The Thrill Killers (1965)

Genres - Action, Crime, Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Crime Thriller  |   Release Date - Aug 7, 1964 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 69 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Fred Beldin

The Thrill Killers is one of Ray Dennis Steckler's most coherent films, before he degenerated completely into the amateurish home-movie style cinema that distinguishes his later efforts. The film boasts some taut, energetic sequences that use camera angles and fast cuts to achieve genuinely disturbing results, particularly during the murders of the young newlywed couple. Aside from one silly rubber head bouncing down a staircase, the bulk of the violence is just offscreen, but the drooling mayhem of the escaped lunatics (Herb Robins, Gary Kent, and Keith O'Brien chewing the scenery like bubblegum) is intense enough to make one flinch where a derisive laugh might be expected. Steckler (or, as he prefers, Cash Flagg) is eerily effective as "Mad Dog," glowering with a wide-eyed insanity that is simultaneously comical and frightening. Overall, The Thrill Killers is a turgid melodrama with some amusing characterizations that should please fans of low-brow action cinema, and, along with Rat Pfink a Boo-Boo and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, forms the basis for Steckler's cult legend status. Also of note is the fact that the film was later re-released as The Maniacs Are Loose! with the addition of a goofy gimmick called "Hallucinogenic Hypno-vision" which advertised "bloodthirsty live maniacs in the audience." This cinematic breakthrough (which was also used for some other Steckler re-releases) was nothing more than some swirling psychedelic colors spliced into the film at certain points which served as a cue for theatre ushers to run down the aisles wearing latex Cash Flagg masks and waving cardboard axes at the crowd.