The Severed Arm (1973)

This is gonna be a bit of a palette cleanser from last week.

This week’s new B-Movie Enema is gonna look at the 1973 horror revenge movie The Severed Arm from writer/director Tom Alderman. While this is a somewhat inconsequential horror movie from a low budget/indie standpoint, there are a few reasons why I wanted to take a look at it. Before that, though, who is Tom Alderman? Well… I don’t know. Alderman only directed one other movie that sounds like a possible porno (Coed Dorm), and wrote one other movie (The Master-Piece! – which does seem to have a cool poster). Aside from that, it seemed he came and went relatively quickly.

But why am I covering this movie and how do I know anything about this? Well, first and foremost, this was a movie I watched on the beloved Bizarre TV channel on Roku. I may have completed the ultimate tip of the ol’ hat to that now defunct channel, but I’m not done talking about the movies I was exposed to there. It was a movie that played a few times there and I was lucky enough to catch it.

Second, I was instantly reminded of this movie when Vinegar Syndrome released a new Blu Ray of it during 2020. VinSyn does wonderful work. Shit, I could do an entire year’s slate of movies from their catalog. I have to purposely dodge them to give other places like Severin, Full Moon, and various other movies I’ve collected a chance.

Thirdly, this movie is the first screen appearance of Angus Scrimm. Scrimm is best remembered as the Tall Man in the Phantasm series. Holy shit that guy gave me so many bad dreams when I was younger after seeing the first two movies in the series by the late 80s. But Scrimm was also very kindly by all accounts and a marvelous man. To boot, he appeared in three films I’ve covered previously – Subspecies, Transylvania Twist, and The Lost Empire. My point is, that no matter the size of role he has, it’s always nice to see him in a movie. However, in this movie, you will hardly see him and notice that it is, indeed, Angus Scrimm. It turns out, spoiler alert, it’s reasons 1 and 2 that are really the main sticking points for me to watch this movie for the blog.

But there’s not much more to talk about to get us started here, so let’s dive right into the 1970s version of 127 Hours, The Severed Arm!

Our movie opens with a one-armed man going into a morgue and chopping off the dead stiff’s arm. At that point, the title comes careening toward us to remind us that we’re aren’t watching Out of Africa. We’re not watching Casablanca. No, we’re watching…

That’s some pretty affective filmmaking there. The credits continue while a man delivers a package to another dude. He opens it and it’s the arm! This guy, Jeff, immediately goes to visit a friend, Ray. It seems their former friend, Ted, is behind this. Jeff wonders if the arm belonged to another friend of theirs. They are quite concerned that, after five years, Ted has come back to pay a horrible revenge on them.

We then go into a flashback of a spelunking trips that Jeff, Ray, Ted, and three more friends went on that fateful day.

Weenie Man and the Five Neat Guys

Now, here’s the thing. It seems as though these guys are goin’ cavin’, but really, I think they are just fuckin’ around in a mineshaft. Doesn’t that seem, I dunno, kinda like a not fun thing to do? Mineshafts are real crazy dangerous and shit, but I guess these guys are either full of action and adventure, or they are drunk… Or both.

Jeff goes down first and checks things out. He waves a flashlight around for a few seconds and calls up for the rest of these stone cold beefcakes to come on down to join him. The dorky dude with the glasses wants to leave and go to Vegas instead. This weenie butt is named Herman. But he goes by “Mad Man Herman” on the radio. They are there to collect rocks or something, and Herman is just bashing along the walls. This leads to a cave in.

They aren’t able to free themselves and everyone expected for them to be gone for two weeks. Days pass and water is running low. What’s more, there’s no food. As more time passes, it appears they have been there for a really long time. Supposedly, they expected to be found at least two weeks prior. The decision is made that they are going to cut the arm off one of the guys, and eat it to survive.

During a particularly drug-fueled time of incredible creation, Weenie Man and the Five Neat Guys rebranded as The Six Bearded Fellows.

There is a great deal of discussion around it. They don’t know who really could eat human flesh. They don’t know what the implications could be if a mistake is made and someone dies. They don’t know how to pick the poor guy being asked to give up something. Well, it eventually comes down to drawing straws. Then, whoever the unlucky loser is will choose what will be removed from him.

Ted loses. He begs for his friends to wait one more day while the others hold him down and get ready to saw into that juicy, juicy arm flesh. He is able to negotiate for a few more hours. Later, everyone is asleep, and Ted tries to kill Herman with a big rock, but fails. At this point, everyone decides it’s time to take that fuckin’ arm and prepare the fixin’s. They slice that right arm off and get ready for a meal…

Now, I do have a question. Do you suppose the other guys looked at Ted and he transformed into a giant pork chop or something? You know, like the Loony Tune cartoons? I will say, Ted trying to bonk Herman to save his own skin is kind of hilarious. It was made even funnier that he failed – which led the other guys to go ahead and get that arm.

Not more than, like, one minute after the group knock Ted out and cut his arm off, they suddenly hear something. That’s when rescuers come and break through the cave in to save them. However, the group has another issue on their hands. As a member of their group, a cop named Mark, mentions that despite the fact that they are trying to save themselves, cutting off Ted’s arm will lead them to be prosecuted and ostracized by the public.

They gotta act quick. So they decide to concoct a story. Jeff, the guy who came up with the plan in the first place, comes up with a new plan. They are going to say that Ted’s arm was crushed in the cave in and Ray had to amputate it. They go for it.

Now, here’s the thing… I’m conflicted here. Yeah, they were trapped and they were going to starve to death. That’s a very bad situation that they needed to find SOME way around. However, Jeff, who, I need to definitely keep reminding you, came up with the plan to eat a guy, is now coming up with a plan that will basically make it so these guys are not going to suffer any consequences. That’s kinda shitty… But it was an extenuating circumstance. So it’s tough for me to say whether or not I’m pissed at Jeff or not. I will say this is a good premise for your revenge movie.

Sure enough, they basically get away with it. Ted goes to a mental hospital after raving about the other guys trying to cut his arm off and is now released. The other guys have to try to figure out what to do now because it’s pretty clear Ted is coming for them.

The five guys meet at Ray’s place. Mark chastises Jeff for not reporting the fact that he was sent a severed arm. Jeff says he couldn’t. If he had reported it, it would not have gone over well for the rest of them. For example, Mark just made Detective. That would likely not end well if enough of a probe is started on what’s happening.

Outside, Ted is lurking with a hatchet. He tries to get into Ray’s house, and finds an unlocked door. Herman talks straight by saying that he’s sorry about what’s happened, but Ted is the way he is because of the five of them. While Ted sneaks upstairs, Jeff suggests that Mark speak to Ted’s family and see if they can help them find him. Meanwhile, Ted goes to Ray’s bedroom where his wife is reading in bed. When everyone leaves, Ray turns out the lights downstairs and makes his way up to the bedroom. He hears someone laughing and he goes to get a gun. Ted trips Ray causing him to fall where Ted then attacks and cuts Ray’s arm off.

At the hospital, Jeff and Mark come to visit. Ray’s wife asks who did it, and Mark lies and says they don’t know. She is a bit smarter than that, though. She says that these dudes haven’t seen each other in five years, and the last time they got together, another guy lost his arm, so what gives? Mark says he’s gotten himself assigned to the case so they can find the attacker quickly.

Later, Jeff takes a shower, and he’s attacked and knocked out in the shower. When he comes to, a message is waiting for him on the mirror in shaving cream: NEXT.

It’s not like a bearded man really needs shaving cream, so it wasn’t that much of a waste.

Jeff calls Mark to let him know Ted got to him. He said that they need to find him quickly because he is gonna track them all down… And, of course, that’s the thing about that message of “NEXT” on his mirror. He doesn’t mention that, though. He’s lookin’ out for all the fellas.

The next day, Jeff and Mark go to Ted’s family’s home. There, they speak to his daughter, Teddy. Teddy’s played by Deborah Walley. Walley was last scene on B-Movie Enema in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. She asks them to meet at a restaurant later, and Jeff is frustrated that they just walked away instead of going into the home and dragging Ted out. When Teddy is late for their meeting, Jeff immediately thinks she’s helping him escape, but she shows up.

She tells them that she hasn’t seen her father for about three weeks, but also that she doesn’t know where he might have gotten off to. She talked about how, for a little while, Ted spoke only about the other guys and what happened in that cave. Then, he would go in and out of hospitals, but after the last visit, he seemed to be almost normal. Despite the attack on Ray and Jeff, she doesn’t think he’s to blame for what’s going on. They ask about her brother, but she said he moved out east shortly after graduating from high school.

Mark and Jeff go back to Jeff’s to discuss. Outside, Ted followed, and let some air out of the tires of Mark’s car. Inside, Mark talks about finding a way to draw Ted out, but it certainly seems as though Ted is specifically targeting Jeff. Mark leaves, but sees that he has a flat tire. So he gets into the trunk to get his spare, but is suddenly attacked. He’s able to block the attack with a tire iron.

Ted takes off, and instead of following him, they decide to go back and visit Teddy and see if she will go with them and be used as bait. So they go back to see if she’s willing to go with them. And it’s at this point that I figured out something that really bothered me about Mark. Like, I know who he is or have seen him before.

And then it hit me…

Paul Carr, the actor playing Mark, is the love child of DeForest Kelley and Charles Bronson. Come on, look at that. He’s got the gruff facial expression of Dr. McCoy, the hair color of the good doctor, but the mustache and hair style of Bronson. You cannot tell me that isn’t the case here. And, to boot?

He was Lt. Kelso on Star Trek in the episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. How’s about that?

Anyway, Teddy doesn’t want to go with them. She doesn’t want to turn on her father, and doesn’t believe he was to blame. Jeff wants to change her mind, so he and Mark take her to see Ray. Ray’s wife is pretty upset. She said that Ray will never recover from what happened to him. She said that seeing Ray like this isn’t anything new to her… because… you know… her dad? The guy who, y’know… Jeff and Ray and Mark and the others put in a bed like that?

Aw, fuck it. She will help them draw her father out.

At the radio station Herman is going on his break between shows. He’s gotta go grab a bite to eat. As he heads to his car, he’s followed by Ted with his hatchet. As Herman gets into his car, Ted closes in, but when the car doesn’t start, Ted nearly gets his chance but Herman’s co-worker lets him barrow his car.

What’s kind of interesting is that Herman apparently carries a purse. But like a man’s purse. It’s interesting because Herman is kind of a flamboyant kind of guy. I’m not saying he’s depicted as gay or effeminate as much as he’s just kind of kooky. He wears wild clothes, he has a very particular way of speaking, and he carries a “murse”. It’s just an interesting extra piece of characterization.

So, elsewhere, Jeff, Mark, and Teddy talk about how they can draw her father out. Mark comes up with the brilliant idea that he’ll make it look like he’s leaving and that Teddy is gonna spend the night with Jeff. Teddy says that her father hates Jeff so much that he’d probably kill both of them. Mark likes the sound of this. The plan goes into effect.

However, the action is at the station… But that leaves me with another question. The other day, Jeff got the message on his mirror to say he is the next guy Ted is going after. However, Mark was attacked. And now it seems as though Herman is next up. Ted calls to make a request on Herman’s show, but won’t say who he is outside of saying he’s “an old friend”.

Back at Jeff’s, Teddy and Jeff doesn’t know what’s going on. It seems like a real long time and nothing has happened. That’s because the attacker is at the radio station messing with Herman. He does call Jeff and says that when he’s done with him, no woman will want him. Back at the radio station, Ted continues to call Herman. The operator traces the call and we find out that the calls he’s received are coming from inside the building he’s in!

Another interesting characterization for Herman happens during this segment of the movie. First, he tried to plead with Ted to remind him he was never part of the idea to “disarm” him. Next, he tries to appeal to Ted’s better angels by saying he recognized him and said it in a fond way. Finally, when he realizes that Ted is in the building, he tries to play it off and make one last call on the radio before playing another record, but starts to choke up. He knows it’s time to pay the piper. Sure enough, Ted approaches the studio and smashes the window. Between the shock of being attacked and having his arm cut off, Herman dies and is left on the floor next to the station’s friendly cat that he liked to spend time with.

Mark tells Jeff and Teddy that Herman was killed. It was captured on air. Jeff wants to call the cops, but Mark, a cop, says that’s a terrible idea because they’ve been withholding evidence. I suppose what they’ve withheld is all the stuff that they’ve been doing since Ray got hacked. They go to talk to Bill, the only other person from the caving trip and he wants nothing more to do with them. He’s going to arm himself and stay away from Mark and Jeff.

Again… Are we supposed to be sympathetic to any of these guys? They were gonna eat a guy. They didn’t have to eat the guy. He’s upset, but they want to continue on with the same story that Ted was hurt and they had to amputate his arm. That’s kinda shitty. Ted’s kind of going a bit far, but he’s not exactly wrong to be upset. Plus, wouldn’t someone have checked in on his story aside from throwing him in the mental institution?

Anyway, Ted calls Bill and tells him the mill he works at is on fire. However, it’s only to lure him out so he can be the next victim. You see, Mark and Jeff figured out that the whole “NEXT” message left for Jeff was only to throw everyone else off. If Jeff said he got that message, everyone else would let their guard down. When Bill thinks he’s going to get away and be safe for the time being, we learn from Teddy calling Jeff that her father is specifically going after Bill.

Bill’s death scene is pretty fun. Ted has made it so the elevator that Bill has to take up to his apartment has to stop on every floor. It’s the final floor that Ted rushes Bill. He kills him and chops off his arm. Teddy said her father wanted to meet her. She questions whether or not the plan of having Jeff accompany her will work because Ted wanted her to be alone, but Jeff says that seeing him will almost force her father to have to do something.

They are headed to the beach to meet with Ted. Mark has gone up ahead to get a tactical (read: sniping) position against Ted. I’m not entirely sure the idea of shooting Ted in front of his daughter is a good idea, but I digress. So here we are… Teddy and Jeff on the beach. Mark on the cliff above them. Where’s Ted?

Well, Ted is also on the cliff sneaking up behind Mark. This is awesome. He kills Mark and stands him up and calls down to Jeff. He then pushes Mark off the cliff, and you see a rope tied to Mark’s right wrist. As the rope snaps tight, Mark’s arm is ripped off and his lifeless body falls to the ground in front of Teddy and Jeff.

Seeing this, what does Jeff do? Runs away. He leaves Teddy on the beach and runs away. He gets out the road and suddenly a car tries to run him down. He jumps out of the way and the car drives off. However, Teddy follows and picks him up. Teddy says that her brother has a cabin in the mountains and they’ll be safe there. Jeff, rightfully picking up on the weirdness of how she said that and the fact that, um, duh this is property in her family, thinks Ted will instantly find them, but she says he didn’t know anything about this.

So… You know what’s happening here, right?

Oh yeah, this is a set up. This is a big ol’ set up. The person doing all the killy killy is Ted’s son Roger. By the way, Ted’s last name is Rogers. Ted Rogers, Teddy Rogers, and Roger Rogers. That’s kind of amazing. So Teddy and Roger were planning revenge all along. Why? Ted himself is actually a vegetable. They think by getting this revenge, they will make him well again. Jeff, still thinking Ted is behind it all, begs for it to be finished and done. Teddy and Roger explain that Ted would never hurt anyone and it was them that did the mutilations and killings.

But that’s not all… They aren’t going to hurt Jeff. Neither will Ted. You know, because he can’t. No, Jeff will be asked to cut off his own arm. This will complete the perfect revenge for what he did to their father. That’s not all. If he refuses, they will starve him. Maybe, if he gets hungry enough, he’ll change his mind. She then directs his attention to a small door in the cell she’s got Jeff in. Inside, he finds a knife to be used in his amputation. He proclaims he will never do what they want. He carries on and they walk away. The movie ends with Teddy combing her daddy’s hair in the living room with the dutiful son, Roger, watching on happily – a picture of a family life that was stolen from the Rogers.

I really dig this movie. There are problems, sure. Yes, Jeff and crew are jerks for not owning up to what they did to Ted. I think people would still kind of let them off the hook, maybe they get a little slap on the wrist, but look at the circumstances. This was a month they were trapped. They could kind of be understood for maybe considering what they were going to do. Now, it sucked for Ted because he didn’t want to be the one losing an arm, but I’m guessing things would have gone a little differently if they copped to what really happened instead of letting Ted be thought of as someone who lost his mind in that cave.

That said, boy oh boy, there were some really cool moments in this movie. First, the idea that there is someone making these five guys pay for their lies. That’s a classic revenge plot. Second, the end is kind of chilling. You have a very intense scenario happening in that cave that essentially killed Ted. Now, his kids were affected by it in a way that drove them insane too. It’s kind of chilling how Deborah Walley speaks to Jeff in those final minutes. Well done, movie.

Okay, so that’s a hell of a palette cleanser after Resident Evil. I’ve always liked this movie. I still like this movie. Hurry now to your local theaters and see The Severed Arm! Also, hurry over to YouTube and subscribe to the B-Movie Enema YouTube channel. There, you can find the first season of B-Movie Enema: The Series. You’ll also find several clips that I pull when I need some extra help fully describing something crazy. Also, check out the site’s Facebook page as well as Twitter too!

Next week, it’s time for more Claudia Jennings. Not only that, but this flick is directed by Mark L. Lester – the director of one of the heavyweight action flicks of the 80s! The next movie I’ll be writing about is 1974’s Truck Stop Women! Get yourself right back here in seven days and have a great week, Enemaniacs!

2 thoughts on “The Severed Arm (1973)

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