The Todd Killings (1971)

Genres - Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - R
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This grim blend of psycho film and social commentary still packs a punch, even by modern standards. The Todd Killings retains its power because of its dispassionate approach to its often shocking material: the script affects a generally sardonic tone in its dialogue and situations that sets the viewer up for an effective sucker punch when something dramatic or violent occurs. The Todd Killings also boasts stellar performances from a well-chosen cast: Richard Thomas is memorably creepy as the Skipper's envious friend, Belinda Montgomery is heartbreaking as the otherwise smart girl who falls for Skipper and Barbara Bel Geddes creates a memorable portrait of a clueless, indulgent parent with her turn as Skipper's businesslike mom. The crown jewel atop this strong cast is Robert Lyons, who manages the difficult trick of making his sociopathic character clever and funny enough to almost be likeable. Thus, when he commits his murders, the turnaround in the characterization - and our feelings toward Skipper - hits like a slap in the face. Equally important is the stylish, tense direction by t.v. vet Barry Shear: he makes excellent use of jump-cut editing and a creepy musical score from Leonard Rosenman to create a jittery atmosphere that keeps the audience on its toes. He also draws out the blackly comic, grotesque underpinnings of the tale to enhance the film's overall unsettling effect. To sum up, The Todd Killings is a must for any cult movie addicts interested in retro shockers that retain the ability to unnerve a viewer.