The Sadist has a simple and straightforward narrative, but its approach to storytelling is advanced for a film made in the early 60s, as the action takes place in real-time, ratcheting up the tension. Also, the movie is surprisingly brutal and unapologetic, with a seedy and uneasy atmosphere. The Sadist is a master class to young filmmakers on how to make a great movie with only a single location, a handful of actors, and very little money. All you need is a solid script and a future Oscar winning director of photography.
The harshness of the psychological torture is matched by the film's unflinching brutality. Not even halfway into the movie, in a scene that doesn't use any cutaways or clever editing, Charlie (SPOILERSPOILER) kills one of the captives! What makes it more chilling than shocking is that he does it for no reason other than his own amusement. He does it strictly for kicks! It is at this point where The Sadist turns the corner on being a second-rate B-movie and becomes a white-knuckle-thriller, grabbing you by the collar and bringing you to the edge of your seat.
In The Sadist though, Arch, Jr. really goes for it, getting dangerously close to going over the top, but keeping it just on this side of MEGA-acting. Instead of his guitar, he wields a gun and instead of crooning love songs he sneers and giggles while asserting his dominance over his captives. It really is a bravura performance, as his unpredictability and unrelenting menace make him a captivating screen villain.
Also: for anyone that has actually seen Eegah, watching Tom and Roxy from that movie run around terrorizing people in The Sadist makes the viewing experience that much more strangely awesome.
Vilmos Zsigmond would work with director James Landis and Arch Hall on a couple more films, the strange "comedy" (but awesomely titled) The Nasty Rabbit (1964) and Deadwood '76 (1965) before continuing his B-movie career on some of schlockmeister Al Adamson's pictures and the like. His first major "straight" movie was Peter Fonda's The Hired Hand (1971) which would lead him directly into working on Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971). Zsigmond would team with Altman again on Images (1972) and the fantastic The Long Goodbye (1973), and he would also shoot 70s classics like Deliverance (1972), The Deer Hunter (1978) and Close Encounter of the Third Kind (1977), for which he won an Oscar. Entering the 1980s, Zsigmond would shoot Brian de Palma's Blow Out (1981), which, after scanning his credits, might be his last significant film, although I have to admit some affinity for both Real Genius (1985) and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), both of which star Val Kilmer, which is kind of weird (on my part, not Vilmos' part).
Bruce Springsteen and J Church, would also find inspiration in the story of Charles Starkweather. The Sadist, however, was there first.
Upon release, The Sadist did not do well at the box office. Audiences expecting cheap drive-in thrills got something much more gritty and downbeat. The film would quickly fall into obscurity, seeing a rerelease in the 70s (under the title Sweet Baby Charlie) that caused little to no fanfare. The film would start to find an audience on the home video market and has slowly been gaining the recognition that it deserves since then.
*This first trailer for The Sadist is a UK DVD release trailer from 2008. It does a pretty good job of conveying the story without giving away any major spoilers. Watch it!
*This next one is the original theatrical trailer and like a lot of movie trailers from the era, this is fairly heavy on the spoilers and whatnot, so watch at your own risk. I'll also mention that the guy doing the introduction in the trailer is Arch Hall, Sr. (Nicholas Merriweather was his pseudonym) and he provides the narration as well.
Fun fact: as a budget saving measure, during production live ammunition was used in some scenes. BANG!
|Here's a cast/crew photo, not sure who director James Landis is, but I'm fairly certain that Vilmos Zsigmond is the guy smiling and sitting next to the camera with his hands on his knees.|
|Watch out for snakes!|