“I Love You To Death” – Rediscovering ‘Sweet Kill’ (US 1972 – 85 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - June 30, 2014
“I Love You To Death” – Rediscovering ‘Sweet Kill’ (US 1972 – 85 mins)

Also known as ‘The Arousers’, Curtis Hanson’s ‘Sweet Kill’ is more than just an exploitation piece, it’s actually a pretty good suspenser that’s both tense and unnerving. It also provided 50’s teen idol Tab Hunter with a strong, adult role, albeit in a fashionable Seventies B-movie horror.

Unassumming gym teacher Eddie Collins is unable to emotionally connect with women, due to his repressed mother-fixation which has resulted in his impotency. When he accidentally kills a women after getting intimate with her, he finds that he is aroused by her death, which leads him to seek out and kill other young women for his gratification.

‘Sweet Kill’ was certainly a change of pace for former heart-throb Tab Hunter, and he does a fine job here as the lonely yet psychotic Eddie. Hunter began his screen career in serious pictures such as the war dramas ‘Battle Cry’ and ‘The Sea Chase’ (both ’55), before co-starring in lesser fare such as ‘Operation Bikini’ (’63) and the beach comedy ‘Ride the Wild Surf’ (’64). Tab became a bit of a cult star in his later career, starring with Divine in John Waters first mainstream picture; ‘Polyester’ (’81), and then his western spoof ‘Lust in the Dust’ (’85). Pretty Cherie Latimer had her most prominent role here as Lauren, the friend of a missing victim, who herself meets a similar fate. Latimer’s career was brief and after minor parts in mainstream movies including ‘Shampoo’ (’75) and ‘The Rose’ (’79), she retired from the screen in 1979. In her final film role is Isabel Jewell, who had memorably played Emmy ‘white trash’ Slattery in ‘Gone with the Wind’ (’39). Exploitation favourite Roberta Collins also turns up in a revealing role, as a call-girl who engages in role play with Eddie, by dressing up as his mother during various sex games.

‘Sweet Kill’ was writer-director Curtis Hanson’s directing debut. Hanson is best known for his 1997 Oscar-winning drama ‘LA Confidential’, and the earlier thriller ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle’ (’92). Although Hanson was unhappy to do so, producer Roger Corman insisted that some sex scenes be hastily shot and inserted, to give the movie a more sordid feel, and hopefully a new audience. It was also re-named ‘The Arousers’ to give it a more exploitation edge.

Although it’s a bit rough around the edges, ‘Sweet Kill’ is a nifty sleeper which is better than it’s reputation suggests. Had it not been tampered with post-production, it may have become a more respected thriller. As it is, even with the added nudity and shower scenes, it’s a decent psychological thriller, laced with a good central performance and some unnervingly staged killings. Norman Bates would have approved!

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