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SWEET SAVIOUR [a.k.a. The Love-Thrill Murders] (1971).

Whatever happened to Troy Donahue, the prettyboy teen idol who starred in vapid sun-and-sand productions like PALM SPRINGS WEEKEND and ROME ADVENTURE in the early 1960s? Well, don't tell his family, but less than ten years later he'd be headlining this ultra-scummy Charles Manson rip-off, with the once clean-cut Troy essaying the title role of a crazed Jesus Freak leader named Moon. It dropped from theatres quickly when first released, but resurfaced on video in the 1980s courtesy of Troma, the only company demented (and greedy) enough to attempt to squeeze a fresh buck off this low-grade lark... The film kicks right off with a hippie religious mass, led by Troy in a flowing monk's robe and shoulder-length hair. His willing young female victim -- er, disciple -- is buck naked on a granite slab, and Troy quickly makes her a member of his flock by stripping off his own vestments and screwing her sins away. (Are you taking notes, Mr. Swaggart?) Moon is your typical leather-jacketed, Hippie Holier-Than-Thou, who spews out deep philosophy such as "All of you are me, and I am you!" Moon has an apartment overflowing with believers, most of them homeless runaways and sweet urchins who consider him the Messiah. Moon sits in bed, misquoting Revelations while he plays with knives and dreams of cutting up "Pigs". A sicko, some might say, but his gullible lemmings think he's the grooviest thing since blotter acid -- as he swigs beer, smokes grass and rambling on about Judgment Day, which will transpire at a big bourgeois party chock full of "filthy, rotten, straight Pig animals." It seems that an ultra-hip actress (Renay Granville) is having a bash to which she invites a bunch of hippies (referred to as the "great unwashed") so she and her snooty pals can wallow in sex and drugs while indulging in an evening of slumming. And guess who she's inviting this time? Yep, Reverend Moon and his band of divine deviants! And after feeding them every type of pharmaceutical in the book (joints, uppers, poppers, LSD), the guests are all high, horny and helplessly under Moon's domination. Then, the real fun begins. While the hosts are sleeping it off, Moon and his cult followers tie them up, readies the cutlery, and in the final ten minutes, turns on the carnage, with Swiss cheese corpses strewn across the suburban homestead. The murders only last a few minutes (shucks), but they're effective in a demented, documentary-style fashion. If director Bob L. Roberts (who later helmed the X-rated, 1976, Patty-Hearst-kidnapping porno-knockoff, PATTY) had only had more balls, this could've had a LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT-style of scummy reality... The film altemates between softcore sexploiter (there's a long striptease that culminates in a headstand), an immoral bloodbath (the vanload of killers get away, so they can murder again another day), and even a smutty farce (such as when two of Moon's female flunkies take a stereotypical Jewish kid home for a fast blowjob). It's attempt at comic relief are particularly lame, such as the flaming homosexual who explains he's actually a woman who's had a penis transplant from a Danish sailor. Huh? Oh, and let's not forget the forgettable music, which includes howlers like "Damn You, Modern Man." The performances are uniformly bland, although Donahue (who was blackballed by Hollywood mogul Jack Warner in 1966, after refusing to play any more all-American beachboy roles) is much better than you might expect. He keeps a straight face throughout, and even if he doesn't have the charisma to convince us of his Manson-like powers, he's an adequate enough psychotic megalomaniac. His glazed-over look also adds to the effectiveness. Then again, maybe the guy was just stoned out of his gourd throughout the shoot. Overall, there's little toe-tapping fun to be found in this patchwork production. It's an exercise in Lowlife Cinema which, if nothing else, gave Troy an excuse to tool around NYC on his chopper while giving The Finger to curbside pedestrians.

© 1989 by Steven Puchalski.