• Psychopath, The



    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
    Released on: April 10th, 2018.
    Director: Freddie Francis
    Cast: Patrick Wymark, Margaret Johnston, John Standing, Alexander Knox, Judy Huxtable
    Year: 1966
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    The Movie:

    After a seriously bizarre opening sequence in which a doll is put together over the opening credits, we witness a murder wherein a man named Klermer (John Harvey), carrying a violin case, is runover repeatedly by someone in a red Volvo. A doll is left at the scene of the crime, right next to the poor bastard’s corpse. Soon enough, blue collar police Inspector Halloway (Patrick Wymark) shows up at the home of Frank Saville (Alexander Knox), a well-to-do man who has just finished practicing with the other wealthy members of his string quartet: Martin Roth (Thorley Walters) and Victor Ledoux (Robert Crewdson). After questioning them, Halloway leaves the home and Saville’s guests go home, though his daughter Louise (Judy Huxtable) and her fiancé Donald Loftis (Don Borisenko) hang around for a while.

    Eventually Halloway’s investigation takes him to the home of Mrs. Von Sturm (Margaret Johnston), an eccentric German doll collector bound to a wheelchair and seemingly in perpetual grief over the loss of her husband decades ago after the Second World War. Now she lives alone with her son, Mark (John Standing) who works nights at a shipyard. And of course, Klermer isn’t the only victim of this unseen killer – soon enough those close to him start turning up dead in increasingly grizzly fashion. Halloway and his team do what they can with what they have to go off of – dolls left at each one of the crime scenes.

    Featuring a screenplay by Robert Bloch and a title similar to his classic Hitchcock’s collaboration, Amicus’ The Psychopath doesn’t really have much in common with anything Norman Bates related. In fact, the film – which was clearly inspired by the success of the psychological thrillers that competing Hammer Films was churning out around the same time (mostly in black and white) – is more of a police procedural than a proto-slasher. Still, that doesn’t make it any less interesting or entertaining. Production values are solid across the board. Francis’ direction is assured and the pacing just fine, while the cinematography from John Wilcox is frequently very impressive – this is a really nicely shot film with good use of shadow and light, great color schemes and some quirky but effective compositions. As to the set design, those in charge of creating Van Strum’s house of dolls definitely earned their paycheck – pediophobiacs, you have been warned. Creepy stuff.

    As to the performances, they’re fine across the board. Patrick Wymark is quite as the lead cop on the case. He shuffles about, drawing instant comparisons to Peter Falk’s Columbo, showing little patience for the eccentricities of the upper crust characters that his case is forcing him to interact with. Alexander Knox plays snooty Frank Saville well enough and both Thorley Walters and Robert Crewdson are just fine as his associates. Pretty Judy Huxtable is good in her role, playing both the concerned daughter and the doting bride-to-be well enough, though she and Borisenko, an actor without a whole lot of charisma, hardly set the screen ablaze. Special note should be made of Margaret Johnson’s work here. She and her veritable army of creepy-ass dolls make quite the impression in the picture and if she overdoes it here and there, it’s never to the film’s detriment – she’s a blast to watch.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Psychopath gets its official North American home video debut with this Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber that preserves the film’s original 2.35.1 framing in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer taken from a 4k scan of the original 35mm negative. There are some very obvious vertical scratches that are quite apparent in the first twenty minutes or so of the film, but they do, thankfully, vanish after that. Presented on a 25GB disc, the film is short enough and the extras slight enough that we don’t’ run into any noticeable compression issues, but there are some odd fluctuations in color timing noticeable throughout the movie, though black levels remain pretty solid. Those issues aside, the transfer is more than watchable. There’s good detail here and a fair bit of depth to the image. The picture hasn’t been overly processed, so there are no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Obviously, a major restoration would have resulted in a cleaner image and maybe taken care of some of the scratches evident on the first real but all in all, this is a more than decent transfer.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, with optional subtitles provided in English only. No issues here – the dialogue is easy enough to follow and the track is free of any hiss or distortion. The levels are properly balanced and there’s a reasonable amount of depth to the audio on the disc.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary by Troy Howarth who does a nice job of filling in the backstory on the film and offering up the expected amount of trivia and production notes. He gives us plenty of info on Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg as well as on director Freddie Francis, making some comparisons between his career and that of Terence Fisher. He talks up the film’s connections to the Italian giallo cycle and notes some similarities here to Maria Bava’s work, as well as a tenuous but nevertheless amusing connection to Psycho. He also discusses some of the themes that the film explores, the contributions of the cast and crew, the movie’s distribution and lack of home video release over the years and who did or did not shoot the impressive scene that takes place in the scrapyard.

    Aside from that we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Kino Lorber Studio Classics vintage horror properties (The Oblong Box, The Crimson Cult, Twice-Told Tales, Black Sabbath and The Premature Burial), menus and chapter selection. The disc also comes packaged with some very cool reversible cover sleeve art.

    The Final Word:

    The Psychopath is no lost masterpiece of terror and suspense but it is quite a well-made thriller that benefits from some solid technical merits and some fun performances. Kino brings this previously tough to find Amicus picture to Blu-ray in a strong, if imperfect presentation in its proper aspect ratio and with a few extras too. Recommended.

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





























    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Roderick's Avatar
      Roderick -
      "Mother may I go out to murder this evening?" would have been a much more posh lyric.