Psychic Killer (1975)
WRITERS: Greydon Clark, Mikel Angel, Raymond Danton
DIRECTOR: Raymond Danton
STARRING: Paul Burke as Lieutenant Morgan
Jim Hutton as Arnold Masters
Julie Adams as Doctor Scott
Nehemiah Persoff as Doctor Gubner
Aldo Ray as Lieutenant Anderson
Rod Cameron as Doctor Commanger
Whit Bissell as Doctor Taylor
Mary Wilcox as Nurse Burnson
Joseph Della Sorte as H.B. Sanders
Greydon Clark as Sergeant Sowash
Stack Pierce as Emilio
QUICK CUT: A man wrongfully accused of killing a doctor is finally found innocent, and thanks to his massive brain, he handles his release very well and visits all the people who helped put him in jail.
Arnold Masters - A man wrongfully convicted of murder, and once he is freed, instead of settling down and enjoying his second chance, he seeks blood vengeance with mind bullets. Kinda says all you need to know about Arnold.
Laura Scott - A doctor Arnold met in prison, who is sweet and caring, and always looks out for her patients, even if they're prisoners. They have a love connection, even as ill advised as that would be under the best conditions.
Morgan - The lead cop on these strange murders that all keep pointing to Masters. He's open to woo ideas, and has great instincts. The world needs more cops like him, to be honest.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! We are resuming our regularly scheduled action packed movie reviews, but as you may remember, today is Triskaidekafiles seventh anniversary. Yep, seven years ago today, I started this mess of a website, and have proceeded to go unnoticed by anyone and everything for all this time. I really don't even know if anyone is seeing these words. BUT anyways, if anyone is, they also know I normally do a special review for October 13th. Or a movie I can concoct a special reason to review for the anniversary.
But I am changing that this year, because my special seventh anniversary review actually is better suited for a different date. You'll understand when it happens. So instead, I am reviewing Psychic Killer, which is still a decent movie to review. And I can at least connect it with Jean Grey, AND a previous review I did, Astral Factor. Hey, that's enough excuse for me, so let's get right into Psychic Killer!
Oh for...it has been FOREVER since I've had a moment of "This movie is called one thing, but here's the different title!!" moments. And when I heard the name Psychic Killer, I had the joke referencing the Talking Heads song "PSYCHO Killer" before I even owned the movie. I had it written down, I was gonna do it, and then...AND THEN! I sit down to watch it finally and "The Kirlian Factor" pops up. Motherfffff... I actually had to stop the movie so I could swear and facepalm for a few minutes. But then I decided, y'know what? The joke somehow still works, and is almost MORE funny, because now it's absolutely nonsensical and absurd. Anyways, let's try to get back to the actual movie.
After the credits roll over some examples of Kirlian photography...and I am just gonna assume everyone is familiar with this phenomenon, and if not, direct you to the wiki page. Anyways, after zoning out during the credits, we are woken up by Jim Hutton waking up screaming because he realised he's in this movie.
I mean, Arnold Masters is in prison, wrongfully accused of a crime, and naturally not happy about it. The prison doctor, Laura Scott, tries to sedate him, to get him through the night.
Masters calms down, and is released back into genpop, where he meets Emilio Exposito, and the pair share their stories so the audience knows the plot. Masters explains how his mom was sick, the operations were expensive, and how he got into an argument with the doctor who had the temerity to suddenly die on him, making it look like Arnold killed him. And everything from that point on just got worse and worse, with everyone turning against him.
Emilio listens to the story, and vows that after he dies, he shall help Arnold find justice. Well okay then! Weekend at Emilio's it is!
The next day, after a long night of Emilio acting weird in his bunk, he tells Masters that he found the man who turned his daughter into a hooker, killed him, and then proceeds to climb over a fence and plummet to his death. That is the most epic mic drop in all of history.
Since Bouncy McMurder is now dead, and has no family, he leaves his meager possessions to Masters, including a strange necklace. It gives Arnold a headache, he passes out, and he appears to be dead. Sadly, there's too much movie left to buy that.
He appears to be so dead, they even bring him down to the morgue, and even start the autopsy. Arnold wakes up as his chest starts to be sliced open, surprising *everyone*.
And it's a good thing he's still alive, because someone has come forward, confessed to the doctor's murder Arnold was convicted for, and so he gets to go free! Imagine if he HAD just died, mere moments before his release?
He heads home, finds a note from his now-dead mother, spiraling him into a pit of grief over her death, and what it did to him.
Masters remembers the pendant and its strange abilities, and he takes it out, has the requisite headache, and we cut to an elderly couple off to a remote cabin.
As the man seduces the woman, the record player starts playing back his own voice, in previous encounters with women, as the astral factor of Arnold floats around and toys with the man for some reason.
Paul chases the voice with a shotgun, and it's not long before he's shot dead under mysterious circumstances.
The cops bring her in for questioning, nothing makes sense, since there were no signs of intruders, no other footprints near his body, so she's the only suspect but also completely impossible. The cops know something ain't right, but not what to do about it.
It turns out the doctor was the doctor that testified against Arnold, and helped put him in jail, and he's going on a bit of a revenge tour. Next up is the nurse who took care of his mother, and by 'took care' I mean 'didn't'.
And she kinda deserves being taken out by Puppet Masters. In fact, that's a plus of this movie. The morality is very grey. Masters may be going around murdering people, and it could all be killing people who were just doing their jobs and didn't do anything WRONG, but the movie makes them really terrible people, and arguably deserving of this treatment.
As you can probably guess from that screengrab, Nurse Crotchitch here loves tormenting her patients. This poor guy can't move, can't do jack, but he's still aware and conscious, so she sits there and strips in front of him, showing off, and just...yeah, she's not pleasant.
Fortunately, Puppet Masters comes along, after an almost excruciatingly long scene of her dancing almost naked through the guy's house. It's one of those moments purely there for titilation.
She's just merrily taking a shower, when the water attacks her, becomes boiling hot, to the point where she can't take it anymore and dives through the glass door, slicing herself up in the process.
The cops show up, and it looks like an accident, a terrible accident where the faucets and door jammed, but the cops still are not buying it. Morgan knows SOMEthing is up.
Detective Showash, he of the picnic table jacket, heads out to the cabin to try and see if they missed anything, but on the way, he loses control of his car and oh, I should mention that he was the cop who arrested Masters. That's important info as to why he is about to die. He's also the least offensive person amongst the bunch. His worst crime is speeding.
Which actually gets him in trouble, since Ghost Masters keeps the car going faster and faster as a patrolman tries to pull Showash over. The car goes faster and faster, off onto back roads, until it finds a cliff to dive off of. And I give the movie major points for the car NOT exploding.
Lieutenant Morgan is still sure there's something hinky going on, and he notices all of these deaths are connected to Masters' case. He's sure there's a connection, just not sure what or how, with the lack of any real evidence.
Morgan pays Masters a visit to confront him, and lay out his suspicions. Masters brushes it off as coincidence and accidents, but the cop just knows, despite the facts.
We then get some Thrilling Surveillance Action as Doctor Scott gets dragged back into the plot for her expert opinion. It's a bit overly long, but I appreciate seeing the coply side of things.
As they watch him, they see he's fallen asleep, and try to wake him up so Scott can talk to him. But he's too busy committing ghost murder some more, by dropping a giant stone slab onto the man who...uh. Actually, I don't know? I maybe missed it? Or maybe he's a totally random guy to throw the cops off his astral scent? I can't think of why the owner of a construction company is worth the bother otherwise.
With his murderin' done for the day, he wakes up after the phone has been ringing in his ear for ten minutes. He meets with Doctor Scott, and they catch up on old times.
Meanwhile, Morgan has heard about the murder, and barges in to get the Doctor out of there, and because he knows Masters knows.
That night following a lengthy dinner chat between Morgan and Scott, Puppet Masters visits Doctor Scott's dreams for a little astral factchat, and just general creepiness.
Doctor Scott has some idea of what's actually going on now, and rushes to see an old professor friend who is an expert on the Kirlian Aura, and hey, there's the title. He explains how Masters is doing what he's doing, and it's right on the edge between movie bs and actual science. As this sort of thing should be.
Morgan is still reluctant to believe, since this is all fairly woowoo, but they enlist the doctor to come check Masters out while he's deathnapping.
They barge into his house, the body doesn't move, and as they poke at it, they realise he's seemingly dead, just as he was an hour ago in the prison. Well, that ties that up for them.
Meanwhile, Masters sends his ghost down the street to the deli, where he butchers the butcher becuae, uhh...the reasons are kinda getting thin here, guys. Power corrupts?
When Masters awakens, he's surrounded by the doctors and Morgan, and the confrontation escalates. They know what he's doing it, vaguely how he's doing it, but he knows they can't really prove anything. Of course, threatening the psychic killer isn't smart, and Masters says as much.
Puppet Masters teases the cops with his latest crime, and they head down to the corner deli for a nice tasty reuben. They find the grisly gashed up body and try to figure out what to do about Masters. And Morgan gets an idea.
They use Masters' admitted affection for Scott to lure his ghost to her, and while he's out of body, the cops have him declared dead so they can cart his body away in a casket.
Morgan takes him to a crematorium, while the doctors try and find the medallion. They've never really said WHY it's important that he's not wearing it though. Clearly, the pendant is significant, it enabled to do this, but so what if it's missing?
Doctor Gubner is killed off camera while searching for the pendant, and Arnold's spirit appears looking...mighty weird? Why? There's some weird yet important plot things going on in these final minutes, and I feel like something was lost somewhere.
Masters finally feels the heat of the crematorium, sends his spirit back to his body, and goes up in flames. Well, that's that!
Or, not quite. The last shot of the movie is the cat playing with the medallion, and I really hope they're not hinting that Masters somehow lives on in the ball of fluff.
Video: It's surprisingly good for something from 1975. It's sharp, and clean, although a little washed out, but that's more the norm for the time period.
Audio: A very solid mono mix.
Sound Bite: "The day before I die, I shall kill the pimp that made my daughter into a whore. The day after I die, I shall help you find justice for yourself." It's good to have plans.
Body Count: For someone who doesn't do much, he sure gets a lot done.
1 - Emilio takes his own life by jumping off a roof.
2 - Doctor Paul dies mysteriously thanks to Arnold.
3 - Nurse Burson boils and slices herself to death.
4 - Sergeant Sowash talks a long drive off a short cliff.
5 - H.B. Sanders goes smoosh under his own cornerstone.
6 - Lemonowski the butcher gets ground up.
7 - Doctor Gubner is found dead.
8 - Arnold Masters gets cremated while alive
Best Corpse: Ahh, I do love the cartoonishness of Sanders' demise, but the very brutal death of the nurse wins out.
Blood Type - C+: There's some decent blood here, especially for 1975. I would've given it a slightly higher grade if not for the very silly look on Masters at the end.
Peak Corpse: Morgan is fairly sure about it pretty quickly after the second death, but it's not until Showash's crash that he knows there's more going on here than accidents.
Sex Appeal: Largely supplied by the stripping and showering nurse.
Drink Up! Every time Masters kills someone.
Video Nasties: Gotta say, the butcher's death via his own tools is wonderfully gruesome.
Movie Review: I was pleasantly surprised by this. It's quite good, considering who made it. It's got a bit of a languid pace here and there, but it's about what you'd expect from the 70s. It's not non stop action, but I do enjoy the slower character moments, that make the cops and Scott be real people in this very bizarre plot. The movie is quite grounded, and it's refreshing. The plot is solid, there's nothing too silly, and it's fun. Four out of five bad haircuts.
Entertainment Value: It is wonderfully 70s in its look, and that's very fun to watch. The acting is rarely cheesy, which is surprising for this sort of film and the time period. Emilio is perfectly over the top, and Masters gets more over the top as the movie goes on. The best part is how horrible the people he's killing are, to the point of being caricatures of people. This was quite fun in its' 70sness. Four out of five magic medallions.