Coroner’s Corner – The Prowler – Column

Coroner’s Corner

By John Bikowski

Image Entertainment is on the loose again. They now have a subsidiary company called Blue Underground and they’re churning out some real stomach-churners. They specialize in the type of films that you wouldn’t want Grandma to catch you watching. No, not pornos, but rather brutal exploitation and slasher classics that’ve been far too long ignored. And not only are they getting much deserved release, they’re being done right with quality extras. So, whether you’re a novice feeling brave enough for some new chills and viscera spills, or a seasoned splatter vet looking for a remastered stroll down spurting artery lane, Blue Underground has the menu for you. Out this month are a couple real doozies at a great price that you must add to your collection… now.

I’ve had the humble pleasure of talking with Tom Savini many, many times. Savini is the effects maestro behind Dawn and Day of the Dead, Friday the 13th, Maniac and many more true classics. He also was the biker with the six-shooter gonads in From Dusk to Dawn. He’s said that one of the films that captured some of his most intense work was The Prowler. I remember scrounging up a cheap copy, only to find that the film cut away from showing too much in the murder scenes. I thought, “Unless this is some crappy cable copy… what the hell was Savini talking about?!” I forgot all about the 1981 film until I saw the Blue Underground release.

Savini spoke… and Savini don’t lie. The Prowler is absolutely disgusting… I love it. Every death scene has been extended from what I remember, and blood explodes by the gallon. Nothing is implied, you see it all. You’ll find a naked girl pitchforked in the shower, a bayonet pushed slowly down through a guy’s skull, machete throat-rippings, wall-to-wall shotgun mayhem, and someone’s head blown into a gaping slop of raspberry Jell-O. If you are squeamish, have a couple of barf bags handy.

As for the story, a World War II vet gets a “Dear John” letter circa 1945. He heads home to Avalon Bay to exact his revenge on his cheating woman and her new beau via pitchfork. We’re then propelled to the present (1980) for the first Graduation dance since the original tragedy. As you might expect, someone is still bloodthirsty and pretty well pissed off. Potential dance attendees are then systematically stalked and massacred while the small police force investigates the disappearances. Quality suspense and gore, sympathetic characters, on-target acting by Farley Granger and Lawrence Tierney and a twist ending make The Prowler a Friday the 13th-style winner. To complement the uncut, widescreen transfer, the DVD includes a fun audio commentary track with Savini and the director Joe Zito, a theatrical trailer, a poster and still gallery, and some very interesting behind-the-scenes gore footage presumably from Savini’s own camcorder files.

The next DVD release by Blue Underground is the infamous 1977 shocker, The Toolbox Murders. This film was reportedly one of the only slasher films to be discussed at length on the Donahue Show. They showed the nail gun murder and the audience was appalled. What did they expect? Well, what you can expect with this DVD is another great, uncut widescreen feature alongside plenty of extras, including a theatrical trailer, TV spots, radio spots, a poster and still gallery, a Cameron Mitchell bio, and audio commentary with the producer Tony DiDio, director of photography Gary Graver, and star Pamelyn Ferdin. My favorite extra is the interview entitled I Got Nailed in The Toolbox Murders. Here Marianne Walter (AKA porn princess Kelly Nichols) humorously and charmingly recalls her extended death scene that changed her life and her career. She tells of how she was asked to do a little impromptu masturbation, how she cracked up the killer, and she spills it that the love song over her nail-gunning was written specifically for her.

As for the film, Cameron Mitchell’s teenage daughter is killed in a car accident causing him to snap the tiny fragments of sanity his character had. He decides that he’ll go around and dispose of any woman with questionable morals. After all, why should his lovely, innocent daughter die while all these sleazies get to go on being sleazy? Cameron is so messed up that he has a major issue with a lady being drunk, but he has no problem whatsoever drilling her to bloody pulp as she runs screaming through her apartment. He finally comes upon Lori (Ferdin) who is a dead ringer for his daughter. He kidnaps Lori and stows her away for safekeeping. Despite the graphic murders, one of the toughest scenes to stomach has Cameron crooning “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” to a gagged, bound, and astonished Lori. As the investigation tightens around the apartment complex, the tension revolves around what will happen to Lori, whom most viewers can sympathize with. Unfortunately, a psychotic Land of the Lost nephew doesn’t help in the end. This is a pretty entertaining film with a dated ’70s feel to the décor, dress, music, and style.