We go from my favorite box set to what is becoming one of those hit or miss box sets. Today’s movie comes from the Pure Terror box set and I admit to knowing absolutely nothing about this movie. I mean, I honestly know nothing about this movie; nothing about the actors or the director. The only thing I do know about this movie is the real events that it is loosely based on, the killing spree committed by Charles Starkweather during the late 50’s, and the only reason I know that is because Starkweather was also a basis for Natural Born Killers. Well, let’s see if this movie is any good as I watch The Sadist (1963).
The plot: Three high school teachers, Carl, Doris, and Ed, are driving to Los Angles to catch a Dodgers game when they have car trouble and are forced to pull into a gas station/junkyard. Ed checks the engine and says it is the fuel pump and when Carl asks if they will still be able to make the game, Ed says it should only take half an hour if they have the part, so they should still make the game. They look around to try and find the owner but there is no sign of anybody in the area. After taking a break for a few minutes, Ed gets to work searching the junkyard for a new fuel pump with Doris keeping him company while Carl keeps looking for the owners. Heading inside the nearby house, Carl is startled by a cat but find four place settings at a dinner table, with the food still warm but two of the meals have been eaten. Carl returns to the others and voices his concerns about the situation when Doris gives out a startled shout and they turn to see a man and a woman, Charlie and Judy, watching them, with Charlie pointing a gun at the three of them. Charlie tells Ed to keep working on fixing their car, telling them he plans on taking it and he will let them live. When Carl asks how they know he will keep his word, Charlie says they will have to trust him, then approaches Doris and starts to frighten her with the gun. He then has Carl give him his wallet and after taking the money out of it, Charlie proceeds to rip up the baseball tickets before pistol-whipping Carl twice. As Doris goes to tend to his wounds, Ed starts to move towards Charlie but Charlie taunts him with the gun before demanding his wallet as well, then grabbing Doris’ purse and heading over to sit with Judy so he can watch them. When Judy pleads with Charlie to let her get some water to help tend to Carl’s wounds, Charlie hands Judy the gun and tells her to watch Carl and Ed while he leads Doris to a water pump behind the house. While they are gone, Carl worries about Doris and Ed tells him that they should be worried, as he believes Charlie and Judy are responsible for a string of murders throughout the state. As Doris gets some water, she pleads with Charlie to just let them go but Charlie taunts her, threatens her with a knife, and briefly molests her before telling her to get back to the others. When Doris and Charlie return, Ed tries talking to Charlie but he ignores him and proceeds to start shooting around the three teachers. He then tells Ed to stand in the middle of the yard and get down on his knees and Carl tries begging for Charlie to spare his life but after taunting the others and asking if they want to take his place, Charlie shoots Carl. Doris yells at Charlie and Ed tries to calm her down as Charlie approaches her, then tells Charlie that he almost has the fuel pump pulled from the wreck and he is the only one that can fix they car so he can leave so Charlie agrees not to shoot her, for now. As Ed finishes pulling the pump and walks towards their car with Doris, they try to figure out what they should do next. As Ed works on the car, they suddenly hear the sounds of some motorcycles approaching and see two policemen riding towards the gas station. As Doris tells Charlie he is going to be arrested, Charlie has them lay on the ground while he figures out what to do. Seeing an open car truck, he has Ed climb inside, then hands Judy a knife and tells her to hide with Doris and cut her throat if she yells. Charlie then heads over to the police officers, who have reached the station and grabbed a pair of cokes from the icebox. Charlie talks with the officers for a few minutes, trying to pass himself off as a friend of the family, but when Doris screams out for help, Charlie is forced to shoot the two cops. Getting Ed out of the Trunk, Charlie yells at Doris for not keeping quiet and Judy proceeds to slap her. He then leads them over to the car and tells them that they have 15 minutes to fix the car or else he will go ahead and kill them now. As Judy and Charlie proceed to fool around with the motorcycles and loot the bodies, a report comes through on the police radios about the two killers. As Ed continues to work on the car, he tells Doris that he has a plan and, so long as Charlie doesn’t know anything about cars, it might work and give them a chance to escape. Ed tries to his plan, manually making the car sound like it is working but Charlie gets suspicious and has Doris get out of the car so he can try it himself. Accusing Ed of trying to trick him, Charlie plans on killing Doris but Judy whispers to let her do it and so he hands her a gun. As Charlie yells at Ed to fix the car, Ed manages to temporarily blind Charlie by throwing gasoline in his face. As Charlie screams in pain, Doris struggles with Judy and manages to get away from her. Charlie begins blindly firing his gun and accidentally shoots Judy and when he realizes what he has done, he cries out in grief, then goes looking for Doris and Ed, who are hiding in the junkyard. As Doris hides, she discovers the bodies of the owner and his wife and cries out, alerting Charlie to where she is. Ed sees Charlie approaching her and yells at her to run, causing Charlie to turn and shoot at him. Doris sees Charlie and manages to climb through a hole in the fence and begins running along the road towards town. Failing to shoot Doris, Charlie starts hunting Ed and chases him throughout the junkyard, finally killing him when Ed charges at him when he is cornered. Charlie then gets in the car and chases after Doris, who is happy to see the car until she realizes who is driving it. Running through the desert, Doris comes to the remains of an old house and hides behind the wall as Charlie gets the car stuck in the sand but Charlie finds her and chases after her as she tries to run. As Charlie is about to catch her, he falls through a covered mine shaft and lands inside a nest of rattlesnakes, which proceed to bite him. Doris continues running as Charlie tries to fend off the snakes and run away but is constantly bitten and falls back into the mine. Doris hears his cries of pain and pauses but then continues towards the car, catching her breath as the Dodgers game is broadcast on the radio, then begins walking again with the sound of a Dodgers home-run coming from the speakers.
The Sadist (1963) met with high praise from modern critics, holding a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics all seem to feel that it was a well made thriller and praised Arch Hall Jr.’s performance. The movie was based on the killing spree of Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate, who murdered 11 people in Nebraska and Wyoming between 1957-58. The cops in the movie were actual off duty police officers who have their own bikes, which they use for funeral processions and VIP escorts.
I will admit, this was a very effective thriller. The acting was really good, with Arch Hall Jr. doing a phenomenal job in his roll, going from sadistic bullying the teachers to maniacally giggling with Judy and back again in mere seconds. Richard Alden (Ed) and Helen Hovey (Doris) were also good in their roles. The story was great, bringing a sense of real terror and drama throughout the movie from the moment the three teacers arrive at the abandoned junkyard. The special effects were minimal but the camera work was exceptional, actually making the tension more palpable so that it felt like you were the one being hunted by Charlie. A surprisingly good movie that is worth watching if you are in the mood for it.
Rating: 4 out of 5