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Sort of a cross between HUCK FINN and THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, this 1965 Anthony Perkins headliner is a unique and chilling low budgeter. Solid performances, stylish direction and great black and white photography enhance one of the decade’s most underrated films.

The Package
     In true low-budget fashion, the presence of a star, the late Anthony Perkins, was used as this film’s prime selling “hook” (and was most likely the reason it got made at all). Tony was given above the title billing and featured prominently in the film’s advertising, despite the fact that his is a supporting role with about twenty minutes of screen time.
     The film’s real headliner is the youthful Edward Albert, making an impressive feature debut (far less impressive were his adult performances in films like GALAXY OF TERROR and THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS). Rounding out the cast are veterans like Henry Hull, Salome Jens and Eddie Albert, the seasoned father of young Edward.

The Story
     Adapted from a now-forgotten 1953 novel by Helen Eustis, this episodic story is set in the Deep South sometime during the late 1800’s. It starts out with 12-year-old George (Edward Albert) escaping from his abusive foster parents. He finds himself in the temporary care of an old hermit who relates the chilling tale of the Fool Killer, an eight-foot tall, ax-wielding maniac put on Earth to kill fools. The tale may seem silly, but it haunts George throughout the remainder of his wanderings.
     He meets up with Milo (Perkins, essentially reprising his most famous role), a seemingly calm and collected-too collected-Civil War veteran who’s forever ranting about mysterious “enemies” all apparently out to get him. As the days stretch on, Milo reveals himself to be extremely disturbed, possibly even psychotic. When they stumble upon a Christian revival festival one night, George finds himself caught up in a frenzy of religious fanaticism. He awakens the next morning to discover that the preacher who headlined the revival has been murdered and Milo is nowhere to be found.
     After another bout of wandering, George reluctantly settles down with a kindly couple only too happy to take him in. It seems that George’s wanderlust may at last have been tamed…until Milo unexpectedly shows up one day. George immediately invites his friend to dinner with his newfound family-a BIG mistake, it turns out, as Milo is appalled that they’ve “changed” George. The stage is set for a showdown with the increasingly unhinged Milo, and the film’s horrific climax doesn’t disappoint.

The Direction
     With THE FOOL KILLER, Mexican director Servando Gonzalez has crafted a film as stylish as just about any you’ll see, utilizing much experimental (some would say pretentious) camerawork and editing. A montage depicting different landscapes shot from a variety of angles (horizontal, vertical and even upside down!) separated by STAR WARS-esque wipes feels like it could have been lifted from a film by Godard. Equally innovative is Gonzalez’s mix of disparate storytelling techniques, from voice-over narration to the main character speaking directly into the camera. Somehow it all works, and is enhanced throughout by superbly shadowy, film noirish black and white photography signaling that even when the story is at its most tranquil, the specter of danger is never far off.

Vital Statistics

Landau Releasing Corporation/Republic Pictures

Director: Servando Gonzalez
Producer: David Friedkin, Herbert R. Steinmann
Screenplay: Morton Fine, David Friedkin (Based on a novel by Helen Eustis)
Cinematography: Alex Phillips, Jr.
Editor: Juan Jose Marino
Cast: Edward Albert, Anthony Perkins, Dana Elcar, Henry Hull, Salome Jens, Charlotte Jones, Arnold Moss, Sindee Ann Richards

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