In the 1970s, a decade when it seemed every cinematic taboo had been broken, LOVE ME DEADLY was the only horror film to tackle necrophilia as its main focus, years before the German-made NEKROMANTIK ushered the subject into the video age. Little seen throughout the years (except for those who rented the big-boxed VHS tape from “ma and pa” rental shops back in the 1980s), the film was first released on DVD by Media Blasters (under their “Shriek Show” sub-label) and now arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Code Red.
Young, attractive and independently wealthy blonde Lindsay Finch (Mary Wilcox, WILLIE DYNAMITE) drops in on funerals, veiled and garbed in black. Lindsay is not mourning anyone she actually knows, but rather is looking for deceased young men to make love to, as she can not do so with any breathing fellow. Lindsay’s occasional beau Wade (Christopher Stone, THE HOWLING) gets his cheek cat-scratched when he attempts to kiss her breasts during a cocktail party, but he keeps coming back despite her odd frigidness. In the meantime, Lindsay has repeated sepia-toned flashbacks to a seemingly happy childhood with her loving father and gets stalked by the creepy Fred McSweeney (Timothy Scott, MACON COUNTY LINE), a funeral director who knows about her necrophilia urges. Through stalking, Fred tries to initiate her into his small sect of devil-worshiping, murderous corpse mongers, who hold secret meetings behind closed funeral parlor doors. Lindsay is able to find love with kind and handsome art gallery owner Alex Martin (Lyle Waggoner, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME), and agrees to marry him, but her icy wedding night jitters and skeletons in the closet are more than the poor guy bargained for.
Although necrophilia should be an exceedingly disturbing and nauseating theme for any movie, LOVE ME DEADLY results in mostly a camp-fest directed by someone who obviously had little knowledge of the horror genre and no filmmaking experience whatsoever. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not a watchable time capsule curio, and the backdrop of early 1970s Southern California is just as interesting as the actors themselves. The sight of statuesque Mary Wilcox kissing actors pretending to be corpses while not trying to flash their eye or crack a welcomed smile is amusing, and this is about as intense as her necrophilic activities get. Actually, the film’s most unsettling bit has Timothy Scott's sleazeball Fred McSweeney character picking up a male prostitute in front of a gay moviehouse, bringing him back to a mortician’s lab, strapping him naked to an operating table, and slicing into his neck and embalming him alive as he screams for mercy. Some of the film’s sporadic gore make-up was done by Bob Westmoreland, who also makes a cameo as a casket-bound cadaver.
Morbid scenes juxtaposed with romantic “walking through the park” interludes make the film all the more bizarre, especially when accompanied by the over-optimistic score by Phil Moody and a duo of self-profound ballads crooned by Kit Fuller in full Shirley Bassey mode. But it’s the presence of Lyle Waggoner (quite likable) that brings the film to another level altogether. Sure, it wasn’t uncommon for a TV star in the 1970s to do an exploitation movie at the same time his or her series was still on the air (Susan Sennett from “Ozzie’s Girls” is a good example), but we’re talking about the guy from "The Carol Burnett Show"— the top-rated sketch comedy show of its time — in a drive-in movie about necrophilia! Waggoner certainly wants to leave this one off of his resume. With her offbeat good looks and killer body, Wilcox did a number of guest spots on various television series and made sexy appearances in horror films such as THE BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT and THE PSYCHIC KILLER before disappearing. The IMDB mixes her credits up with Mary Charlotte Wilcox, the Canadian-born comic actress who replaced Catherine O’Hara on SCTV and later became an Anglican priest – they are not the same person. H.B. Halicki, the late renaissance man behind the original GONE IN 60 SECONDS, appears briefly in a party scene and also served as an associate producer. If you have a taste for early 1970s independently made psychological horror films shot in California (such as SCREAM BLOODY MURDER and THE BABY) you’ll definitely want to seek out LOVE ME DEADLY.
Code Red’s Blu-ray of LOVE ME DEADLY has been transferred from a new 2K scan of the original camera negatives, and it looks absolutely terrific. Presented fully uncut in 1080p HD and in a fitting 1.78:1 aspect ratio, colors are bright, grain is light and consistent, and detail is extremely sharp with hardly a blemish to be seen – a couple of brief shots look soft, but this attributed to the cinematography and the film’s ultra low budget. The English DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mono track strong; always clear and no noticeable hiss. There are no subtitle options on the disc.
Carried over from the DVD is an audio commentary with producer Buck Edwards (who passed away in late 2007) moderated by Greg Goodsell. While sometimes the participants tend to just talk about the on-screen action, the commentary still has some revealing stories about guerilla filmmaking, such as when Edwards describes how they shot in various places without permits, or how female and male prostitutes were hired to do nudity (for the film’s ceremonial cult scenes) because they would do it for $50 bucks each. Edwards and Goodsell must have been watching an un-matted version of the film, as several times boom mics are referred to which we don’t actually see in this properly letterboxed variant. The original full frame theatrical trailer (“WARNING! THIS FILM IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR CHILDREN” – ya think?!!) is included as well as a second one which looks to be TV spot (and oddly, it has a vintage MGM logo in front of it!). The film is viewable in “Maria’s B Movie Mayhem Mode”, with host Maria Kanellis doing fun comic intros and outros. The cover art is reversible, with the film's original advertising image on the opposite side. (George R. Reis)
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