This cheesy slice of 70s splatter combines all the classic exploitation elements much in the same manner of Blue Underground’s other horror release, THE PROWLER. We have a trusted member of the community who dons a mask and sets out to rid the world of wanton women using a variety of weapons, an inept police force, a fair bit of female nudity, and the obligatory shower scene. The film’s end titles claim that the film is based on a true story, but I can’t seem to find reference to a similar murder case anywhere so I guess that claim is spurious.
A big guy in a hockey mask, armed with a toolbox, creeps around a block of flats murdering any young women that cross his path. A credits sequence shows a young woman killed in a car accident, so we guess the slaughter and this event are connected. Following death by claw hammer, drill, chisel and the infamous one where porn star Kelly Nichols is dispatched by repeated nail gunshots, the killer kidnaps a young woman called Laurie Ballard (Pamelyn Ferdin). We learn that the killer is the caretaker, Ben Kingsley (Cameron Mitchell) and believes that Laurie is his daughter Kathy (the girl killed in the car accident) and wants to rid the world of promiscuous women as a result. Quite what the connection is, I don’t know, but, hey, things rarely make sense in these movies.
Following a fast paced violent first half hour (in which the early murders take place) things start to drag and the plot becomes convoluted when another killer is introduced, but I’ll leave those viewers who haven’t had the dubious pleasure of watching this film to discover what happens next. Today the film also raises a few laughs of disbelief for the un-PC approach that director Dennis Donnelly takes with his subject, and it recalls the misogynistic excesses of similar fare such as Juan Piquer Simon’s PIECES (1983) with its leering camera and brutal murders.
Cameron Mitchell is a hoot throughout, humming tunes when perusing his toolbox and singing “I Feel Like A Motherless Child” to his kidnapped victim. His rantings on the evils of the world seem to go on forever and this washed up veteran also has problems putting on the ski-mask straight and peers through one eye hole with both eyes during one scene. Mitchell was seen to even worse effect in Tom McGowan’s CATACLYSM (1981) in which he played a cop on the trail of a disco frequenter who turns out to be Satan, and Percival Reubens’ THE DEMON (1981) two truly shoddy horror films that come nowhere near the excellence of Mario Bava’s excellent BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964).
Blue Underground’s uncut transfer is free of grain and the colours are bright, the audio track is also impressive being free of hiss and the voices very clear. Fans of the exploitation/sleaze should ditch their old VHS copies and pick this release up as it also includes an interview with Marianne Walter (aka Kelly Nichols) discussing her role.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Dennis Donnelly
USA / 1977 / 94 minutes.
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
A Blue Underground DVD release
All region. NTSC. Dolby Digital Mono. Widescreen 1.66:1 / 16:9
THE TOOLBOX MURDERS