Psychotronic Ketchup: Anatomy of a Psycho (1961) & Hatchet for a Honeymoon (1970)

It took three tries, and I finally got my chance to see Anatomy of a Psycho. You know that tired rah-rah about "good things come to those who wait"? 'Taint necessarily so...

Somehow, I received two consecutive, damaged shipments of the same title from Netflix regarding the DVD which contains not just Anatomy of a Psycho, but also a film much farther down on my alphabetical to-see Psychotronic list but infinitely more intriguing to me, mainly due to its being directed by the only slightly sadistic Mario Bava, Hatchet for the Honeymoon. Even though Honeymoon ultimately disappoints, it is by far a much better film, and while I have not done the research, I find it incredibly hard to believe that these two films were ever on a double feature bill together -- so disparate they are in both quality, material and audience -- let alone that someone decided to release them together on a DVD. But here they are together on the same disc under the Killer Creatures Double Features banner, even though neither film has a "killer creature" as is implied, unless you mean a certifiably insane killer human (in the case of Honeymoon) and a juvenile delinquent who yells, moans and cries a lot at the supposedly wrongful execution of his brother and then sort of murders his fellow gang member, but only because the knife is already in the guy's stomach at the hands of the "hero" and the loser is going to die anyway (in the case of Anatomy).

That's about the size of it, folks: Anatomy is an extremely low-budget (though that is never a crime in itself; it's all in how you make use of whatever budget you have) juvenile delinquent film with a title that is trying a little too deceptively to play off the then-current (1961) vogue for the word "psycho" (Hmm, I can't imagine why...) The film, directed by the man responsible for the incredibly inept mad-science classic The Unearthly, tracks this kid's development from misunderstood j.d. to full-blown psychotic murderer (outside of the non-murder murder, he does torch an expensive home and gets in a couple of badly staged fights), but it fails mainly in the fact that its star, Ronnie Burns, with his scarred face locked into a crazed sneer lit up by lightning as he leaves the prison, seems insane from the moment he enters the film. The film keeps giving us a similar close-up in a couple points in the film, ostensibly to show us his mental digression, but they shoot his face in the same manner each time (though without the opening lightning).

In fact, his bare midriff shows more emotional range in the film than his face does, considering that he ends up on his back laying across tables or couches in a couple of scenes, where his shirt rides up when any other male makes threats at him or accuses him of bad behavior (like when the cop confronts him). In those scenes, there is a tenuous feeling that this film could explode into full-blown gay porn at any moment, and I do wonder if there is supposed to be some subtext that is implied there. But that would be giving the filmmakers too much credit for actually thinking their way through this film (and this would be a good point to mention that Ed Wood, Jr., King of Automatic Screenwriting, wrote some of the screenplay under a pseudonym). Surprisingly, and I am not worried about giving away anything -- in fact, I recommend that you steer away from this total waste of time, even for bad movie lovers -- the film has an almost feel-good ending for the psycho, and I suddenly started to feel like I'd found a black-and-white version of The Cross and the Switchblade, and I kept waiting for Pat Boone to pop out around the corner in his white bucks (though not with his cock in a cardboard box). No real psycho in this flick, just j.d. hell, and not the good kind.

Honeymoon, on the other hand, sports a married fashion baron with a deep, dark secret: he likes to dress the hottie models that roam about his estate (where his bridal fashion business is also located) up in bridal gowns -- and then kill them. All this while, he remains married to his cold, shrewish but rich wife, who berates him for being less than a man in the sack -- which he is... still, if you are going to be a married fashion baron who kills models in bridal gowns, why not kill the shrew and at least marry one of the hottie models, so that at the end of a hard night of eviscerating, you've got that going on for you at home? He might find it a little more satisfying than the one-sided bickering and berating he gets anytime he even breathes wrong. The problem with this is the maxim with which he conducts his serialized hunting: "A woman should live only until her wedding night, loved once, and then DIE!!" He will get around to the murdering of his actual wife, but first he has to deal with the constantly closing-in police detective who is wise to his disguise and with the very thing that I suggested: a budding romance with one of his models.

Bava shoots this in his florid and wild style, his camera swooshing and crashing everywhere, while the film is naturally loaded with tons of lit candles and eerie shots of the killer's hidden room full of mannequins dressed as unearthly seeming brides. That most of the narrative makes little or no sense dramatically or that the detective should have been able to close in on him weeks before he actually does -- well, none of this matters. There is a lot of fun to be had siding with the killer as he stays one step ahead of the fuzz, and there are many delirious scenes where he believes that the ghost of a certain someone is haunting his every step.
It's all style over substance here, and with Bava, that is more than fine.

The third time that the disc arrived, it came from faraway Schenectady (the second attempt came from Georgia), as it appears that for some of these more genre-specific and less current titles, each hub seems to only carry one copy. Before this, I had only run into one broken mailing, and now I have had four in the last month (the latest arrived yesterday). Whether it is an exceptionally busy holiday season Post Office that is throwing these discs about when they get them, or whether it is the cooler weather, I am suddenly deluged with broken discs, and it is really taking away from the value of my membership with Netflix. Especially when it has taken me a month to see six discs, and I am allowed four out at a time. I don't remember this happening last December, but I also was not engaged in a viewing project like I am right now. So, maybe I am being a little hyper-sensitive about the whole mess.

Or maybe I just have a mailman that really hates Netflix. Or that has stock with Blockbuster...

Anatomy of a Psycho (1961)
Dir: Brooke L. Peters
Cinema 4 Rating: 3

Il Rosso Segno della Follia [Hatchet for the Honeymoon] (1970)
Dir: Mario Bava
Cinema 4 Rating: 5

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