Synopsis by Robert Firsching
Gloria Grahame joined the list of aging Hollywood stars who bloodied their hands in the wake of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? with this sick, effective horror film about nasty doings at a private orphanage. Grahame gives a wonderfully grotesque performance as Mrs. Dorothy Deere, a crazy widow who bilks the county out of money by running a home for wayward youths. If any of her tenants happens to run away, the wino handyman Tom kills them with a meat-cleaver and throws them into a deep-freeze in the cellar. Into this unsavory situation comes young Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson of TV's F-Troop), whose prostitute mother was viciously murdered with a claw-hammer while in bed with a john. Ellie witnessed the killer leaving the burning bedroom, and is warned by helpful cop Carruthers (Vic Tayback) that he could still be around. This film looks absolutely horrible considering the names involved, with an air of cheapness pervading even the most minor elements of the production. Nevertheless, it works because of the performances. Grahame brings a deadpan madness to her character that is a welcome and chilling change from the fright-wigged harridans of similar films, and Len Lesser exudes considerable menace as the murderous Tom. It might also amuse some to see a young Dennis Christopher as the nerdy Pete. The "shock" ending is pretty silly, but director Philip Gilbert manages to maintain a fairly skillful tone of depravity and madness until that point, making this an atmospheric (if ratty) treat.
boarding-house, investigation, orphan, business, handyman, killer, killing, madness, manager, murder, widow/widower, daughter, mother, prostitute/prostitution, social-worker