Director Freddie Francis’ 1966 Robert Bloch (PSYCHO) penned murder mystery THE PSYCHOPATH is so up my alley, I feel almost sad that I did not encounter it earlier in life. Sure, now as an adult I can appreciate it on a multitude of levels I may have missed before but this is the type of flick I wish I could have stumbled across late at night on TV in my impressionable (and easily freaked-out) youth. Alas, this movie successfully avoided me for decades and we bumped heads only a handful of years ago. Still, it’s found a permanent place in my heart so here are five reasons I dig it so…
THEM DAMN DOLLS. Yikes. Every time some poor soul gets murdered in this movie, the killer leaves a doll that looks like the victim next to their corpse. If that doesn’t unnerve you enough, meet Mrs. Von Sturm (Margaret Johnston) the fishy-acting suspect whose entire house is overrun by dollies of all varieties, some that inexplicably rock and move and a few who seem to look directly through the camera at the viewer.
MRS. VON STURM. BURN, WITCH, BURN (aka NIGHT OF THE EAGLE)’s Margaret Johnston portrays Mrs. Von Sturm, a German, wheelchair utilizing doll fanatic with scores to settle and a harpy-esque disposition. It doesn’t matter if she’s a red haring or fully responsible for the death and mayhem; in either case she steals the entire movie with her campy hysterics, questionable decorating skills, and bizarre inanimate brood.
THE CINEMATOGRAPHY. What a gorgeous, colorful, eye–pleasing flick this is thanks to frequent Freddie Francis (say that 3 times fast) collaborator John Wilcox (NIGHTMARE, THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE SKULL). Apparently, THE PSYCHOPATH was a huge hit in Italy in particular which makes a hell of a lot of sense, as it appears cut from the same vibrant cloth as the painterly works of Mario Bava.
MADDENING MUSIC BOX TUNES. Speaking of Italian cinema, nobody can tell me Dario Argento wasn’t somewhat inspired by THE PSYCHOPATH (especially in the case of DEEP RED). There’s this crazy-making music chime refrain that returns over and over again and its blood-curdling creepiness would fit so snuggly and at home within the master’s bag of tricks.
CREEPMASTER ROBERT BLOCH. Y’all know I’m loath to spoil a film’s ending, so I’ll keep my lips as tight as possible. Let’s just say the author of PSYCHO delivers a revelation by the film’s closing that’s slow burn shocking and spine-chilling (in more ways than one). In fact, the more you think about exactly what is implied and what one character nearly endures, it’s sicker than any occurrences at the Bates Hotel. That’s it. I’ll say no more. Just count me in as significantly and happily disturbed.