“The Sadist”

Paleo Retiree writes:


Ultra low-budget — shot in two weeks for $33,000 —  b&w psycho-killer thriller with Arch Hall, Jr. as the nutcase, written and directed by James Landis, and set almost entirely in an automobile junkyard in the California desert. It’s partly a bad-movie hoot, but it also has a lot of scrappy appeal, and it works up some effective tension of a surprisingly harsh (for its early-‘60s era) kind.

Hall wears tight jeans with a big belt buckle, swigs soda pop, shows off his pompadour haircut and gleaming teeth, and sneers, postures and smiles threateningly in amazingly exaggerated ways — he was a either a truly terrible actor, over-trusting of his director, or an avant-garde genius. The Question Lady and I found it impossible not to like and enjoy him, though — Hall had some undeniable kind of teen-exploitation-movie, lower-half-of-a-double-bill star power. And you could certainly never accuse him of not having gone balls-out. The other actors do well enough — and Marilyn Manning, as the psycho’s white-trash g.f., is better than that. One of the potential victims is played by Helen Hoving, an earthy/ethereal beauty of a very soulful sort — she wouldn’t have looked out of place in a D.W. Griffith movie. (She discovered Jesus soon after making “The Sadist” and never acted in movies again.) But everyone pitches in enthusiastically and helps the action move forward in occasionally shocking ways.

The film was loosely based on the Charles Starkweather / Caril Ann Fugate case, and —  who knows? — may have inspired “Badlands” and “Natural Born Killers.” A lot of trash-movie buffs are very fond of the movie, and The Question Lady and I had a good time surfing the web looking for bits of lore about the movie and its makers.

Fun trivia: the cinematographer was the later-legendary Vilmos Zsigmond; and the film director Joe Dante is one of “The Sadist”‘s biggest fans.

Bonus link

  • A long q&a with the smart and affable Arch Hall, Jr., who went on to become a professional airplane pilot.

About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff and very glad to have left that mess behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog 2Blowhards.com. Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
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7 Responses to “The Sadist”

  1. Blowhard, Esq. says:

    If I remember correctly, Stone’s U-TURN largely takes place in a junkyard, so I think you and The Question Lady are right about it’s influence on NBK.


  2. Toddy Cat says:

    The period 1955-1965 is without doubt one of the most interesting times in American history with regard to art, much richer, in original ideas at least, than the immediately following period that gets so much attention, and in fact much that happened in the later sixties and early seventies was really only a working out of ideas from the previous period. This doesn’t fit in with anyone’s preconceptions (of liberal’s ideas of the fifties and early sixties being a repressive sexist hell, or with conservatives ideas of a time of wholesome “family values) so it tends not to get said. But it’s still true. It’s a period that badly needs a sympathetic look, with regard to the art scene. “The Sadist” isn’t exactly art ( or is it?) but it’s representative of the creative ferment of the time, even though it’s just a b-movie.


  3. Genius comment, wish I’d thought and said that. “The Sadist,” while just a small exploitation movie, probably reveals more about the tensions and feelings of the era than most of the Big Important works of the time do. I should have let myself go into that in my posting.


    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      Funny! I’ve long been thinking of writing about some of the low-rent movies that I feel get at what was going on in the ’60s better than most of the Big ’60s Movies do. “The Sadist” is definitely one of them. Some others: “Sin in the Suburbs,” “The Born Losers,” and “The Babysitter.”

      I’ve had this discussion with Toddycat in the past, but the idea that the ’50s and early ’60s comprised some kind of repressive hellhole seems like one of the weirdest misrepresentations that has ever been foisted on the public.


  4. Toddy Cat says:

    I’m guessing you’re right. It’s a very important part of it.


  5. Toddy Cat says:

    Science fiction writer John C. Wright has termed this “Retrophobia”, a dislike and resentment of the past, especially certain epochs of the past, and he talks about how this has hurt our understanding of art, especially modern literature. I certainly don’t agree with Wright on everything, but he’s spot-on here…


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