“He couldn’t help himself” – Rediscovering ‘Welcome to Arrow Beach’ (US 1974 – 85 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - September 16, 2018
“He couldn’t help himself” – Rediscovering ‘Welcome to Arrow Beach’ (US 1974 – 85 mins)

Though not a great film, I’ve always rather enjoyed Laurence Harvey’s final movie ‘Welcome to Arrow Beach’, a creepy little chiller with a cannibal twist. It’s not very well made and the editing is choppy, but it has a degree of atmosphere and seriousness about it that has endeared it to a small crowd of genre buffs over the last few decades.

After a near fatal traffic accident, hippie hitch-hiker Robbin Stanley (Meg Foster) decides to take shelter in the beachfront home of Korean War veteran Jason Henry (Laurence Harvey) and his sister Grace (Joanna Pettet). Unbeknownst to Robbin, Jason is a former Air Force pilot who once resorted to cannibalism after he and his crew were brought down in the desert. When she learns of this, Robbin goes to the local sheriff (John Ireland) who dismisses her claims, believing that she’s been using drugs. After befriending medical technician Alex Heath (David Macklin), the two decide to do their own investigating, and return to Jason’s home where they stumble upon a meat locker full of human remains. As they do so, a disturbed Jason appears with his cleaver…

Also known as ‘Tender Flesh’, this was hardly a fitting swansong to Laurence Harvey’s interesting career, and a strange choice for his only directing effort. Though not a great actor, he was perfect as the ambitious Joe Lampton in ‘Room at the Top’ (’58) and as a brainwashed POW in ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (’62). 25 year old Meg Foster had earlier played a young hitchhiker in the cult drama ‘Thumb Tripping’ (’72), though I remember her most as Rutger Hauer’s crossbow-wielding wife in Sam Peckinpah’s final film ‘The Osterman Weekend’ (’83). As the sheriff and his deputy, reliable veterans John Ireland and Stuart Whitman slum it throughout, while the lovely Joanna Pettet has little to do as Harvey’s sympathetic sister.

While there are some mildly gory moments, it’s static feel and lack of excitement will ultimately put many off. It didn’t help matters that Laurence Harvey was so ill at the time that he had to do the editing from his deathbed (he died that year from stomach cancer aged just 45). Also, any anti-drug message here will be lost on most, who will probably be bored by the lack of action in the proceedings.

A sloppy but occasionally interesting sleeper, ‘Welcome to Arrow Beach’ is not for all tastes (no pun intended!), but with its professional cast and intriguing storyline, it almost manages to rise above a lot of other horror fair of its day.

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