A giant grey-skinned creep prowls the late night streets of Los Angeles in this well mounted horror flick from the seventies.
This one opens with a minute of lame narration about alien life forms mimicking Venus flytraps (which you can feel free to ignore since it doesn’t relate to anything) before jumping into an excellent “stalk and kill ” sequence that announces our monster’s reign of terror. All we can make out is that he’s tall, dresses like a hobo, and rocks energy beams that zap out of his eyes, and decapitate his victims. The first one down is a pretty young blonde but our killer doesn’t discriminate and eventually adds several men to his growing list of prey.
Next we ,meet our cast of characters. Zoe-is a blonde news anchor who wants to be taken seriously as a journalist and supplies the killer with his nick name “The Mangler.” Mooney and Bressler – are a pair of veteran L.A.P.D. detectives assigned to the case. Roy Warner- is the dad of the first victim who makes his living as a writer of horror novels but has a history with Mooney. Turns out Mooney booked him years ago when he killed his wife’s lover .
There are some oddball supporting characters too. They add to the atmosphere and include a psychic named DeRenzi. No one takes her seriously but her visions of the killer are accurate. She tries to aid in the investigation by pointing out that a future victim will be a male actor. Unfortunately with this being Hollywood you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a thespian . There is also a police pathologist who is convinced the killer rocks grey skin but nobody listens to him either.
The pressure grows as the murders continue with our hulking creature exercising great restraint by claiming one victim per evening. Eventually the desperate police begin tailing Dupree ,who has now teamed with Zoë. The pair actually take DeRenzi seriously and start looking for the actor . Luckily they hit pay dirt. The police on their tail luck out too and get to throw half their department at the Mangler in a fierce finale that totally delivers on the carnage.
Great fun thanks to a solid cast and good effects (which include a wonderful bit where a beheaded body takes two steps before keeling over) . William Devane brings his brooding acting style to the grief stricken Warner. This guy is so dour he doesn’t even take off his shades when stumbling around an abandoned monastery in the middle of the night. Cathy Lee Crosby is fine as the plucky reporter while screen vets Richard Jaeckel and Biff Elliot are good as the gruff cops. Keenan Wynn is also on hand as Zoë sexist boss while Casey Kasem(yup old Shaggy himself) has a cameo as the Pathologist.
The only misstep here is making the monster an alien who shots laser beams out of his eyes. Apparently that was last minute decision and most of the film was shot under the premise that he was a
zombie(which would explain the grey skin and a newspaper headline that outs the killer as a walking corpse). Apparently the producer, American Bandstand’s Dick Clark, made this call due to the popularity of ‘Star Wars” and much buzz on an upcoming film called ‘Alien.” Sadly he also fired the original director, Tobe Hooper who was ho off ‘the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Best Lines: ” I’m not afraid of the dark . I’m afraid of what’s in it.”
‘he keeps tearing off heads and we keep talking about it.”
“You couldn’t find your butt with both hands.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.