Sunday, November 27, 2022

Intruder, The (1975, 2017)

Directed by:
Chris Robinson

It doesn't happen too often that a film takes over 40 years (!) to get a proper release, but that appears to be the case here. After being completed back in 1975, this was privately screened on at least one occasion, but shelved soon after that. Someone then stuck it in a storage facility in the Mojave desert and everyone forgot all about it. Its existence wouldn't even be discovered until the 2010s and it finally made its DVD and Blu-ray debut in 2017 courtesy of Garagehouse Pictures. While it's always interesting when a previously unheard of film is unearthed and released, the fact it had to be dug back up in the first place after such a long hibernation automatically raises a red flag. Clearly had this been an excellent movie or a memorable movie or perhaps even a passably decent time waster someone out there would have released it when it was first completed, right? Seeing how this has several well-known actors, it could have at least been sold to television and played as late night TV filler, eh? 

Sadly, all of my initial suspicions turned out to be correct. This simply isn't a very good film and it falls into that unfortunate realm of being both hopelessly formulaic / forgettable and just too cheap, tame and by-the-numbers to really cut it on any front. Its lack of exploitative elements would have made it unfit for a drive-in theater run and there were plenty of movies made specifically for TV back then that were far better.

A man named Axel Lubin supposedly died in a plane crash in Colombia and a cache of gold went down with him... only that doesn't appear to be the case. Sure, Axel hasn't been seen since the reported plane crash, and the gold hasn't been located yet either, but there's a chance he'd hidden the gold at his remote, swampy island mansion prior to dying. If he did indeed die. They never did find his body. At the behest of one of Axel's associates, Henry Peterson, a group of relatives and others tied to Axel are invited to the island. They're dropped off there by Captain Jennings (Mickey Rooney), who's murdered in a lighthouse shortly after he leaves, and then meet up with attorney McGowan (John Orchard), who's been left in charge of explaining things. Though he claims Peterson has possession of the gold and plans on splitting it between them all equally, the shady lawyer may instead be in on some kind of scheme. However, Peterson is m.i.a. when they arrive and an off-screen predator starts making short work of the cast over the next few days.

Director Robinson, who also plays the main role, produced, wrote and financed this and thus is primarily responsible for the film's various failures. For starters, his screenplay is extremely poor. Each of the characters are not only devoid of personality but they're also almost completely devoid of any kind of backstory to make them interesting. Who are these people even? You won't have a clue, and apparently neither did Robinson. The film does such a poor job of establishing them, we don't even learn how most of them are even connected to Axel in the first place. And because we don't know the first thing about any of the people involved, we also never care about the poorly-structured mystery nor who the killer is nor why he / she / they are killing everyone.

Among the fodder up for slaughter are a handful of name performers; namely our star (playing the heroic Reardon), the aforementioned Rooney, Yvonne De Carlo (playing the unpleasant Miss DePriest) and Ted Cassidy (in a surprise role). The budget was just 25,000 dollars, which likely explains why De Carlo and Rooney are the first two killed off (both were only hired for one day of shooting). Cassidy (Lurch from The Addams Family TV series) shows up later in the film but has a bit more screen time. That then leaves us with a mostly unknown cast of Florida-based performers of varying degrees of talent, many of them carry-overs from Robinson's previous films Catch the Black Sunshine (1972, aka Black Rage or Charcoal Black) and Thunder County (1974 aka Convict Women or Cell Block Girls). While both of those films are just as bad, they somehow managed to get theatrical and home video distribution, unlike this one.

Rather generously referred to as a "proto-slasher" by some viewers, this doesn't really qualify as such any more than, say, Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians (an obviously inspiration) would. The murder scenes - involving an ice pick, a pitchfork, drowning, electrocution, getting thrown out of a window, etc. - are all very tame and mostly take place off-screen. Some prowling killer POV camera shots are thrown in, which has led to some of the slasher comparisons, but this isn't really "proto" anything. It's merely a poorly-done rehash of other, better mystery films. Probably a good time to also point out that genre critics should quit behaving as if slasher flicks invented the killer POV shot. These have frequently been used in genre films as far back as the silent era!

Phyllis Robinson (formerly Yarwood), wife of you-know-who, gets to play the female lead, Miss Daniels. She also poorly telegraphs the fact she's somehow involved in the murders by showing little to no emotion whenever corpses are discovered. Patricia Hornung (formerly Roeder), who plays the timid Miss Lewis in a terrible blonde wig, was the wife of professional football player (and eventual NFL Hall of Fame inductee) Paul "The Golden Boy" Hornung. Soon after appearing in this, she separated from her husband and co-wrote the lurid tell-all paperback The Season inspired by her life as a pro football wife. She was last seen doing an interview and nude pictorial in a 1982 issue of Oui magazine. The only other cast member genre fans may recognize is George DeVries, who'd starred in the 1968 sci-fi cheapie Mission Mars alongside Darren McGavin and Nick Adams, as Jeffrey. For the record, many of the cast members are incorrectly labeled on other websites.

Sticking out like a sore thumb in this otherwise staid production is the presence of a couple of hilariously bad martial arts fight scenes (!) which were choreographed by co-star / "grand master" Warren Siciliano, who also happens to weigh about 300 pounds! Still, in a film where we're basically left grasping at straws to find anything remotely memorable or entertaining, that's appreciated.

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