• Toolbox Murders, The (88 Films)

    Toolbox Murders, The (88 Films)
    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: December 4th, 2017.
    Director: Dennis Donelly
    Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Pamelyn Ferdin, Wesley Eure, Kelly Nicholes
    Year: 1978

    The Movie:

    The subject of a fair bit of controversy upon its initial theatrical release, The Toolbox Murders may have lost some of its sting over the years but it’s still a pretty sleazy mix of sex, gore, blood and boobs. Short on plot, it moves at a good pace and has enough going for it that despite its dated aspects, it’s a fun watch for slasher movie fans.

    Set in the California of the late seventies, when the film begins a maniac is on the loose. His method? He breaks into the apartments of hot young women and brutally murders them using power tools. At first it seems like the killings are random but soon a pattern emerges – they all live in the same apartment building. The cops are called in on the case, of course, and soon an investigation is launched to find a girl named Laurie (Pamelyn Ferdin) who the killer is holding hostage. Kent Kingsley (Wesley Eure) and Laurie's brother Joey (Nicolas Beauvy) are the lucky ones who get called in by the building’s owner (Cameron Mitchell) to clean up the mess which gives them the opportunity to snoop around a bit and to try to piece things together…

    The Toolbox Murders starts off with a sleazy bang as we witness a few grisly murders all in succession – the highlight being the scene in which the killer accosts a pretty young woman (Marianne Walter aka porn star Kelly Nichols) as she plays with herself in the tub only to chase her around her apartment with a nail gun. There isn’t much in the way of suspense on display here and the filmmakers were obviously more interested in blood and boobs than in tension or lasting scares but the movie zips along at a pretty good pace during its first half. Things definitely do start to slow down once Laurie has been abducted, as the script tries to add a pretty feeble back story to the proceedings that doesn’t really help things so much as it does bog them down.

    As far as the performances go, no one here is really ‘good’ in the traditional sense of the word but it’s fun seeing Land of the Lost’s Wesley Eure running around in such a trashy film alongside an overzealous Cameron Mitchell and a woman who would go on to have a pretty successful adult movie career. The effects aren’t bad for their time, and while there isn’t a whole lot of guts per se, there’s a fair bit of splatter and spray and the film is hardly lacking in this area even if it maybe has lost a bit of its punch over the years what with stark violence being more common in films than it was three decades ago.

    When it’s all said and done, maybe The Toolbox Murders isn’t the be all end all of seventies horror – it’s about a guy running around in a ski mask killing pretty naked ladies with a nail gun – but it’s an entertaining time capsule. It’s gleefully exploitative and while it purports to have been based on a true story (obvious hyperbole), it’s enjoyable escapism.


    88 Films brings The Toolbox Murders to Blu-ray with a “new 2017 4K Transfer from Positive Elements in correct 1.85:1 Theatrical Aspect Ratio” with “additional expert colour correction.” Interestingly enough, the film is actually framed at 1.78. as you can see from the screen shots below. Compared to the older Blue Underground release this new transfer is considerably brighter and the framing a little different, a bit tighter in spots. If this more representative of how the film ‘should’ look I can’t personally say. Some might prefer the look of this presentation over the older one and vice versa.

    As to the merits of the transfer itself, detail is pretty solid, however, and while contrast can and does occasionally look a little warm, black levels are good. There’s reasonable depth and texture throughout and the image is quite clean, showing very little print damage. There aren’t any obvious compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction issues to complain about.

    English language audio options are provided in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix and in the original 2.0 stereo in LPCM format. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The 5.1 mix sounds decent enough if you want that added depth while the 2.0 track sounds more authentic. Either way, no issues here. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and the levels are properly balanced.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring ‘slasher expert’ and author of Teenage Wasteland, Justin Kerswell moderated by Calum Waddell. There’s a lot of talk here about the film’s production history including details as to the locations that were used for the shot, who did what behind the camera, the different cast members involved in the production, the makeup effects, some of the film’s themes and a fair bit more.

    The disc also includes two featurettes, the first of which is Slashback Memories in which David Del Valle looks back on actor Cameron Mitchell for just under twenty-five-minutes. Del Valle, who knew Mitchell, shares some interesting stories about his career and details his involvement in The Toolbox Murders specifically, it’s quite interesting. The second featurette, entitled Flesh And Blood, is an interview with actress Kelly Nichols that runs thirty-one-minutes. This is a fairly comprehensive interview in which Nichols talks about her involvement in the adult film industry as well as her more mainstream feature appearances and, of course, her fairly iconic appearance in this film.

    The disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, animated menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, the disc is available with a numbered slipcase that is limited to 2000 pieces and will be for the first pressing only. Additionally, we get some nice reversible sleeve art and an insert booklet

    The Final Word:

    A reasonably well made and enjoyable sleazy late seventies slasher, The Toolbox Murders receives a solid Blu-ray release from 88 Films.

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

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      I found the Blue Underground disc to be the more pleasing transfer. More image in the frame, better grain structure and colors. Only keeping the 88 disc for the Kelly Nichols piece.