Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Severed Arm

THE SEVERED ARM is a gruesome horror film that anticipates many more famous slasher pics, such as HALLOWEEN (with its use of killer POV shots), FRIDAY THE 13TH (individuals picked off one by one by a madman waving a sharp object), and WHEN A STRANGER CALLS ("the caller is inside the house"). I'm not saying those films were influenced by THE SEVERED ARM or director Thomas Alderman (COED DORM) invented these genre staples, but their presence does add interest.

Six men are trapped inside a cave. Three weeks pass without any of them eating a speck of food, and their water supply has just dried up. Associate producer David G. Cannon, playing a television writer, suggests they draw lots and the winners amputate and eat one of the loser's limbs to stay alive. Ray Dannis (THE CORPSE GRINDERS) is the unlucky loser, and he goes mad as a result. The other five men tell the authorities Dannis’ arm was crushed in the cave-in and had to be amputated to save his life.

Five years later, back in civilization, Cannon, detective Paul Carr (TRUCK STOP WOMEN), disc jockey Marvin Kaplan (IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD), contractor Vince Martorano (THE CANDY SNATCHERS), and physician John Crawford (THE ENFORCER) are stalked by a killer with a hatchet. Is it the same person who hacked the arm off a corpse and mailed it to Cannon? Has Dannis left the mental hospital to gain revenge on the men who drove him there?

Top-billed Deborah Walley (BEACH BLANKET BINGO) plays Dannis’ daughter, who teams up with Cannon and Carr to find the killer before he finds them first. Though Walley doesn’t believe her father could be a murderer, she is game to serve as bait to help the men capture him...or whomever. Though shot on a low budget, THE SEVERED ARM is a decent little thriller, thanks to Alderman’s capable handling of the camera and the gruesome premise. Cannon, whose screen credits are scant, isn’t strong enough to play the co-lead, but as a whole, the ensemble plays well enough. The cast is good enough to convince you they would embrace cannibalism, which is vital in selling the plot.

THE SEVERED ARM is never quite as lurid as its title suggests — it has little gore, despite the R rating. While it doesn’t waste film with extraneous material, it also has little else to offer besides stalk-and-chop scenes, as Carr’s investigation has little heft. The electronic score by Phillan Bishop (MESSIAH OF EVIL) is effective, and Alderman manages to build to an effectively sick climax. Writer Marc B. Ray (SCREAM BLOODY MURDER) sold producer Gary Adelman the story for $100! Walley, a former Gidget and star of AIP Beach Party movies, made BENJI a year later and then basically retired from acting at age 33.

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