The Psychopath [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (3rd May 2018).
The Film

Robert Bloch, the man behind the bestselling novel, "Psycho", was the author that was the most responsible for ushering in the era of psychological horror films. Using the actual crimes of Ed Gein in Plainfield, Wisconsin, Bloch created the mother obsessed character of Norman Bates, which in turn Alfred Hitchcock tuned into cinematic history with his film, “Psycho” (1960). Bloch had a long running streak of screenplays for Amicus Studios in the 60’s, including the Portmanteau Horror films, "Torture Garden" (1967), and "The House that Dripped Blood" (1971). This feature, originally to be entitled "Schizo", was a potboiler that utilized all of the much too familiar plot devices that by now were considered second rate: a crippled old woman that is confined to a wheelchair, a dominated son that even early on doesn’t look quite right, a black gloved killer who seems to have been lifted straight from the Italian Giallo films, and dolls, lots of creepy dolls that take up most of the rooms in the house.

Amicus Studios was created by two American producers and screenwriters, Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg. They operated from 1962 to 1977 and specialized in British horror and suspense films mostly; the studio saw the success that Hammer had with its re-hash of Universal inspired monster films and they decided to get in on the act. With low overheads and taking advantage of British tax laws; the two produced a number of successful films: "Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors" (1965), "The Skull" (1965), and "Tales from the Crypt" (1972). Amicus was widely known for using many of the stars from the Hammer studios including Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and many others. This feature, which had Freddie Francis as its director, was unavailable on DVD until recently when Kino released it in a brand new 4K restoration.

The plot, which feels more like a German Edgar Wallace Krimis than an outright horror film, starts out innocently enough: we see a well-dressed man carrying a violin case walking along darkened city streets, but he does not notice that a red sports car is following him. Headed down a closed street, he is repeatedly rammed with the car until the unseen assailant leaves a doll that uncannily resembles the victim and the clothes that he was wearing at the time of his death. The man turns out to be a member of a quartet of chamber music musicians that were playing at the house of Frank Saville (Alexander Knox) but his chair is empty. A knock on the door brings Inspector Holloway (Patrick Wymark) doing his best Herbert Lom imitation to the group, where he announces that Victor Ledoux (Robert Crewdson) is dead. After the Inspector interrogates the men and hears that they all have valid alibis he reveals that the time of death was an hour earlier then all had supposed. The Inspector casts a suspicious eye on all of the attendees including Louise Saville (Judy Huxtable) and her fiancé Donald Loftis (Don Borisenko). Doing some digging into the men’s past the Inspector discovers that the four men all have ties to the suspicious suicide of a German millionaire Industrialist after the end of World War II. It seems that the widow Mrs. Von Strum (Margaret Johnston) had hired the murdered man as her lawyer to investigate whether or not that her husband was innocent of the charges brought against him. Mrs. Von Strum is quite the character and we are introduced to her as she sits in a darkened room that is populated by dolls of all shapes and sizes, and this scene is effectively creepy. Inspector Holloway arrives at her house to inform her that her lawyer is dead and the old lady quickly loses her slender grasp on reality, literally crying and fretting about Ledoux’s death. To her aid comes her son Mark (John Standing), a dashing young man in a black leather coat. “My mother is a sick woman” he informs the Inspector, “she never leaves the house….all she has is her dolls. And me.” Indeed, apparently Mrs. Von Strum not only collects dolls but she also makes them as well in her own workshop. I couldn’t help but think how great this film would be if it had been helmed by Mario Bava who would have really added a master’s touch to the eerie doll filled room. Freddie Francis does an admirable job of this production and once the killings start, the film picks up the pace after a talky first half. As each victim is dispatched, a lookalike doll is found next to the body, and so it comes as no surprise that the black gloved killer is the isolated son, Mark. The conclusion of the film is the best part as Mrs. Von Strum proves that she can indeed walk, albeit slowly, but Mark, the killer, has suffered a broken back after tangling with the Inspector and is literally held captive in the attic, a living doll for his twisted mother. The main music from "The Psychopath" was composed by Elisabeth Lutyens and is effectively used during certain scenes that involve Mark’s mother and her dolls. If you are not a doll lover then this is not the film for you as literally everyone involved is preoccupied with dolls in one form or another, even the girl in the nightclub that Louise and Donald go to have dinner is selling dolls. The color red is also prevalent in a number of scenes even though the film is rather cautious about showing bloodshed. This is a great film to watch for fans of British horror.

Video

Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. Even though the box claims that this is a brand new restored print the first five minutes of the film is horribly marred with some serious scratches as if someone had taken a sewing needle to it. After this interruption, the remainder of the film is very good looking with some interesting camera placement and the scene in the boathouse is superbly rendered with some excellent use of shadows in its darkened interior shots.

Audio

A single English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is included, the audio is ordinary and nothing to get excited about. I watched it with the subtitles on so that I wouldn’t miss out on any dialogue. The use of original music was interesting and added a certain element of creepiness when Mrs. Von Strum is shown talking to her “friends." Optional subtitles are incuded in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

Kino Lorber has included an audio commentary by film historian Troy Howarth that can be listened to while watching the film and he is full of information regarding the production, the director, etc.

The film's original theatrical trailer (2:16).

There's also a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "Trailers from Hell: Joe Dante on The Skull" (2:36)
- "The Oblong Box" (1:56)
- "The Crimson Cult" (2:03)
- "Twice-Told Tales" (2:43)
- "Black Sabbath" (2:22)
- "The Premature Burial" (2:31)

Packaging

Comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case with reversible cover art.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: B Overall: B

 


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