Point Of Terror, a Crown International film from 1971, isn't really a horror film. The cover art for the DVD (taken from the original poster art, and rightly so) would certainly lead you to believe that and the trailer for the film absolutely tries (and nearly succeeds) to pass it off as one, but this is basically a really bad soap opera with some naked boobies that come courtesy of Ilsa herself, Dyanne Thorne. Oh, and then there's the inimitable presence of one Peter Carpenter - singer, dancer, fighter, lover, a true renaissance man if ever there was one.
Carpenter plays a man named Tony Trelos, a lounge singer who is the house act down at the Lobster House, which isn't actually a house nor does it appear to have any lobster in it but which is in fact some sort of night club that features buxom waitresses and shiny silver curtains galore. Here Tony belts out his signature tune, 'This Is Me,' over and over again. You'll also hear it on the menu screen and over the opening credits. At any rate, one day Tony's lucky enough to meet a big titted blonde chick on the beach that she owns. She's not too upset about his trespassing, but instead heads out that night to check out his act. One thing leads to another and before you know it, she's back at Tony's place, which she likens to being decorated by Bela Lugosi despite the fact that it is not in the least bit vampiric or Hungarian in appearance. She tells him that her name is Andrea Hilliard (Dyanne Thorne) and that she basically runs National Records since its founder, and her husband, Martin Hilliard (Joel Marsten), landed himself in a wheelchair permanently. With her jealous beau confined to a cripple's life, she gallivants around town drinking and pill popping and making it with would be lounge singers like Tony, who is only too happy to skinny dip with her if it means a record deal.
One thing leads to another and before you know it, Tony's got the wrong idea and Martin winds up dead. He wants to take Andrea to Tijuana to get married but all she wants are kicks, much to the dismay of her lush hanger-oner, Fran (Leslie Simms), who wouldn't mind a piece of Tony for herself. Rejected, Tony finds solace in the arms of Andrea's stepdaughter, Helayne Hilliard (Lory Hansen), who has bad teeth and strange two-toned eyebrows. Will Tony's record career ever take off? What's going to happen when Helayne finds out Tony's diddled her step mommy's Skittle? How many more times are we going to hear the only two songs it seems Tony knows? Where are all those odd primary lighting gels coming from and to what purpose are they there?
Let's get one thing straight right now: Point Of Terror is horrible. Really, it's a complete piece of shit made by a director who can't figure out where to take it and with a cast who overdo it every chance they get. The plot has nothing going for it and there absolutely no suspense whatsoever. Even if 'twist' at the end (and calling it a twist is being generous) somehow manages to be completely wrong and yet somehow predictably inevitable at the same time. This movie is really and truly awful in every sense of the word.
Now, with that out of the way (and read that as the caveat to serious cineastes that it's meant to be), let's make a second and more important point about the picture - it's absolutely hilarious. Yes, for all the wrong reasons, but Point Of Terror turns out to be quite a good bit of comedy gold if you're in the right frame of mind for it. Peter Carpenter, whose eyes do seem to periodically go in two different directions at one, is responsible for most of head scratching moments, be it his red fringed jumpsuit, his rad dance moves, the completely unexpected penchant for wrestling that he shows in the film's big finale or tendency to show off his manly physique whenever he feels like it, he proves to be a true dynamo of bad movie leading men. His screen presence in Blood Mania was good, but it's nothing compared to what he brings to this turd. But we also get amazing scenery chewing from Joel Marsten, a man with only one emotion - seething anger! He's perpetually pissed off and is prone to throwing drinking glasses around the pool side and trying to run over big breasted would be Nazisploitation stars with his wheelchair and the movie is all the better for it. Of course, Dyanne Throne's generally odd screen presence is the icing on the cake, her stern and matronly features make for a perplexing site but you know once that top comes off and her stone filled jugs come into play that Peter's done for, it's just her way.
Going into much more detail than that really would be a disservice to those who haven't yet had the experience that is Point Of Terror. It's got so much going on that has so little to do with... anything, really, that you can't help but fall for it. While it's certainly true that it's a filmic turd, it's at least one that was shat out in an interesting shape and that is fun to watch for somewhat inexplicable reasons. If only Peter Carpenter had graced us with more than just a scant handful of films before he passed away, maybe more could have come of this or his fledgling recording career (he not only stars but co-wrote and co-produced and did all of his own singing) but sadly that was not to be. At least we have Point Of Terror to remember him by.
NOTE: The following review is based on a test disc that may or may not represent final, finished, retail product.
Point Of Terror looks good in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation except for some obvious motion issues that show up throughout, mostly noticeable during the opening credits but also throughout the film around bright colors like reds and yellows - it almost looks like still objects are jittering or shivering. The image shows only minutes instances of print damage and while it does have that odd sort of seventies softness to its cinematography, detail is generally pretty good. Color reproduction looks great and there are a lot of interesting primary hues used throughout the film - just check out the scene where Peter Carpenter and Dyanne Thorne are fooling around in the pool for a perfect example of that. Black levels, while not reference quality, are quite strong as well. Flesh tones look good, there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement at all, and there's really not a thing worth complaining about here. All oddball seventies cult titles should be so lucky to look as good as this one!
The English language Dolby Digital Mono track on this is also quite strong. It's well balanced, easy to follow and free of any hiss or distortion. A few sequences sound a little bit flat but that's likely got more to do with the nature of the recording than with the DVD. Peter Carpenter's musical numbers all sound top notch (well, relatively speaking, at least). All in all, it sounds quite good. No alternate language options or subtitles have been provided for this release.
Aside from the original trailer (which makes this look like a pretty intense thriller, amusingly enough), Scorpion has wrangled up a pair of supplements, the first of which is Remembering Peter Carpenter: An Interview With Peter's Acting Teacher/Co-Star Leslie Simms (15:11) who introduces herself as a 'very old friend of Peter Carpenter's.' She describes him as handsome more than a few times, talks about his real name, his singing ability, his relationship with a stripper, and his sense of humor. She talks about him, warts and all, with an appreciable warmth that helps make up for the slightly muffled audio. The second featurette is an Telephone Interview With Star Dyanne Thorne (14:50) that also features some muffled audio for some reason. Regardless, it too is an interesting talk that focuses a bit on Peter Carpenter and his persona before moving on to Thorne's involvement in the film, how she got the part, and what it was like working with the different participants on the picture. There's no chapter selection menu available off of the main menu screen, but the disc is divided into chapters that you can easily skip to with your remote if you're into that sort of thing.
How much you get out of Point Of Terror is really going to vary depending on your appreciation for Peter Carpenter, because quite honestly, there's no point to the film, nor is there any terror. Despite some shifty marketing over the years, however, the film definitely delivers that bizarre seventies atmosphere so many of us hold near and dear to our hearts, and it's interesting cast and quirky art direction ensure that even if it isn't very 'good' it's always watchable. Despite some oddities in the transfer, the disc is still recommended for cult film enthusiasts and seventies cinema buffs with the caveat that if you don't fall into that crowd, you won't likely enjoy this one at all.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.