THE COUCH  (director: Owen Crump; screenwriters: story by Owen Crump and Blake Edwards/Robert Bloch; cinematographer: Harold Stine; editor: Leo Shreve; music: Frank Perkins;  cast: Grant Williams (Charles Campbell),  Onslow Stevens (Dr. Janz), Shirley Knight (Terry Ames), William Leslie (Dr. Dave Lindsay), Anne Helm (Jean Quimby), Hope Summers (Mrs. Quimby), Simon Scott (Lt. Kritzman), Sid Kane (Myers), Harry Holcombe (D.A.); Runtime: 55; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Owen Crump; Warner Archive Collection; 1962-B/W)

"A better than average B-film crime story, with heavy psychological trappings."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A better than average B-film crime story, with heavy psychological trappings. It gets stretched too far to hold our interest but has its moments when it works fine. Director Owen Crump ("The River Changes"), known for his TV work and making documentary shorts, and a large crew of TV people adapt it from a story Crump wrote with Blake Edwards. It's eerily written in an unpolished manner by the Psycho novelist Robert Bloch, who gives it the Hitchcock wacky touch but proves to be a better author than screenwriter.

The twenty-something handsome head-case Charles Campbell (
Grant Williams) served in a L.A. prison a two-year sentence for rape and is paroled on the condition he undergoes therapy with the psychiatrist Dr. Janz (Onslow Stevens). The problem is the patient hates his dead father and the shrink becomes a father-figure to him. This attitude manifests when despite his calm exterior he strongly reacts negatively to the analyst's couch and has a few fits of rage during his therapy sessions. Also, while in therapy he goes on a killing spree, killing two innocent men that he randomly picks out in the downtown crowded streets and fatally stabs each in the back with the ice pick he stole from Jantz's office. Before each murder, on a pay phone, he calls the homicide detective, Lt. Kritzman (Simon Scott), and tells him he will kill someone at 7 p.m., just before his therapy appointment.

Things get ticklish when the sicko entices Jantz's vulnerable niece, Terry Ames (
Shirley Knight), his attractive college student receptionist, to date him instead of the uncle's nice guy colleague Dr. Lindsay (William Leslie) who is interested.

The newspaper headlines about the brutal murders lead to a citywide manhunt. The deranged man calls in to kill at 7 p.m. Jantz, while he is at a football game. He stabs him, but Jantz survives when rushed to a hospital. Thereby the killer dresses as an operating room doctor and sneaks into the hospital to kill the victim who can identify him.

The movie is never more than a B-film, but it doesn't deserve to be completely forgotten. It was one of the new breed of psychological thrillers from the 1960s that changed the genre. Even if looking too much like a television show, it takes a stab at trying to get into the head of a maniacal serial killer. Its biggest mistake was labeling the psychopath so assuredly as a delusional paranoid with daddy issues, which was too pat of an observation to make.

REVIEWED ON 5/1/2019       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"