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The Zodiac Killer - Something Weird Video - DVD Print E-mail
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Written by Jay Creepy   
Thursday, 23 June 2016

A.K.A.: The Zodiak Killer, Zodiac, El asesino Zodiaco

Directed by: Tom Hanson
Written by: Ray Cantrell, Manny Cardoza.
Produced by: Tom Hanson
Cinematography by: Robert Birchill, Wilson S Hong.
Editing by: Tom Hanson.
Music by: Dennis Thorman.
Cast: Hal Reed, Bob Jones, Ray Lynch, Tom Pittman, Bertha Dahl, Doodles Weaver, Robert Towne, Norma Michaels.
Year: 1971
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 1hr 27mins

Distributor: Something Weird Video

“Don't you know people like me exist? You're still alive? Well maybe you've been lucky!”

Who amongst those crowds who love exploitation flicks can't thank Something Weird Video? For decades they have brought so many long forgotten and lost works to tapes and DVDs, introducing a wider audience to trash which maybe should have stayed forgotten. However, in this maelstrom of madness there are a decent few gems and SWV know this. How they do it, they'll give you a main feature, then plant one or two extra shorter films on as a bonus, followed by odd little documentaries, or whatever, to give you value for money. Serving these delights on a dirty plate only makes your taste buds more alive!

Take for instance this release of The Zodiac Killer from 1971. That is the main event. Sandwiched in the centre is a short black and white thing, and then a diamond in the rough to end the trilogy. Following, comes a few after dinner mints, but more on that later.

As we begin, there's a written disclaimer how since the movie was made in 1970, it could only use the known facts at the time. Then a guy reading a book titled 'It Can't Happen Here' by Sinclair Lewis, is shot in his car in the dark.

“Why? Why don't you idiots ever learn? You walk around like everything's alright! Don't you know people like me exist? You're still alive? Well maybe you've been lucky!” This low growling voice narrates us as we see a woman walking down a street. She's set upon by a mask wearing individual who stabs her a few times before casually walking off. The girl reaches to the camera pleading for help, then dies. “Would it surprise you to learn you've come into contact with a potential killer more than once?”

After that rather alarming and powerful opening, we meet Jerry who's a postman on his rounds. He chats with folks and has a run in with a mental old woman. Afterwards, he has a chat with his neighbour, Doc (played as a cameo role by Doodles Weaver whom I gather was well known at the time from radio and TV shows. Doodles had a career from the 30s to early 80s so he didn't do too bad). They discuss how women become bitches after the age of 20. Jerry says he's happy alone and has a fling once in a while. Doc says; “If you get any left overs, I like 'em plump, juicy and dumb!”

“If only people were as good natured as you guys, we wouldn't have so much trouble in the world.” says Jerry as he greets his rabbits until he finds one dead. “Why are evil people allowed to live?” he cries, “…while beautiful animals die for no reason? It's sickening!!!!”

There's a sub-plot involving a middle aged balding bloke called Grover McDerry, he's a truck driver who puts on a wig and pretends to have a business so he can date women. He has ex-wife troubles and a bad temper. His wig makes him look like Donald Trump and his tie is wild. One night, he bumps into Jerry and invites him to sit with his ladies. Jerry is a bit uncomfy but does so. “Listen, don't touch the hair.” Grover laments, then his wig falls off. He turns on the girl, lashing out. Jerry pulls him away as she screams abuse: “Bald bastard!” and so on.

Later that night, a young man in a VW with his girlfriend are both shot at close range. The police stand about the next morning pondering motives and so on. Months later, another killing occurs. The police link the murders and are getting frantic. Grover is questioned due to his violent nature and hard drinking. The prior night he'd urinated in peoples drinks at his local bar. Grover's memory is rather hazy.

Myself and my Horror Soulmate both sat astonished as the second cop, Officer Heller, leered all sinister at poor Grover with a crooked smile: “Says he was out drinking, but he can't remember where?” We replayed that epic moment a few times for giggles. They can't pin anything on Grover, not enough evidence.

The local newspaper receives a letter from somebody who calls himself 'The Zodiac' and it has information known only to the killer and the police. My Horror Soulmate noticed how when the package was opened there were only four sheets, then as the editor is reading to the police there's many more.

Meanwhile Grover finally snaps and rampages to his ex-wife's home, threatening her and his daughter. This ends in a shootout between him and the cops. Before he's gunned down, he shouts “I'm the Zodiac!” Naturally this makes front page headlines. Then the cops receive a call from the real Zodiac who's furious. He ups the ante and the games begin.

We get to see who the real killer is, even though it was obvious from the start. The murders become more frequent and varied in method. Guns, stabbings, a spare tire (??!!) and more. The Zodiac also has an alter where he states he is supreme and the souls of his victims will serve him as Atlantis rises once again.

The Zodiac Killer contains a very out-of-place musical interlude as intruding as the folk song in Psychomania (review here) but the scene ends tense. Watch for the most evil child we've seen in films, which totally steals the show with one line and a scrunched face: “I don't like him!”

There's not much gore, apart from a very prolonged stabbing, but the movie does have a rather large body count. A bizarre patchwork of facts and fiction, The Zodiac Killer also mixes actors and, erm, people who aren't actors, in a blend. Hal Reed takes on the main role with gusto and glee, hamming up where needed. Bob Jones is okay as Grover. The cops are bland, which is a must in films like this (think of Blood Feast). The only downside is flat direction by Tom Hanson -- apparently his motive in making the film was by actually wanting to trap and catch the killer. His theory was, the real killer would attend one of the screenings and, because there was a competition to win a Kawasaki motorbike, the killer would be revealed matching his handwriting on the entry card. Erm, yeah, good plan.

So, The Zodiac Killer works. It's not a classic but it's watchable and uses great locations of the era and diners. It has a few comedy moments to sit you up. Nothing is as simple in movie number two, The Sex Killer. It's a quickie black and white, that’s very low budget and pure nonsense. Bob Meyer plays loner, Tony, who works in a creepy mannequin warehouse by day, and is a peeping tom at night. He buys expensive binoculars and watches topless dolly birds sunbathing on rooftops. After a rather wild beer with a dummy head (whilst onlookers laugh) this rock and roll soundtrack laden film tries to turn nastier, as Tony kills a woman and it goes on. Nudity, and music which was probably out of date in 1967 doesn't do a thing. It's a crappy filler, nothing more, nothing less.

So after that we braced ourselves for what could be a worse dose of shit. Zero in and Scream, the third and final chapter in this DVD release almost beats The Zodiac Killer. What is weird (ho ho) though is that no one has bothered cleaning the negatives for this one. You know what? The grit and grime works. Michael Stearns (Chrome and Hot Leather, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Chain Gang Women) stars as Mike, who is possibly a veteran who's sniping men from the hilltops of Hollywood with his rifle. Having a guy like Stearns who can act really helps. In fact, the whole cast do their jobs. Production values are good, and the film builds very slowly and carefully until a knockout ending. Between this, Zero in and Scream has so much full on nudity, sex, lesbians and loud kipper ties it assaults the senses! “We're dealing with a sick mentally deranged person.” says a cop stating the obvious. Softcore pornography with bullets from 1971 dosed in a gloomy atmosphere.

So add to this a collective of trailers which have similar themes, stills of sixties sex flicks, and a hidden trailer for Peeping Tom, this SWV release has punch.



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 Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
 Region: NTSC R1
 Audio: Dolby Digital Mono

 – The Sex Killer (1967) 56mins. B/W
 – Zero in and Scream (1971) 1hr 3mins. Color
 – Loonies-on-the-Loose Trailers
 – Gallery of Sick Sixties Stills

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

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