We have ourselves a treat for this week’s new B-Movie Enema. Savage Weekend is NOT a well liked movie. In fact, David Paulsen’s made-in-1976, sent-to-Cannes-in-1978, released-by-Cannon-in-1980 exploitation horror is so disliked, I think it would be a good idea to see what some of the reviews have been.
First up is TV Guide: “A truly reprehensible exploitation film… Ultra-low budget and shot on grainy color stock, the film is borderline pornography, and the gore effects are extremely gruesome.” I’m not sure what the problem is here, TV Guide. Borderline pornography, gruesome gore effects? Sounds pretty good to me.
Next is Ed Blank from The Pittsburgh Press: “Incoherent and inept.” Eek. What else you have, Mr. Blank? “Sexist in nature featuring female characters who serve no other purpose other than to appear in various stages of undress and back up against walls and trees so they can be slain or tied up.” Again, what’s the issue here? Hmmm… Let’s try one more.
From Joe Baltake of the Philadelphia Daily News: “[Nicky, the gay character] is the foulest movie character of recent memory, enough to set gay rights activism back several decades… It’s still not clear to me whether Paulsen wanted to make a soft-core porno film, a horror movie, or a combination of both. It’s not clear because he’s failed at all three.”
Okay, that last one was pretty funny.
David Paulsen really didn’t do too many movies or TV shows. Savage Weekend was his first directing credit. He also directed the Cannon Films release Schizoid. Those are the only two films he directed. Outside of that, it was some TV stuff like Dallas, Knots Landing, and Dynasty. He does have quite a bit more writing credits in his career, including some work before Savage Weekend. I guess if you aren’t going to get that many jobs, make sure you do stuff that critics will rail on.
As for the acting talent, Christopher Allport plays the previously mentioned Nicky. He had a bunch of credits on both TV and in film. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 60, but had over a hundred credits to his name. He did a bunch of TV work on popular shows and even had a decent role in Dead & Buried which I’ve covered here a couple years back. We also have David Gale in this movie who has been in a bunch of stuff from Re-Animator, The Brain, The Naked Gun, and The Guyver. Like Allport, Gale died relatively young at the age of 54 in 1991.
The next most recognizable actor in the movie is Caitlin O’Heaney. She will be popping back up on this blog in a few weeks because she was the lead in He Knows You’re Alone, an interesting little slasher that is notable for being a very early Tom Hanks screen role. O’Heaney has one of the more memorable scenes in this movie that is kind of peculiar because she is so much more squeaky clean in He Knows You’re Alone and mostly made a career out of being on TV. You don’t often get to have a sexually charged movie role/scene and be able to keep or get jobs for something a little more all ages like TV. Finally, there’s a young girl in this movie played by Yancy Butler who will ultimately get some decent roles in the early 90s.
The point I’m trying to make here is that this is a movie that has mostly new faces in the movie biz. It’s not like a giant budget movie with huge stars and it falls flat on its fucking face, but it came off as nearly amateurish just from it being mostly new people involved with the movie and not long time professionals – but I have a different opinion of the movie personally. Still, it’s important to point out what I mentioned early on – the movie was made in 1976. It is often said that this movie is an early adopter of slasher techniques before even Halloween came out. Instead, it kind of followed on the heels of that film as well as the quintessential slasher of the 80s, Friday the 13th. That tends to hurt the reputation of this movie even further.
But, there’s no time like the present to pack our bags and set off on our Savage Weekend…
The movie kicks off immediately with some banjo pickin’ and a woman (Marilyn Hamlin who plays Marie) running through a wooded area away from a very unsavory guy. This unsavory fella doesn’t seem to know how to tuck his shirt in properly as half of it is hanging out of his pants while the other is messily tucked into the waist. He also seems to have some binoculars around his neck. He also seems to be in desperate need of a haircut and a shave. Anyway, he corners the woman and picks up a chainsaw. He approaches her slowly as the credits end and cuts to New York City.
We see Marie. She’s got a pretty nice apartment overlooking the coast of New York. What is this, the Hudson Bay I suppose? Anyway, her ex-husband, Greg, is there to pick up their kid. Marie’s new beau, Robert shows up and tries to gift a baseball mitt to the little kid, but Greg is pretty shitty over this and storms out. Robert and Marie, along with friends Nicky (the previously mentioned “horrible” character), and her sister Shirley (O’Heaney) are planning some time out in the country. This trip upstate is meant to decompress after the divorce fight and Marie getting back on her feet with Robert. While Nicky gets some booze at the little dive bar in this town they stop in for the night, Shirley and Jay, a friend of Robert’s, decide to check out the thrift shop where she decides to buy a mask for Nicky.
I got a feeling I’ll be focusing as much as I can for as long as I can on Shirley because Caitlin O’Heaney is adorable and, at times, sexy, in this movie. She’s almost atypical for the scene that most will probably recognize in this movie, but she seems almost virtuous with a tad bit of a horny streak in her. A little more to that is seen in her other notable movie, He Knows You’re Alone, but look at that smile. She’s adorable.
Meanwhile, back at the bar, Nicky is getting harassed by a couple locals for being clearly uber gay. I find this somewhat funny because one of the people giving him some shit is a blonde dude with a handlebar mustache and a sea captain’s hat. It could be one of those Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man meme scenarios here. But they rip on Nicky for wearing short shorts by calling it a swimsuit. They claim they got something for Nicky. He surmises it is the little thing between their legs their mommas suck on every night. He then beats them up. In these first few minutes, I’m not so sure what the problem here is with Nicky. Is he girly? Sure. Does he almost play up to the promiscuous side that is almost stereotype in openly flamboyant gay character? Sure. However, he was getting hassled and he took care of himself. That’s not so bad.
What is a little off putting for our cast of characters is that they get to the farmhouse in the country that Robert has recently purchased, and find someone has left a bat nailed to the front door. If there’s anything queer about the goings on around here, it’s probably that.
The next day, we meet Otis, played by long-time character actor William Sanderson (Blade Runner, Newhart, and on and on). Otis has been hired by Robert to help build a boat, but he’s got some issues. His father has died recently and he doesn’t want to really help Robert with this boat because he sees it as a bit of an affront to his daddy.
But this country hamlet is big enough for two weirdos as we meet a guy, Mac (David Gale), on this fishing boat with Robert and Marie. He’s putting a worm n a hook and talking about how there are times through the year when there’s nothing going on in this little town in the middle of nowhere. He says that winters get real cold (“30-40 below” he says). This makes everyone lock themselves away in their homes for months at a time. He says a man gets real lonely in that sort of situation. All of this seems fine, I suppose. I might need to request citation on how cold he says it gets, but I get it. This isn’t New York City. Not much going on out there. But what is a little disturbing is what he’s intently staring at while he puts that worm on the hook…
Mac explains that Otis has a bit of a history around him. Apparently Otis attacked a woman and her lover. He smashed the dude’s head on a rock and drug the girl into the barn where he tied her up and branded her with an H because he didn’t know how to spell “whore”. I will say that in this flashback, the woman Otis supposedly branded looked a tiny bit like Marilyn Hamlin, and her boyfriend looked an awful lot like Greg from earlier. I don’t know if this was just that everyone in the 70s looked like actors Marilyn Hamlin and Jeff Pomerantz, or if she was imaging it. Or maybe I’m imagining it. I dunno.
Anyway, this movie is full of peepers. While Mac was peepin’ on Marie’s body while he told stories about being pent up and needing to blow a load anywhere anytime after winter coops him up, Otis is peepin’ on Robert, Mac, and Marie. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the property, Jay decides to follow Shirley out to watch her sunbathe nude in the field. When Jay makes his move by simply dropping his pants, Nicky peeps on them fucking for the full 30 seconds it takes for Jay to finish. The peepin’ is good in these parts.
As Robert plans to swim back to the shore to check on Otis, he accidentally steps on a fishing hook that gets lodged into the bottom of his foot. After that scene made me not want to look at anything ever again, Mac tells Marie that he wouldn’t leave any woman that looks like her alone. We learn that Greg was the press secretary for the previous governor. When the governor killed himself, it left Greg without a job. Plus, some of the shenanigans the governor was up to basically destroyed Greg before a bullet to the head put Greg in the unemployment line.
Let’s back up a second here. So Jay just goes up to nude sunbathing Marie and drops his drawers and starts making out with her. It’s clear that he is also, like, fucking her? Anyway, I’m not kidding. This shit goes from start to finish in all of 30 seconds or so. He then just gets up, puts his pants on again, and walks away while Shirley is probably wondering what the holy fuck just happened. Then, off on the sidelines, Nicky is watching them, angrily, and purposely grabs hold of the barb wire fence and cuts his hand. What’s that about? Is Nicky more bi than gay? Does he look at Shirley as a sister? He’s been giving some shit to Jay this whole trip. Does he like Jay? Does he not want Shirley entangled so he always has a friend to be around when he needs her?
But don’t worry yourself too much with those questions. Nothing more is ever really done with this.
Do you see why Caitlin O’Heaney’s part in this is worth so much focus? Not only is she adorbs, but she also goes tits out and she has my favorite scene in the whole movie coming up. However, there are other things swirling around her – namely Jay and Nicky. This is hardly uninteresting.
Later on, Robert and Jay go to check on the progress being made on this boat Otis is building. Nicky, Shirley, and Marie tag along. When they approach the barn the boat is being built in, Otis gets weird and is sneaking around. When they get to the door, he greets them with a shotgun. He then hunts and kills a rat. Have I mentioned yet that Otis is a weirdo?
Otis hasn’t done anything that Robert has asked him to do. The boat is still mostly just framed and not really anywhere near completed. Now, Robert brought Jay, who is some sort of engineer or something, to help. Otis is not interested in receiving help. Again, he sees this boat as being something he’s not willing to part with or something. You know, this is typical countryfolk redneck issues. Now, in Otis’ defense, I will say I am not exactly a fan of how the city people are willing to talk down about him in earshot. Robert scolds Otis, but it’s also made obvious that when everyone is talking about Otis, he can hear them. It’s not cool. Now, granted, Otis is sketch as fuck, but don’t talk loudly about the guy who is maybe not all that smart or anything.
That night, in bed, Marie asks Robert about Mac and what he thinks of the lumberjack, and Robert isn’t so sure. He thinks he’s only slightly more trustworthy than Otis, but the bar is pretty low, ya dig? Anyway, she and Robert go for it, but she imagines she’s having sex with Greg. The next day, she goes to talk to Mac who she seems to be kind of into and all his lumber and tools. Mac is suspect.
Mac rebuffs her, and she gets the fuck out of there. However, we learn the guys Nicky beat up at the bar work for Mac. One of the guys says they have plans for them and Mac is like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, dude. You wait to do whatever until you hear from me.” So there seems to be some shenanigans out in the country. Not to mention, Marie is confused and Jay is a two-pump chump.
Honestly, this movie is not really all that bad. This isn’t a group of dumb kids doing dumb things to get themselves killed. These are adults who seem to be dealing with real stuff. Sure, the straight up nude sunbathing is probably either one of those “very 70s” things or somewhat exploitative. However, if there’s anything that you can say is a little off about these characters’ attitudes is that maybe these city people are a little too uppity and the countryfolk are a little too closed off and fucking violent about it. Obviously, there’s stuff with Nicky that might be more of an undercurrent issue with having an openly gay character obviously jealous of either Jay or Shirley or both and that he seems fairly thin in terms of characterization, but I don’t see anything through this first half of the movie that seems overtly negative about the character.
While the gang is hanging out by the pond, someone sneaks around the interior of the farmhouse the gang is staying. We see that spooky Halloween mask again hanging over the hallway light. The person sneaking around takes the mask and puts it on and looks at himself in the mirror.
Then smash cut to HOLY SHIT CAITLIN O’HEANEY!
If that wasn’t quite erotic enough for you, we then see Mac working away and Marie approach him to ask for some eggs. While he fetches those, he notices she’s stroking a cow’s udders. So he asks if she’s ever had milk straight from the source. He then helps her get some…
Marie is suddenly not sure about this when Mac squeezes some into his hand and offers her a drink. She ESPECIALLY doesn’t seem so sure about it all when he drinks it. She backs away, seductively tearing her over shirt on a nail in the barn. Yes, I said she seductively tore her shirt. Anyway, Mac explores some of her body with his hands while she envisions Greg watching on. She turns away when he kisses her and eventually has to hit him in the head with a tool or something to get away. All the while, Otis keeps watching.
Inside, the honeypoon appears to be over when Shirley belittles Jay. Apparently, she thought he had some cool ideas about lovin’, but also recognizes that him coming up and getting it on in the field and then fucking her from behind in a barn seems a little too close to the Penthouse Forum shit and she’s not into it. I also think it is sort of implied he tried to fuck her in the butt earlier. Doesn’t really matter because masked killer man is there to get rid of Jay.
That night, everyone gets dressed up real nice for dinner. Shirley is still pissy about Jay trying to give her a Cincinnati Surprise. She is kind of acting out toward everyone. First being a little jerky to Robert, then calls Marie out for being a little overly gushy and clingy on Robert. She accuses Robert of being crooked like Greg, but Marie defends him and says he’s a good dude and not what Shirley thinks he is.
The gang has a turkey dinner, but Jay is nowhere to be found. Outside, the masked killer is stalking about. When someone knocks on the door, no one knows who it might be, but it is Mac asking to borrow the car to go into town for a movie. Marie is right to question why Robert has given away their only means of transportation, but that is basically shut down by the idea that, uh, why would they need to go anywhere tonight?
The answer to the above question is there is truly only one place this movie needs to get to, and that is my favorite scene in the movie:
Okay, so let’s break this moment down, right? Nicky is cracking wise at dinner about the possibility that Mac is gonna come back after the movie and do sexy things to them. Shirley is nearly choking on her wine laughing at these jokes. Robert and Marie decide to go on a moonlight walk while Robert is still a little worried about where Jay may have gone off to. Back at the house, Nicky is feeling a little lonely after he made this marvelous dinner for everyone and Shirley is ripped off her ass on wine.
Shirley puts on a tango record and decides that she’s not going to let her sexy underwear go to waste so she performs a sexy ass little striptease fan dance for her gay friend. This is… wholesome? I really do think this is kind of a sexy yet somehow wholesome moment in this movie. Shirley seems to be liberated and maybe has a thing for her gay friend but also likes getting dick from her pervert friend of a friend. Nicky may also have deeper than friendship feelings for Shirley, but it’s hard to tell, right? He’s supposed to be super gay. Oh well. I like that scene and I like this movie, goddammit.
I won’t even try to possibly dissect whether or not Shirley might be a little bi-curious since she also made Nicky up with some eyeshadow and lipstick to make him more feminine for their little fun time tango.
Anywho… We’re into the real climax of this movie now. While Nicky and Shirley continue to play around in the house and Robert and Marie fuck in the barn, masked killer man comes into the house. The tango plays to the backdrop of Nicky thinking about chasing after Shirley, Shirley being curious if her gay friend will be following her, and the masked killer man sneaking around. The killer strikes when Nicky’s guard is down and puts a long knitting needle into his ear killing him.
Outside, Robert finds Jay’s body and believes he hanged himself. In the house, Shirley finds the masked killer man, mistakes him for Nicky, but is quite upset to realize it is not Nicky. She is chased to the basement where she is tied down to a table saw. Killer man realizes he has to plug it in which he does. However, when he tries to power it up, it doesn’t work. I guess lucky Shirley (and lucky me)…
Robert and Marie make their way back to the house and he finds Nicky’s body. He grabs a shotgun and searches for the killer but a fight breaks out and the killer man tosses him out the window and Robert’s killed when he’s impaled on some rebars or something. Now, Marie is left to deal with killer man and has no friends to act as cannon fodder. I mean to act as protectors.
Killer man comes back downstairs and doesn’t attack Marie outright. He just decides to sit at the table and have a break. He takes off the mask and reveals himself to be Greg! She asks where their kid is and Greg says he’s safe. So that’s good. I mean I can forgive the wanton violence and murder, but the kid? He better be safe. Anyway, Greg’s a cuckoo. He has snapped because he thinks everyone laughs at him. He said that no one laughed when he had the power with the governor. He’s mad that people hated the governor and feared him. He is mad that people no longer fears him, the all-powerful PRESS SECRETARY!
Now, Mac is dropping his daughter off after the movie, but decides to stay with her because she is scared from the movie and doesn’t want to be left alone until he gets back. This is actually really smart. Mac is supposed to be back and he’s a potential hero, but instead stays home with his daughter as a different kind of hero. Unfortunately, Shirley is still sexily tied up to the table saw and Marie has to deal with a nutso ex-husband.
He just kind of does nothing until the morning. Mac gets up early and decides to take the car back. As he is on the way to the house, Greg has gone to the shed with Marie. Mac realizes the door’s open and things seem a bit odd. He goes inside to look around while Marie makes a break for it from Greg. She is chased through the woods. Mac looks around and finds Nicky, as he continues to look around, he goes to the basement where we can only assume he will save my girlfriend and everything will be happy and wonderful.
Oh hey… That reminds me. There was a point in the early stages of the movie that Robert makes mention about something goofy with the light switches at the top of the basement. Something about how the main light that the killer man plugged the table saw into… OH NO…
Without realizing it, because Shirley is gagged, flipping the other switch does indeed turn on the main light in the basement, but also the table saw that kills Shirley. I am sad. But I can say that the movie comes full circle as what we saw at the beginning was not Marie running away from Otis, but from Greg as he and Mac fight. Greg gets the machete that Mac grabbed, but Mac as a chainsaw. As the two men fight, Otis comes into the area to see what all this stuff going on this early in the morning.
Otis goes for the chainsaw while Greg tries to kill Mac. Otis puts the chainsaw into Greg’s back like he put the table saw into my lovely Shirley’s back and saves the day. Freeze frame on Otis redeeming himself for I guess fucking up that one girl and her boyfriend and the movie ends.
But it’s only the beginning for Marie’s intensive therapy.
This movie is hardly the very best of the slasher genre, but it is a far cry from what critics claim it to be. I actually like this movie. It is a strange movie with a lot of only sort of thought out ideas like Marie’s confusion over her love life and trusting the right guy to be good to her or Nicky’s relationship with Shirley and Shirley’s seemingly complex sexuality and sensuality. Still, I like this movie a lot. It does not rely on cheap scares and lets us get to know the characters before it starts in killing them.
Some might be turned off by the fact that you go more than halfway through the movie before you get to the horror element. You are dealing with locals and trying to figure out which red herrings are going to start some real bad shit. You have to stick with it to learn that it is none of the locals but the very first red herring that you got that you’ve now completely forgotten about by the final act. I do like the more story and character driven slow burn horror myself so I am always happy to stick with the movie to get me to Greg’s reveal.
Okie dokie, let’s get to some plugs before we wrap things up. Tomorrow, go to the B-Movie Enema YouTube channel and check out episode #7 of B-Movie Enema: The Series. This week, I’m taking a look at the incredibly fun TNT Jackson! Next week, whoo boy… It’s a movie I’ve thought about covering, then changed my mind, and then changed my mind again. It’s the biggest pile of what-the-fuck ever in the genre of musicals. It’s time to take a bite out of The Apple. So be here next week and read my mental breakdown as it occurs!