Despite being a penniless pre-adolescent, I spent a lot of time at the movies in the 80s, usually hitting the cinema at least once a week. This was especially true in the summer, when school was out and my parents were anxious to get me out of their hair for a few hours, and, for them, I can only imagine that the double-feature seemed like a godsend. Granted, these twin bills weren’t exactly quality offerings, usually consisting of some first run cheapie and an older dud dredged up to make it seem like viewers were getting their money’s worth, but my parents could have cared less. Hell, it was a four hour reprieve for their annoying kid and his equally obnoxious friends (Big McLargehuge amongst them), and, to be honest, we loved it. I mean, what’s not to love? We got air conditioning, all the junk food five bucks could buy you, a few coin-op games during intermission, and…oh yeah….did I mention the movies?
One of the double-features I remember most fondly consisted of 1982’s William Shatner toupee-fest, Visiting Hours, which was paired up with a truly bizarre little slasher called Hospital Massacre, in which late-70s/early 80s sex symbol, Barbi Benton, doffed her top and showed us her boobs . This blew my mind as Benton had been at the epicenter of all of my pre-adolescent sexual fantasies since I first gazed upon her button-nosed face in an episode of the hit ABC series, The Love Boat (I wouldn't learn until years later that she'd already posed completely nude in Playboy prior to the film. Damned pre-internet years!).
Benton’s nude scene was all I remembered about Hospital Massacre, and, were it not for Scream Factory’s latest release (a double feature Blu-ray, no less), it, like Benton, herself, would have been lost in the abyss that is my rapidly fading memory. Now under its alternate title, X-Ray, the aforementioned film is teamed up with 1980’s Schizoid, starring the poster child of mental imbalance, Klaus Kinski, as well as a pre-Taxi Christopher Lloyd. So is this double-feature worth the price of admission?
X-ray opens in a living room adorned with paper hearts dangling from fishing string, and all manner of Valentine’s Day bric-a-brac scattered about. Susie and Dave, two toe-headed tweens who look to have stepped straight out of a late 1970s K-Mart catalog (despite the fact that it's supposed to be 1961), sit on the floor beneath a big Happy Valentine’s Day banner, having WAY too much fun watching a tiny train set make the rounds on the living room floor whilst creepy Harold (Billy Jacoby, from Just One of the Guys/Parker Lewis Can’t Lose) watches them perv-style through the windows.
Apparently, Harold is stalking Susan in hopes of seeing her reaction when she opens his Valentine’s card, but, when her reaction is one of absolute horror and disgust, Harold snaps, and, while Susie’s off cutting a piece of Valentine’s Day cake(!?!), he sneaks in the house, and kills poor Dave, hanging his bloodied and badly dressed body from a coat rack.
Valentine’s Day is ruined FOREVER!
Flash forward a couple of decades; pale, blond Susie is now smoking hot brunette, Susan (Barbi Benton), who has an appointment at a shady hospital to go over some X-rays she had taken for a routine insurance exam. After a protracted argument with her seemingly-psychotic ex-husband, Tom, Susan hitches a ride with her new beau whose name I can’t remember, so I’ll just call him Laddy! Susan tells Laddy to wait outside as she’ll “only be a minute”, but what she doesn’t realize is that someone in this hospital is dead set on extending Susan’s visit…permanently!
Or something to that effect.
X-Ray is quite possibly the most unintentionally hilarious horror movie I’ve seen in some time. From its ridiculous opening sequence all the way through to its equally ludicrous conclusion, the film is basically the horror movie equivalent of an episode of Three’s Company, with a plot driven by simple misunderstandings that could totally be avoided if anyone possessed even the most basic of communication skills. The film is also features a well-stocked pond of red herrings, from menacing doctors and a leering janitor, to a piss-drunk patient and Susan’s spiteful ex-husband (who is repeatedly shown angrily shearing fruit with a buck knife). It’s woodenly acted, poorly directed, and haphazardly written tripe, but it’s also dumb, gory, and funny as all get out, and I had a blast watching it.
Schizoid, however, reminded me of some of the lesser giallo films of the 70s; the ones that were more soap opera than thriller, but it any movie that features Klaus Kinski is worth at least a cursory glance.
Schizoid revolves around a local advice columnist named Julie (Marianna Hill), who has been receiving threatening notes from an anonymous whacko who is seemingly entertaining the idea of killing someone. She brings said notes to the police, but, seeing as how there’s been no actual crime, they tell her it’s nothing to worry about. Soon, however, female members of Julie’s group therapy class start turning up dead, and she returns to the police, certain that the person sending her the letters and the killer are one in the same yet the police seem satisfied that it’s all one big coincidence (really?), leaving it up to Julie to find out who it is amongst yet another fish market’s worth of red herrings, including her ex-husband, Doug (Craig Wasson), skeezy janitor, Gilbert (Christopher Lloyd), and the group’s womanizing psychiatrist Dr. Pieter Fales (Kinski).
More murder mystery than slasher (and even as a mystery, it’s a bit of a dud as it doesn’t exactly take Hercule Poirot to figure out who the killer is)Schizoid moves at something of a glacial pace, but, like X-Ray, it’s a bizarrely absorbing flick that, once I started watching, I found myself getting sucked into this icky, creepy little melodrama. I credit most of that (especially the creepy part) to Kinski, who, despite being on his best behavior, here, is still such a mercurial presence that you half expect him to start skull-fucking people halfway through the movie. Instead, as Fales, he smokes (a lot), has a few uncomfortable love scenes, and ogles his sex-kitten daughter, Alison (Jaws 2’s Donna Wilkes). It’s not prime Kinski, but it’s still worth a watch, and there’s the added bonus of young Christopher Lloyd work-shopping his trademark eccentric shtick.
Scream Factory presents X-Ray and Schizoid in a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. X-Ray is presented in a 1.78:1 transfer that is actually quite pleasing given the film’s age and obscurity, but it’s also a victim of the aesthetic choices of the era, replete with a gauzy look that obscures most of the fine detail. I also noticed a few moments in which blacks seemed somewhat washed out, lending them more of a dark gray/blue look. Overall, however, X-Ray looks markedly better than I expected.
Schizoid fares much better, with a vibrant and crisp 1.78:1 transfer. Fine details shine through, here, despite an omnipresent grain, and contrast levels are spot on.
Both films feature DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtracks, neither of which will do much to please fussy audiophiles, but are perfectly suited to the material. X-Ray gets the edge, here, as it’s a much more atmospheric mix, with a richer sounding score than the rather brash synth music that accompanies Schizoid, but, once again, there are no noticeable pitfalls with either offering.
Perhaps not surprisingly (but still appreciated), Scream Factory squeezes in a few extras, as well, including an interview with X-Ray director, Boaz Davidson, as well as an interview with Schizoid’s Donna Wilkes. Both are presented in HD.
While neither film is even remotely a classic, the X-Ray/Schizoid double-feature is still a welcome offering from Scream Factory, especially given the somewhat obscure nature of both films. As different as they are, the two films pair up quite nicely as far as bad movie double-features go, but it’s X-Ray, in all of its logic-defying, unintentionally hilarious glory, that makes this set truly worth owning.