Unrated - Cinema of the Extreme

Released in the UK with the title ROSEMARY’S KILLER (1981), in a heavily cut form depriving viewers of several excellent SFX courtesy of Tom Savini, director Joseph Zito’s exercise in splatter-fare finally receives an uncut release from ‘Blue Underground’ who are going to give cult horror specialists ‘Anchor Bay’ competition on gorehound wish lists with this initial foray into the DVD market.

It’s 1945 and we are shown newsreel footage of the Queen Mary returning to NY with almost 15,000 surviving troops, preparing to embrace their sweethearts, families and celebrate. One GI, however, is not so happy, for whilst serving his country he received from his girlfriend, Rosemary, a letter announcing that she could not wait for his return and had found a new lover, she signs off her name with a drawing of a rose. Cut to Avalon Bay and a Graduation dance is in full swing, we witness Rosemary and her new lover sneak away for a bit of nookie in a lakeside gazebo. A mysterious man in army greens sneaks up on the necking couple and plunges a pitchfork through their embracing bodies. A rose is left at the scene of his crime.

The action switches to 1980, and the same town is preparing for the first Graduation ball for 35 years. It happens to be the anniversary of the early murders and the local police department are concerned following rumours of a vicious sociopath who is possibly “headed our way!”. Rookie cop Mark London (Christopher Goutman) is put in charge of the town’s police operations when Sheriff George Fraser (Farley Granger) embarks on his annual fishing trip.

Pretty soon, leggy women are stripping off and taking showers, in the style of classic “slasher” films. Shots of them removing clothes or dressing in their Ball costumes are nicely juxtaposed with footage of our returning army vet, lacing boots, tightening gasmask, strapping weapons etc. Two lovers are killed in a dorm where Mark’s girlfriend Pam (Vicky Dawson) resides, and when Pam returns to find her housemates, she is followed by the masked soldier but manages to escape. Mark attempts to patrol the area but his inexperience leads him to make a few errors of judgement and pretty soon the corpses are piling up with a single rose placed on the bodies of female victims.

In many respects, THE PROWLER resembles the majority of classic teens in peril films of the late 70s and early 80s, with its clichéd virginal heroine, sexually promiscuous students, and masked killer who slaughters his victims by gory means. But alas, in this case, murderer’s identity is pretty obvious – why have the most famous member of the cast (Farley Granger), who incidentally appears to be one of only two other actors in the film old enough to be Rosemary’s killer, disappear after 5 minutes of screen-time?

Despite Zito’s plodding direction and copycat “did it or did it not happen” ‘shock’ ending (ala CARRIE, FRIDAY THE 13th, MANIAC etc), THE PROWLER is still worth adding to your collection for Tom Savini’s great SFX, that include a double pitchfork impalement, bayonet through the head, pitchfork to naked woman’s torso, a couple of excellent throat slashings, and (another Savini trademark) shotgun to the head. Blue Underground’s anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 presentation is sharp, and the vibrant colours do justice to the SFX. The dialogue (presented in Dolby Mono) is clear and the disc’s extras include an audio commentary with producer/director Zito and Savini. Theatrical trailer, poster and gallery stills, and, best of all ‘Tom Savini’s Behind the Scenes Gore Footage’ that includes tests and alternative shots of the majority of the killings. Zito went on to direct the superior FRIDAY THE 13th: THE FINAL CHAPTER, but gore-hounds might prefer this earlier effort on the strength of the FX alone.

Carl T. Ford

Directed by Joeseph Zito

English language

USA / 1981 / 89 minutes.

Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Joseph Zito and Special Make-Up FX Artist Tom Savini
Tom Savini’s Behind-The-Scenes Gore Footage
Theatrical Trailer
Poster and Still Gallery
Interactive Menus

A Blue Underground DVD Release

All Region. NTSC. Dolby Digital Mono
Widescreen 1.85:1/16:9

THE PROWLER (aka Rosemary’s Killer)

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