Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Axe (1973)

...aka: Axe Murders, The
...aka: California Axe Massacre
...aka: California Axe Murders
...aka: Lisa, Lisa
...aka: Virgin Slaughter, The

Directed by:
Frederick R. Friedel

Three thugs; sadistic leader Steele (Jack Canon), cigar-chomping and equally violent Lomax (Ray Green) and young, apprehensive Billy (the director), go on a crime/killing spree. First, they put out a lit cigar on a man's face and threatens his lover, who promptly jumps out of a window nine stories up. Then they visit a convenience store, pelt a female clerk with apples, force her to take off her shirt, threaten to shoot an apple off her head and then pour beer on her. Meanwhile, at a secluded farmhouse, young, pretty, virginal Lisa (Leslie Lee) beheads a chicken and patiently takes care of her grandfather (Douglas Powers), a paraletic war vet vegetable and the only other person living in the home. One quiet evening, the three criminals barge in, make themselves at home, threaten the grandfather with a gun to get Lisa to send some cops away and then make her cook them dinner.

But the brutes picked the wrong home to visit and wrong girl to push around as Lisa's not as shy and demure as she appears. She's also not quite right in the head (and suicidal). All it takes is a sexual assault to send her over the edge, leading to a bloody retaliation. There's a razor to the back of the neck, a body dismembered in a bathtub and placed in a trunk, an axing and a sudden household menu change from the usual chicken, raw eggs and dairy products. There's plenty of that scuzzy, amateurish regional flavor some people seem to love, but it's not especially well made, the acting is very unconvincing and the whole thing is more dreary and unpleasant than scary. Cinematographer Austin McKinney does a decent job, though. Some passages of the score are haunting, while others are grating (two different composers are credited, so there ya go).

It was filmed as LISA, LISA in the fall of 1973 on an 11-day schedule. Though often listed as being released in 1977 (which is likely when it was distributed by Harry Novak's Box Office International), it actually played drive-ins as early as 1974. Various distribution titles include CALIFORNIA AXE MASSACRE (nonsense since it was filmed in North Carolina) and THE VIRGIN SLAUGHTER. J.G. Patterson, Jr. (DOCTOR GORE) produced and helped edit the film. The director regretted selling the rights to both AXE and his follow-up, KIDNAPPED COED (1975), so he combined the two films together (which are linked by actor Canon, who plays killers in both) and titled for BLOODY BROTHERS.


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