EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR (director: Joseph Cates; screenwriters: story by Arnold Drake/Arnold Drake/Leon Tokatyan; cinematographer: Joseph Brun; editor: Angelo Ross; music: Charles Calello; cast: Sal Mineo (Larry Sherman), Juliet Prowse (Norah Dain), Jan Murray (Lt. Dave Madden), Elaine Stritch (Marian Freeman), Margot Bennett (Edie), Daniel J. Travanti (Carlo), Diane Moore (Pam Madden), Tom Aldredge (Adler), Rex Everhart (Rude Customer), Casey Townsend (Ms. Nielsen); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Everett Rosenthal; Network - Region 15 PAL; 1965)|
|"It wasn't so bad that it can't be appreciated as a curio."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Joseph Cates ("Fat Spy"/"Girl of the Night"), father of
film star Phoebe Cates, directs
this lurid B-film, but fails to have it live up to its catchy title or
its promising start to be another sordid but classy Peeping Tom (1960).
Instead it flounders as sleaze trying to find a way to be arty, but
under Cates's pedestrian direction the best it can do is set a perverse
city mood that gives one the creeps that a sex maniac is hidden behind
every shadow. Ace cinematographer Joseph Brun gets the
foreboding atmosphere for the black and white film just right, giving
it a dark film noir look (which, when done right, seems to elevate even
weak films). It's based on the story by Arnold Drake, and is
cowritten by Drake and Leon Tokatyan.
The film was banned in the United Kingdom for its lurid subject matter, and not until recently was the ban removed.
Norah Dain (Juliet Prowse) is
an aspiring dancer who recently moved to NYC from upstate NY and works
as a deejay and hostess at a sleazy midtown discothèque. She
starts to receive obscene phone calls, and gruff vice squad
detective Lt. Dave
Madden (Jan Murray, stand up comedian) takes a personal interest in
tracking down the pervert caller. We soon learn that three years ago
Madden's wife was raped and mutilated and her sex maniac killer was
never caught, which explains his obsession with studying perverts and
his reaching out to victims. We also learn that the disturbed caller is
the lonely bus boy in Norah's club, Larry Sherman (Sal Mineo), who lives with his sweet
mentally retarded 19-year-old sister Edie (Margot Bennett),
brain damaged because of a childhood spill down the stairs, who is
upset her dear teddy bear is missing. Larry regularly spies on Norah's tenement
apartment through binoculars, from his place across the courtyard.
Norah doesn't suspect Lawrence because he acts nice to her at work, nor
does she realize that he's her neighbor.
the obscene calls begin to unnerve Norah, she's persuaded to move into
the Manhattan apartment with her detective protector and his young
daughter Pam. Things become more threatening when someone has broken into Norah's apartment
and left a teddy bear
with its head almost cut off. The tension increases when Norah's boss,
the manager of the club, Marian
Stritch), was seen outside of
Norah's East End place wearing her employee's coat and the psychopath
mistaking her for Norah proceeded to rape and strangle her to death
with a silk stocking. Norah rejected staying with Marian because
her lesbian manager was trying to make a play for her, and the manager
was only calling on her to make sure she was okay and that things were
still okay between them.
Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.
story dulls out with a pat television like crime story ending, that has
Norah teaching Larry how to dance disco after work and with him
reciprocating the favor by assaulting her on the dance floor. But to
the rescue comes our Sir Galahad detective, who chases the sicko out
into the street where the cops shoot him down like a dog while he's
tawdry depressing flick is no pulp masterpiece (you can bet a bagel on
that), but it wasn't so bad that it can't be appreciated as a curio, a
nostalgic look at Manhattan before the seedy Times Square area was
cleaned-up and a chance to see the ill-fated 26-year-old baby-faced
Mineo act. Mineo achieved two Oscars nominations before he reached 21,
but was never thought of by many critics as a great actor.
After this flick, Mineo's career
was all downhill, as he took this part hoping to revive his already
flagging career (damaged more by rumors of his homosexuality, than because of bad acting). This
low budget pic never had a chance at the box office and too many
critics dismissed it as trash, but Mineo did a good job portraying a
dangerous sicko--in a film that was somehow more compelling than it had
a right to be (which I credit to the fine performances by Mineo, Prowse
REVIEWED ON 2/28/2011 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ