hatrcho, Crawlspace – Killerhaus, El atico, A horror haza, Fou a tuer, Striscia ragazza striscia, La muerte espia en las sombras.

Directed by:
David Schmoeller
Written by:
David Schmoeller
Produced by:
Charles Band, Roberto Bessi, Michael Deak
Cinematography by:
Sergio Salvati
Editing by:
Bert Glatstein
Music by:
Pino Donaggio
Special Effects by:
Anthony Levine, Celeste Battistelli, John Vulich
Klaus Kinski, Talia Balsam, Barbara Whinnery, Kenneth Shippy, Tane Mcclure
1h 20min

Distributor: MGM

Ahhh, Mr. Kinski, a man capable of totally owning a film or cameo scene just by a twitch of his distinct features. Klaus of course made a career out of playing over-the-top characters, and this mid 80's chiller is no different.

Crawlspace, a film creeping with sexual suggestions, and terror over the female species. Let's face it, Klaus was a sexual monster in real life, so it's no wonder this comes over in a majority of his performances regardless of the character. Well, rest assured, Karl Gunther is a sexual predator who likes to torment women for a laugh it seems.

I remember seeing the trailer for this in the 90's, via some long forgotten big box VHS rental and it has always stayed with me. It had Klaus rushing through crawlspaces in some building on some makeshift trolley thing, his face pushed towards the camera lens. Cool, that's a decent memory flash which has held strong over the decade or so. Seeing the Region 4 MGM basic DVD (let's face it, most of their releases are simply bare bones affairs when dealing with cult flicks) in a junk shop for a quid (UK money), I had to grab it and finally experience this oddity.

Crawlspace is certainly an attention grabber, if not a totally fantastic movie. Kinski is Karl Gunther, a German who is by some incredible shock plotting technique, the son of a Nazi doctor! He's a landlord living the American dream owning and letting out apartments in his building, or boarding house, I suppose. He's a delicate voyeur as well -- his hobby is sliding through the building's crawlspaces spying on the female tenants. It's no surprise to learn as the film progresses, he tends to turn away interested young men.

The beginning has a very 80’s blonde nervously looking for Mr. Gunther in the building as suspenseful music plays with every slow step she takes up the staircase. She happens to be carrying a torch, which is lucky because his room is dark. He owns a lot of caged rats which do not disturb her -- makes a change. Moving the torch around, she finds a short haired woman weeping in a cage. Gunther is by the door and he puts the light on. “She cannot talk, I cut her tongue out,” he indicates the said item in a jar. “What a shame, I really liked you.” She doesn't seem all that fussed, eyes slightly wider than normal, but that's about it. “Liked?” she repeats. He flicks a switch and a long blade swings down from the wall straight through her body with minimum blood. The music has a slight Hitchcock feel.

It seems that after he kills somebody, for whatever reason, Gunther plays Russian Roulette to see if he is doing the right thing. As he survives, he smiles, “So be it.” he whispers.

Along comes an innocent virgin, a sensible looking girl, who makes an enquiry about the vacant apartment (left by the prior girl). She's called Lori, and Gunther tells her how beautiful she is. As he shows her around, in a random moment he holds his hand over a gas flame asking if she'll take it, burning. She of course is unaware of this, and takes it.

He writes his journals that evening, jotting down how he's addicted to killing, talking to his tongueless 'pet', and feeding her. She passes him a note: PLEASE KILL ME. “But I can't kill you,” he says, “Who would I talk to if I did?”

Gunther has a habit of letting his rats out into the apartments whilst he watches from the crawlspace. It amuses him greatly. He also spends a lot of time writing. We hear his thoughts about his past, his career as a surgeon, about his discovery through his father's diaries how 'euthanasia' was the same word used to kill the Jewish in the war.  “Killing is my heroin, my fix!”

Gunther likes to make noises in his crawlspace tunnels to disturb sexual coupling in the rooms. At one of these fun moments he hears an animal’s scream from back in his room. Hurrying back he finds his white kitten is dead, due to one of his own constructed traps. It's a pointless scene, truth be told. Soon afterwards, the man in the bed is killed off camera, deep in the house. We see his finger pickled in a jar.

There's a subplot of a man, Josef Steiner, who has been chasing Gunther for three years due to the death of his brother. One of his visits is to Lori, to try and warn her. He doesn't last very long. Afterwards, Gunther puts lipstick on and settles down to watch films of Hitler and the 3rd Reich. “I am my own jury, my own executioner.” he hisses.

With no real explanation, Karl Gunther decides to go on a killing spree around the house -- the kills being discovered by Lori. Of course this sets off a very prolonged game of cat and mouse, involving a lot of rushing around the crawlspaces, etcetera, but you still wonder what has sparked this off. Sure, his journal entries were becoming more erratic, and sure, he put lipstick on, but he seemed to have everything else in control. Maybe I missed something here?

Apparently, this is the famed movie in which, inspired by working with Klaus Kinski, writer/director David Schmoeller made a short piece entitled Please Kill Mr. Kinski. Notoriously difficult within the industry, an Italian producer had wanted him dead for insurance. Ha ha ha. David Schmoeller objected, needing the actor to finish his film. However, by the end, everyone wanted to kill him.

The cast doesn't stand a chance against Kinski, who chews up the scenery by simply being himself. This isn't a character, this is him! It's a rather missed opportunity, maybe due to the central actor's difficulties on set, but nothing truly builds up, no suspense, nothing. It's all rather random, from the awful piano solo, to the ladies who like “Tequila milkshakes.” Indeed.

David Schmoeller was a worker in the Charles Band factory at the time, so he was involved in many of his productions. Afterwards (apart from a nervous breakdown caused by Klaus Kinski, probably) he went onto TV work and a few short films.

Main actress, Talia Balsam has been seen in big TV series such as Mad Men and Homeland, whilst David Schmoeller himself played a small part as a tenant that Gunther rejects. Filmed in Rome with a lot of Italian people behind the scenes, it's cheap and cheerful.

On the whole, Crawlspace is a passable flick, worth a few chuckles and that's about it. The bog standard MGM DVD release has a trailer and photo gallery, though Crawlspace has since found its way onto Blu-ray, again via MGM, and a double billed DVD with The Attic under MGM's Midnight Movies heading.



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 Aspect Ratio: 16:9 1.85:1
 Region: PAL R4
 Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo

 - Trailer
 - Photo Gallery

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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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