Sunday, July 17, 2011

Three on a Meathook (1973)

*1/2 (out of four stars)

Three on a Meathook is a film that I used to pass on the video store shelves as a kid. The cover art always intrigued me and pulled me in right away. There's nothing like those 70's and 80's box art covers. Just the thought brings me back to the glory days of the Mom and Pop video stores of old.

Believe it or not, I never did pick up Three on a Meathook back in the old days. Instead I always rented some other forgotten classic. But recently, (two days ago) I received this little Ed Gein inspired film in the mail. With high expectations, I sat back and pushed play on my DVD player.

I'll start off by saying that those expectations weren't meant. At first glance you can tell that the DVD I got was a real bad transfer from the original VHS. But that's the least of my troubles.

The film is about Billy (James Pickett) and his Pa (Charles Kissinger), a family who lives in a secluded farmhouse. Billy's Ma died years ago, and Pa is a bit over protective and not privy to the young whores that Billy brings home one night after their vehicle takes a dump. After Billy brings them home, the girls call it a night and hit the sack. One by one they are picked off while they sleep, via a few shotgun blasts. One girl is hacked up in the bathroom while she bathes. So far, so good. Typical of these type of films.

In the morning, Billy is stunned to find out that all the girls are dead. And when Pa blames the massacre on Billy, he's reluctant to hang around. He drives off in his pickup and heads to the city, where he finds himself in a bar, listening to some horrible 1960's band called, Xpress. There's a long scene with this band as they play live in the bar... really annoying and nothing you'd catch me listening too. While Billy's drowning his sorrows in alcohol, a beautiful young waitress named Sherry (Sherry Steiner) befriends him. The two eventually end up in the same bed together; the same night they meet. Kudos to young Billy! Then, you find out that Billy didn't even score, they just stayed in the same bed together. Take back those kudos.

Who cares? Eventually Billy starts to take a fondness to Sherry and he invites her up to the farmhouse. Not the best idea in the world. Sherry insists on bringing her friend Becky (Madelyn Buzzard).

What follows is more slaughter, more hillbilly banter, some bad acting and women hanging from meathooks. Oh yeah, and a twist ending that is obviously taken from Psycho.

The film had an estimated budget of 20,000 dollars, but looks more like a budget of about 10,000 dollars. Writer/directer William Girdler was a prolific directer as far as his work was concerned. From 1972 to 1978 he stayed busy directing horror and action films. Before his untimely death in 1978, Girdler had completed nine features. His life came to an end in a helicopter crash while scouting locations for his tenth feature. His biggest financial success came with the Jaws replica, Grizzly.

Just like the films The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Psycho, Deranged and Silence of the Lambs, Three on a Meathook was inspired by the real life, Wisconsin killer, Ed Gein.

I'm not really sure why this film just didn't work for me. It definitely has the feel of a bad, B-type 70's film, but it lacks the raw, gritty power that TCM garnished. And while it tries to remain faithful to the real life material, it lacks the brilliance that Psycho had.

Don't worry though. Some of you may find something in this film that I didn't. My position isn't to stray you away from it, but rather let you know that there are tons of films, based on the same idea, that do it better.

I guess my expectations from my childhood were set too high.

Starring: James Pickett, Charles Kissinger and Sherry Steiner

Written and directed by: William Girdler

80 mins


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