• Psychic Killer

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 31st, 2016.
    Director: Ray Danton
    Cast: Jim Hutton, Julie Adams, Greydon Clark, Paul Burke, Neville Brand
    Year: 1975
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    The Movie:

    Director Ray Danton's 1975 Psychic Killer stars a strangely compelling Jim Hutton as a man named Arnold Masters, a man who prefers to be alone and lives the lonely life of a recluse. This makes him the perfect patsy and soon enough he's locked up inside a mental hospital for the murder of a doctor that he didn't commit. While he's imprisoned, his elderly mother dies (Diane Deininger), a victim of the neglect that would have been avoided had her son been able to care for her. This sends Arnold over the edge, and he soon teaches himself the mystic art of astral projection, thanks to a powerful medallion on that he inherits, which allows him to get revenge for his wrongful imprisonment and for his mother's death. Even when Arnold's been released after the real murderer has been found, his thirst for vengeance is strong, and his alibi always rock solid.

    A pair of local cops, Lieutenant's Morgan (Paul Burke) and Anderson (Aldo Ray), are suspicious of Alfred and are doing what they can to prove he really is a killer while his well intentioned psychiatrist, Dr. Laura Scott (Julie Adams), works overtime to stop Arnold before he decides it's time to kill again...

    Also known as The Kirlian Force, this is an understated, underappreciated and atmospheric picture that borrows a little bit from Psycho in how it deals with mother-son relationships but which absolutely manages to branch out into its own territory. The plot is a bit on the far-fetched side and the cast has a tendency to chew through scenery like it's candy but the film is well paced and well shot and actually manages to conjure up a few decent scares in spite of itself. The murder scenes are definitely the highlight of the picture and they're fairly creative at that. Albert's victims die in all manner of grisly ways and under increasingly unusual circumstances which ensures that the picture has no shortage of memorable murder set pieces.

    As far as the film's production values are concerned, the movie is nicely shot and fairly well lit. If the visuals don't always jump out and grab you some creative color compositions, particularly in the scenes involving fire, add some welcome flair to the film's look and style. The score, which comes courtesy of composer William Kraft, isn't as intense as it could be but it does bounce up at every opportunity to enhance the eeriness when and where it can. The special effects, on the other hand, are obviously on the cheap side and don't look particularly realistic at all, even by the standards of the mid-seventies.

    There are moments in the picture that leave you wondering how seriously we're supposed to take the whole ordeal (in the extras associate producer Clark says ‘it’s primarily a horror movie with comedic elements’). Plenty of moments of macabre humor work well with the overacting and result in a really fun movie that is a little difficult to take all too seriously. The cast make the most out of the material and play their parts with no shortage of enthusiasm, and even if the end result is a little hokey the picture remains entertaining, creepy, and a truly enjoyable seventies drive-in oddity.


    Vinegar Syndrome presents The Psychic Killer on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in a new transfer taken from a 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. The picture is very sharp with virtually no noticeable print damage and very nice color reproduction. Generally things look great here for the most part. There are no problems with edge enhancement nor are there any obvious instances of compression artifacts. There’s no noticeable noise reduction evident anywhere on the image and there’s a lot more detail and appreciable texture visible here compared to previous DVD releases (the movie was released on DVD by Elite Entertainment and then a few years later by Dark Sky Films – this new release trumps both of those discs).

    The English language DTS-HD Mono soundtrack sounds nice and clear without any evidence of hiss or distortion present in the mix. The film's score comes through nice and clean and the sound effects and background music don't overshadow the dialogue at all. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras start off with a featurettes called The Danton Force that features Mitchell & Steve Danton, actress Julie Adams, and first Assistant Director Ronald G. Smith. It runs just short of nine minutes and it lets the director’s two sons wax nostalgic about their father’s directorial offerings, his work as an actor, some of the films that he made in Europe while working in front of the camera, how he wound up working as a director, their mother’s work as an actress and more. Smith talks about how this was an early job for him, the budget, the cast, working with Ray Danton and more. A second featurettes, The Aura Of Horror, gets Mardi Rustam in front of the camera for eight minutes to talk about his work as the producer of the film. He starts off by talking about how he was born and raised in Iraq, how he got work for a British petroleum company and then segued into working in the film industry after writing in Arabic as a film critic. He then talks about buying the rights to the movie when it was titled ‘I Am A Demon’ and how he went on to play a part in bringing that movie to the big screen. The third featurettes is The Psychic Killer Inside Me which puts Greydon Clark in front of the camera for thirteen minutes. He talks about how he became the associate producer and one of the writers on the feature, but he starts by talking about how he got his start as an actor. From there he met Al Adamson, and they made Satan’s Sadists together – the rest was trash movie history! He talks up working with Adamson on a few features, working with Mardi Rustam on a bunch of films, and then how he wound up doing what he did on Psychic Killer. He also talks about some of the science that inspired the feature, working with a Doctor moss on how an aura can be photographed, and other ways that ‘science’ worked its way into the movie (and therefore explaining how it was also known as The Kirlian Effect). Interestingly enough, Clark wanted to direct, but clearly that didn’t happen and here he explains why. It’s pretty interesting stuff.

    Rounding out the extras are the film’s original theatrical trailer and a trio of TV spots. As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie containing the same extras that are found on the Blu-ray disc. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD discs include menus and chapter selection. The two discs fit nicely inside a clear Blu-ray case that comes with some nice reversible cover artwork

    The Final Word:

    Psychic Killer is not a classic but it's definitely a film worth checking out for fans of that era's own unique brand of supernatural suspense pictures. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack release presents the movie in excellent shape and with a nice selection of extras as well. Horror fans should have no trouble appreciating this one – easily recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!