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Sweet Kill


Sick, sleazy, sublime.

Rod Lott August 31st, 2012

Tab Hunter can't make it with chicks because ... well, insert your own joke about his private life here, but in 1973's Sweet Kill, aka The Arousers, it's because he has mommy issues that rank right up there with Norman Bates and Oedipus.

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Available exclusively from Shout! Factory's online store, the Roger Corman production suggests that the sexual hang-ups of high school coach Eddie Collins (Hunter, Grease 2) are to blame on him watching his mom undress to her birthday suit when he was just a sneaker-wearing child sneaking peeks from her curtained closet. Which she knew.

Discount his repeated visits to a call girl (Roberta Collins, Caged Heat, Death Race 2000) — because those are just in a futile attempt to cure him — and our flaccid felon gets an alarming amount of tail thrown at him. Every time he finds himself getting hot and heavy — but not, y'know, hard — with one, he flies into a rage and kills the "slut" or "dirty whore." Only then is he able to stand at attention.

While repetitive in its back half, Sweet Kill makes for an agreeably sleazy directorial debut for Curtis Hanson, who also wrote the picture and is one of many Corman crew members who went on to the A-list and win an Academy Award. In Hanson's case, it was for 1997's L.A. Confidential; more recently, he helmed the HBO true-story telefilm Too Big to Fail.

This print doesn't appear to have been cleaned up for DVD, but this is one case where I prefer the coat of visual grime. It better replicates what it must've looked like when it made it to the bottom of a double feature at some two-bit theater in your town — perhaps even a drive-in one, where the night scenes would be difficult to see anyway.

But you can see Hanson playing with the thriller genre, learning as he goes along, picking up tricks he would later put to good use in the likes of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. There's a climactic shot here that Brian De Palma has used at least twice before; it taps into such a primal fear that it works even in a lesser director's hands, which Hanson is when it comes to these psychosexual games. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
Caged Heat DVD review   
Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel Blu-ray review    
Death Race 2000 DVD review    
L.A. Confidential: Special Edition DVD review     
Too Big to Fail Blu-ray review    

 
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