Whatever you think of the films of the late Ray Dennis Steckler, including low-budget legends like RAT PFINK A BOO BOO and THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED UP ZOMBIES, it’s a shame to think that a director of such no-budget gonzo passion is missing from this world. His films alternate between artfully weird and gleefully unwatchable, but the sheer devotion to spending as little as possible on the final products while still delivering the drive-in requirements of boobs and blood shows an amount of ambition and chutzpah that is a rare quality in modern film-makers.
Of course, at heart he was just a carny trying to trick us marks into paying to see his latest thrown-together masterwork, but what do you expect?
THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID-ROW SLASHER feels entirely like a low-budget cast-off film from the mid-60s, so it’s rather hard to believe that it was lensed in post-HALLOWEEN 1979 as a cash in on the burgeoning slasher market. It’s even harder to believe that Steckler thought he could get away with shooting the film silently, with footage that looks more like sleazy travelogue footage of late 70s Hollywood Boulevard than anything resembling a traditional narrative. Steckler’s habit of simply shooting footage and coming up with the plot later is on full display, and despite a few attractive shots that remind us that he began his career as a cinematographer, this is as artless and visually flat as any exploitation film of the period.
And it’s boring. My God is it boring.
Pierre Agostino gets most of the screen time as the murderous Hollywood Strangler who hires “models” (actually call-girls) to photograph, but inevitably starts to remember his beloved (and apparently adulterous) Marcia, which sends him into a strangling rage. This is entirely communicated by voice-over, with the prostitutes getting some barely audible background dialogue implying that they’re flirting with him – though who knows how much of this only exists in his twisted mind. He begins to obsess over the owner of a used book-store (played by Steckler’s wife and frequent star Carolyn Brandt), who moonlights as the skid-row slasher, slicing the throats of the vagrants who wander past her shop with a switchblade. What will happen when the two finally meet? Something!
It’s all quite uninspired and, even worse, just horribly repetitive. The murders by the unnamed slasher are all exactly the same, and most of the strangler’s encounters with his victims play in such a repetitive fashion that it simply left me baffled. You could easily rearrange the scenes in the middle hour of the film and come up with the exact same film, as there’s no sense of build or momentum. There are just a series of happenings which end on a typical anti-climax; the result of a director who obviously wasn’t looking to put too much effort into the proceedings.
A tedious stab at the slasher genre from a director whose work was usually more dementedly inspired, THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID-ROW SLASHER start out uninteresting and gets worse as it goes along. The sleazy photography of Hollywood Boulevard can’t save Steckler’s slumming, and the repetitive plot will test the patience of even the most steely exploitation fan.
Five Nightmares out of Five – PLEASE KILL ME
One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me
Join Moe Porne and myself for the NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES podcast featuring THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID-ROW SLASHER.
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