Slaying with fire

- Ian Berriman

RELEASED 7 FEBRUARY 1980 | 18 | Blu-ray

Director Joseph Ellison

Cast Dan Grimaldi, Charlie Bonet,

Bill Ricci, Robert Osth

Psycho straps on a flamethrow­er in this grim horror, as an abused momma’s boy takes revenge on her sex, killing young women in a steel-lined room. A sequence of his first victim burned alive, naked and chained, placed it on the “video nasties” list.

It’s a disturbing scene, though undercut by in-camera effects that are – by today’s standards – not up to scratch, and it’s easy to imagine misogynist­s becoming aroused. But the film’s comparativ­ely coy thereafter, more interested in the character of peevish killer Donny. And without the intensity of that sequence, it would hold no power.

Star Dan Grimaldi is prone to cartoonish mugging, but his decaying mansion is photogenic, and Richard Einhorn’s dissonant/ electronic score is highly effective. Extras A TV edit softens that scene, dubs swears and adds character moments: in one striking scene, Donny monologues to his collection of charred corpses. An extended cut draws from both.

The theatrical cut has two audio tracks. In one, producer Ellen Hammill repeatedly crashes the anecdotes of director Joseph Ellison (her husband!). Grimaldi flies solo, chuckling at his own performanc­e. Stephen Thrower provides flowing, well-informed commentary on the extended cut.

“House Keeping” (21 minutes) talks to the co-writer – whose toothless maw mesmerises – and a producer. A video essay (15 minutes) puts the film in late-’70s context. A locations trip (19 minutes) ends in a rewarding visit to the main house. Plus: a 2017 doc on Grindhouse films (34 minutes); three old chats with Ellison and Grimaldi (53 minutes); trailers; gallery; poster; booklet.

Director Joseph Ellison dabbled with acting – he got down to the last three for a role in George Romero’s The Crazies.

 ?? ?? Nice to see Health & Safety being observed.
Nice to see Health & Safety being observed.
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