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REVIEW | The Psychotronic Man (1979)

13 Oct 2017

A stylistically unique and brilliantly scored oddity that combines the tone of Blood Freak with a police procedural starring a cross between Boris Karloff and Mexican Elvis.

 

Country: USA | Runtime: 92m | Director: William Shatner

Starring: William Shatner, Dan Gauthier, Amy Acker, Tom Towles, Dick Van Patten

 

 

What happens: Suburban North America, the present. Barber Rocky Foscoe (Spelson) is having crazy nightmares that seem to be real. He discovers he can manipulate metal with his mind and inadvertently kills an old man. Foscoe then murders his unnamed Psychiatrist (Irwin Lewin) when he becomes suspicious and contacts the police. Finding a series of clues in the psychiatrist's office, Lt. O'Brien (Carbis) and Sgt. Jackson (Colbert) attempt to arrest Foscoe, but are drawn into a lengthy pursuit. With Foscoe cornered and about to be killed by police snipers, Special Intelligence Agent Gorman (Corney Morgan) arrives on the scene and reveals that Foscoe is being monitored and must not be killed. O'Brien has him shot anyway.

 

 

"Some mighty weird things been happening' around here."

 

Richard J. Daley, the hugely popular mayor of Chicago from 1955 until his death in 1976, had a profound love for his home city and a deep suspicion of Hollywood types. Daley believed the movies were only interested in painting Chicago as the home of Al Capone & organised crime and, as a result, he imposed strict limitations on filming in the Windy City during his time in office. The Psychotronic Man was, improbably, the first movie to be filmed entirely within Chicago's city limits for at least three decades. That may be an unexpected claim to fame for such an obscure movie, but The Psychotronic Man boasts an even more unusual one: it didn't exploit the term 'psychotronic'; it invented it. As most will know, The Psychotronic Video Guide and The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film are essential genre movie reference books. Their author, Michael J. Weldon, originally adopted the title for his magazine, Psychotronic Video, after seeing this movie on its initial release. Today the term is still widely used as a means of grouping low budget science fiction and horror movies.

 

 

"Intelligence reports confirm he possesses psychotronic powers."

 

The Psychotronic Man is, fittingly, a perfect example of a psychotronic movie. The creepy atmosphere and weird acting blend horror and science fiction via rudimentary but idiosyncratic filmmaking. I'm not sure if it's experimental, incompetent or both, but there's striking technique on display. It's almost like a less bloody arthouse take on a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie. The killings are both eerie and laughable and there's little logic to the way characters behave. But the overall effect is kind of great. It's helped no end by a brilliant score (largely simple piano music) and the elemental structure provided by the police procedural that keeps intruding on the crazy horror.

 

Spelson isn’t completely horrible as the preposterously named Rocky Foscoe, but he is out of his depth and badly miscast. A chiropractor by trade, Spelson took to acting late in life and was pushing 50 when he made The Psychotronic Man. He raised the budget by raiding his savings and calling on donations from family and friends, ultimately producing the movie through his own company when no one else showed any interest.

 

 

EGOWATCH: The Psychotronic Man is, sadly in this context, not a great exercise in egosploitation. Although Spelson wrote it for himself and apparently had a significant hand in its direction, the movie is essentially a legitimate showcase for (what he perceived to be) his talents as an actor. Foscoe may have superhuman powers but they are in service of the story. There is one top drawer flash of classic egosploitation in the extramarital affair he conducts with his sexy assistant. Apparently grumpy middle aged barbers are where it’s at for sexy assistants.

 

 

 

CHEESE: 4

ACTING: 7

EXCESS: 4

INEPTITUDE: 6

WHAT?: 6

07/10

 

They're trying to do something classy so there's little cheese or excess. Although there are some properly funny moments (see below) the appeal is more B-movie than bad movie. 

 

 

Video: Psychotronic Man & Crazy Man

 

 

 

Video: I've Got My Orders...

 Spelson Productions 

 

 

 

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