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Love Butcher, The
Directed by Don Jones/Mikel Angel and released to theaters in 1975, The Love Butcher begins when a series of brutal murders, each committed with a different gardening tool, in a fancy Los Angeles neighborhood get the locals, understandably, on edge. The local newspaper is having a field day with all of this and the cops are working overtime to try and figure out who is behind the killings… and failing pretty miserably at it. Russell (Jeremiah Beecher), a newspaper man, won't leave Detective Don (Richard Kennedy) well enough alone, despite the cops' best efforts to crack the case.
Front and center in all of this is a man named Caleb (Erik Stern). He's a gardener with a gimp arm who just so happens to have been employed by pretty much every one of the victims thus far. Like I said, the cops are failing pretty miserably here. Anyway, no one suspects Caleb for whatever reason, including Caleb, because Caleb isn't behind the murders, his ‘younger brother' Lester (Stern again) is. Lester is handsome, dashing, cool and a hit with the ladies, and he's basically Caleb with a toupee. Amazingly enough, this hokey looking hairpiece allows Caleb, as Lester, to woo the women around town and lull them into a false sense of security before getting down to the slicing and dicing tactics that have everyone in town so upset. Lester is also a master of disguise, using weird fake accents and different goofy costumes to gain entry into places, and women, he'd otherwise never make it to. Will Caleb manage to overtake Lester as the dominant personality and put a stop to this? With the life of Russell's pretty girlfriend, Flo (Kay Neer), on the line, he's better hope so!
The Love Butcher isn't nearly as sleazy as many of its competitors from the same era, but it's a pretty entertaining oddity in its own right, one that makes for a pretty enjoyable watch. Erik Stern owns the movie, playing his ‘dual role' with all manner of exaggerated character quirks, and while he isn't always good or even close to believable, he's a lot of fun to watch here. Beecher and Kennedy are just fine in their supporting roles, but it's Stern who stands out here and who gets the best moments and the most screen time.
Jones and Angel pace the movie well enough. The murders are frequent enough that, even if they aren't gory, we get a decent body count here. The cinematography is more than decent, capturing all of the garish fashions and home décor you could ask for, and the lighting is solid too. This was made fast and cheap, with Jones going in and redoing a lot of what Angel had done, but it looks pretty decent all things considered. The movie also features a pretty bizarre score, courtesy of Richard Hieronymus that sounds way closer to something you might hear in a soap opera of the time than a horror movie, but there you go. It doesn't work at all, but somehow does manage to add to The Love Butcher's many wonky charms.
The Love Butcher is reissued on Region Free Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and Code Red in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 that appears identical to the Blu-ray release that Code Red put out independently in 2016. Despite some damage here and there, the picture about as good as it probably can (and that's generally pretty good!). This is still a pretty grubby looking movie, shot quickly and on a low budget. Still, there's decent enough detail in the close up shows and a fair amount of depth the picture. Reference quality this is not, but it looks more than okay for what it is and those accustomed to how older, low budget exploitation pictures tend to look on Blu-ray should be more than happy with the results here.
A 24-bit English language DTS-HD options is provided in 2.0 Mono format. There are no alternate language or subtitle options offered on this release. There's minor hiss present throughout the first few minutes of the mix and some occasional sibilance as well but the track is balanced well enough. Dialogue is generally pretty easy to follow and the score sounds fine.
Extras start off with an audio commentary with Director Don Jones, moderated by R.A. The Rugged Man and Lee Christian. These guys are having a good time on this talk, discussing who did what behind the scenes, covering the locations seen in the movie and talking about the different cast members that appear in the picture.
The disc also includes trailers for a few other Code Red releases as well as menus and chapter selection options.
The Love Butcher is a deliriously weird film worth seeing just for Stern's seriously strange performance. Code Red's Blu-ray looks and sounds decent enough and the commentary is enjoyable. Recommended.
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.