... aka: Ghost of Terror
... aka: Specter of Terror, The
J.M. (José María) Elorrieta
Imagine this. You're walking down the street when you hear menacing footsteps trailing behind you. The footsteps get faster and faster and faster to the point where you have to run away from whoever it is that's chasing you. You then fumble around with your keys as the footsteps rush toward you getting louder with each step. Eventually you get your door open, get inside your apartment and close the door. What do you do then? If you answered strip down to your panties and lie down in bed casually reading a magazine, you'd end up on a slab in the morgue right next to the bimbo from the opening sequence. Our next potential victim is a stewardess named Maria Preston (Maria “Pechy” / Perschy), who thankfully has a little more common sense than our friend up above. As soon as she gets to the airport parking garage, notices her car won't start and spots a strange, ugly man staring her down, she high tails it the hell out of there. Maria's busybody roommate Elena O'Hara (“May Oliver” / Maritza Oliveras) isn't much of a shoulder to cry on as she's always so busy with work and guys (especially guys... seemingly any guy), so Maria finds herself going to see a psychiatrist to try to get over her terrifying ordeal.
As Maria and shrink Dr. Palacios (Sancho Gracia) start getting more “friendly” (hey, isn't that against the rules or something?), Maria begins to suspect she's being stalked by the strange-looking man she saw earlier, who she likens to an “espectro.” That turns out to be an apt name considering he disappears without a trace soon after she has an encounter with him. Either the man truly does exist or Maria has created him in her mind because she's going crazy. After the man breaks into her apartment and tries to paw at her while she's sleeping, she's found hysterical by the night watchman and hospitalized for a spell. But it's soon made clear the psycho does indeed exist so why they decided to work that angle for a whopping 20 minutes is anyone's guess. When the nutter in question, Charly Reed (Aramis Ney), isn't stalking and murdering women, he's working at a dyer at an industrial laundry company.
Charly is haunted by voices and war trauma flashbacks (he's a Nam vet), sexually harasses one of his female coworkers, sneaks out with his camera to photograph legs, burns himself with lit cigarettes, makes out with and then twists the heads off of dolls and does other odd things. He goes to a nightclub and meets go-go dancer and single mom Nicole (Betsabé Ruiz), who's willing to go home with him so long as he pays her. When he gets her back to his rented farmhouse he makes her dance for him and, in lieu of sex, strangles her to death with a scarf and then dissolves her body in acid. At a bar, one of Charly's jerk co-workers brings up a war crime he was accused of committing (killing a woman... shocker!) and mocks him in front of two girls, so he ends up smashing his face into the bathroom mirror.
While in town, Maria conveniently spots her stalker out and about moving a large chest with his latest victim's body inside. She follows him home and waits for him to leave before sneaking in to look for evidence. There, she finds ripped up photos of herself, dolls hanging from nooses and the hand of a corpse sticking out of the acid bath. Before she can get out of there, Charly shows up and locks her in a room while he goes back out to finish up some dirty work. He first goes after the shrink because he's been working with a police inspector (played by Paul Naschy film regular Víctor Alcázar). After running him over, he locates her roommate and strangles her to death with the telephone cord in a phone booth. He then returns home to deal with Maria...
Sometimes you'll run across a movie that, while not really very good, has one major redeeming factor good enough to help it skate by. This has that in actor Ney, who really throws himself into his part and is genuinely creepy as the killer. His intense performance is nicely accentuated by cinematographer Pablo Ripoll and the lighting designer, who shoot him in the most unflattering ways possible to constantly make him look like a hideous, intimidating, greasy train wreck. Their efforts somewhat go in vain though due to the mundane fashion in how the character is written. Making him a war vet has been done to death and already had been done to death even as early as 1973. Constantly adding in various wartime sounds (gunfire, bombs dropping, explosions, etc.) to illustrate that he's a war vet has been done to death. Playing gentle lullaby-style piano music after he does horrible things has been done to death. Since they're not given much personality and the actors cannot play them in the same go-for-broke manner as Ney can, the other characters come off even flatter.
Considering how generic this one is, it's not too surprising that it never saw the light of day here in America, nor in many other countries. It did play theaters in Italy (under the title Deviazione), Mexico and Spain but I could find no evidence it was ever legitimately released to home video anywhere. The only cut that's currently available (via bootleggers) is a censored 73 minute version taken from a TV broadcast, which has all of the nudity removed and some pretty raggedy cuts throughout. Director / writer Elorietta also made FEAST OF SATAN (1971), which is even worse than this one, and The Curse of the Vampyr (1972), which I'm now going to be in no hurry to watch.