Anchor Bay Entertainment didn't become the 800-pound gorilla of genre cinema it is today by accident. It was largely through the aggressive acquisition of titles by William Lustig, himself a gifted filmmaker with a deep appreciation of historic fringe cinema, and a rabid desire to see it not only preserved, but gloriously showcased. That's why CineSchlockers who've fallen into spasms of ecstasy upon the announcement of each extras-packed release from Anchor Bay should enthusiastically herald the debut of Lustig's Blue Underground. A label that promises to go deeper into the gutter than AB would ever dare with its inaugural titles Shock Waves, The Prowler and The Toolbox Murders(1977, 92 minutes).
The movie: Land sakes if the world hasn't gone completely topsy-turvy! Helen Crump runs A BAR in this sucker!!! Folks in Mayberry will never let her live it down! Oh, and there's also this fella skulking around apartment buildings screwing gals to death -- literally. All the actual "toolbox" killin' happens right up front in the first reel and it's juicy indeed. What's especially great is that said homicidal maniac strolls around in a black SKI MASK and bloodied clothes without attracting anyone's attention. Heck, if the fuzz had just bothered to follow his crimson footprints it would've been CASE CLOSED thirty minutes in. But then we'd miss those deliriously voyeuristic closeups of rapturous redhead Marianne Walter's extracurricular bath time activities. Yep, she gets, ahem, nailed also. Cameron Mitchell is the kooky building super who tends to mutter about how sinful the world's become and how much he misses the daughter he lost in a car accident. "Land of the Lost" castaway Wesley Eure plays his nephew who's charged with painting over all those unsightly bloodstains. While former child starlet Pamelyn Ferdin finds herself hogtied to a bed and forced to endure a singing psychopath before her knight in shining armor arrives. Only it turns out she might've been better off with the free concert! Some CineSchlockers may be willing to admit knowing Ms. Walter as "Kelly Nichols" from her years as a porn queen. The former Penthouse Pet and Toolbox poster gal now works as a makeup artist in both the "straight" and adult film industries.
Notables: Four breasts. Nine corpses. Claw hammer to the brainpan. Nailgun attack. Implied rape. Self-gratification. Pepsi spilling. One human torch. Improper use of scissors. Gratuitous radio evangelist.
Quotables: Our friendly neighborhood serial killer reasons, "The best are always taken when they're young. I think maybe God wants it that way. Because the world would ruin them." And later he howls, "YOU DIRTY, FILTHY FORNICATOR!!!"
Time codes: First sight of the toolbox (4:02). Dee Ann lets her fingers do the walking (22:20). Kent is horrified by a novelty "cake topper" (42:28). Shadow of boom microphone wobbles across the wall (50:51).
Audio/Video: Presented in its original widescreen (1.66:1) with a crisp transfer that defies its age and pedigree. Nighttime scenes are grain free. Utilitarian mono track is solid throughout.
Extras: Commentary by Ms. Ferdin, producer Tony DiDio and director of photography Gary Graver. Early on, DiDio relates the story of his being so intrigued that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had been RERELEASED that he decided to screen the film with the idea of making a picture that'd appeal to the same market. Fortunately, his writing team made it through the entire screening, unlike DiDio who walked out after no more than 15 minutes. A CineSchlocker he ain't! While in "I Got Nailed in The Tool Box Murders," Ms. Walter eagerly recalls her wide-eyed death scene and how modeling led to a career in porno (8 mins). Photo gallery with more than 35 images. Lengthy bio on Mr. Mitchell. Theatrical trailer. TV and radio spots. Motion-video menus with audio. Printed insert with a slick reproduction of the lurid movie poster.
Final thought: A terrifically twisted exploitation gem gets a first-rate presentation. Looks as though CineSchlockers are gonna feel right at home with Blue Underground. Highly Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.