Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Devil's Partner

Ed Nelson, who went on to play nice guy doctor Mike Rossi on TV’s PEYTON PLACE for five years, plays two roles in this independent horror movie. First, he’s crusty old Pete Jenson, a rotten jackass who makes a deal with the Devil and then drops dead. Then, Nelson shows up as Jensen’s nephew, Nick Richards, who arrives in a small desert town to clean up his uncle’s affair.

Almost immediately, bad things start happening to people, like the kindly gentleman who is poisoned by goat’s milk, the drunk (Byron Foulger) who is trampled by a horse, and handsome gas station owner David Simpson (ROCKY JONES, SPACE RANGER star Richard Crane), who is disfigured when attacked by his dog. When an embittered David grows apart from his sweet girlfriend Nell (Jean Allison), Nick starts moving in. Of course, the twist will come as no surprise, and DEVIL’S PARTNER has little point beyond a series of sinister accidents and the befuddled investigating of the local sheriff (Spencer Carlisle) and town doc (Edgar “Uncle Joe” Buchanan).

Penned by one-and-done screenwriter Laura Jean Mathews and actor Stanley Clemens, who replaced Leo Gorcey in the Bowery Boys movies after Gorcey retired, DEVIL’S PARTNER was directed by Charles R. Rondeau. After making four low-budget features, Rondeau permanently left features for television and made hundreds of episodes of shows ranging from BATMAN to BJ AND THE BEAR. His television work is undistinguished, but he probably cared more about this film, which is competently directed and occasionally chilling.

Nelson, who played dozens of heavies in episodic guest shots, is convincingly menacing and friendly, whichever the scene calls for. He got a nice “And Introducing” credit, even though he had already acted in several films, some for Roger Corman. Speaking of, Filmgroup, an independent company owned by producer brothers Gene and Roger Corman, released DEVIL’S PARTNER in 1961 — three years after it was made — to play on a double bill with CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, which Roger directed.

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