Savage Weekend

 

So I saw this slasher flick called Savage Weekend. Originally made in 1976, the movie rightfully languished after a very very brief theatrical release under alternate titles The Upsate Murders and Behind the Mask of the Killer1 until it was picked up by Cannon Films in 19792. This is actually one of the earliest films to be released under by Cannon during the infamous Golan Globus era, and it’s a perfect with for their style. A very amateur production, but worth checking out like Cannon’s other campiest pieces of trash because its pacing and editing is less incompetent (don’t worry, you’ll still get liver poisoning by taking a shot every time you see a boom mic come into view) and more outright bizarre thanks to its script. The film reads like its creators were in the middle of attempting a lurid 70s Eurotrash sexual discovery film about a bored housewife but then during production decided they were making a slasher flick instead and combined all of that into one movie with only the barest connection between the two. The result is an awkward proto-slasher that concludes with a final chase almost certainly a bit inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

All of Marilyn Hamlin’s screen time is
spent making this same expression.

At the center of this mess is Marie Pettis (Marilyn Hamlin), an aloof woman trying to balance caring about her recently committed ex-husband and her desire to date whoever can pay the rent on her expensive apartment to maintain her opulent lifestyle. This film’s director, David Paulsen, unsurprisingly went on to work extensively on both Dallas and Knots Landing. The only character that actually stands out besides Marie is Nicky (Christopher Allport), but while Marie leaves an impression with her ambivalence and Hamlin’s inability to act, Nicky makes his mark by being all over the place. Allport plays an openly gay friend of the family who does something fairly psychotic. While our heroes are gassing the car up after a trip he rolls into a nearby bar to “get a drink of water.” His delivery gives the impression that this is an innuendo for wanting to satisfy his sexual thirst, but surprise! What this really means is that he enters the bar and…

  • Flirts heavily with the bartender while badly explaining, to the bartender, how to mix drinks.
  • Draws the attention of two other guys, one of whom lets Nicky know that he’s interested. Nicky flirts with them also.
  • He then proceeds to, out of nowhere, beat the shit out of these two other guys and hold a broken bottle to one’s throat before proudly announcing to the bar that he’s from the South Bronx and then walking out.

That “beat the shit out of” part is one of the most poorly portrayed physical struggles in all of cinema, and feels completely out of place when he’s a sarcastic, jovial person otherwise and is the closest thing the film has to a likable character. There’s also a later scene where he witnesses two of our other protagonists having sex and this causes him to grab a length of barbed wire so hard that his hands start bleeding. Again this is out of nowhere, and like his violent outburst earlier only really exists to make us think he might be the masked killer that shows up later. These two incidences are the only memorable actions the character takes until he’s killed via a stabbing to the head towards the end of the movie.

The film’s physical altercations are mercifully brief but hilariously inept.

Now besides Marie and Nicky, we also have Marie’s sister Shirley, Marie’s boyfriend Rob, and some random guy named Jay. They’re traveling upstate to watch Jay, a stockbroker, build a yacht for Rob. According to the movie’s dialog Jay “knows about boats.” The characters understand this to mean that he can hand-build a yacht by himself in four weeks. Don’t worry it gets better, Marie has two kids (one of whom is a young Yancy Butler in her first onscreen appearance!) who are being left in the care of her ex husband Greg. We see Greg only briefly, but once again director and writer David Paulsen squeezes maximum plot stupidity out of even the briefest of exchanges. Greg was institutionalized for some time, and is so unstable (I’m being vague here because this is bullshit cinema “mental issues”) that after his visit concludes, the group delays leaving the apartment for their trip a little bit to wait until Greg is definitely gone. He also arrives very late because he’s in such straits that he’s incapable of knowing where his own home is, and proceeds to assault Marie’s boyfriend while there. In general he’s built up as a violent man with a short fuse who no one wants to be in the same room with for more than few minutes. So obviously this is who Marie chooses to be in charge of her two kids for a month.

Now, characters in slasher flicks can be pretty stupid, but THIS KEEPS GOING!

Once they get upstate we learn that initial work planning/measurements for the boat are being executed by a local guy named Otis. Otis is a lazy, sullen, incompetent, soft-spoken, greasy psychopath that kidnaps women, ties them up in his barn, brands them with an “H” for wHore and then has long conversations with the tombstones of his dead relatives about it. Everyone knows that this is what Otis is all about, yet somehow this guy is just sort of walking around like whatever and willingly employed by one of our main characters? When another local tells the rest of the group about his antics in more detail folks are ambivalent or find him funny, what?

David Paulsen, John Mason Kirby, Caitlin O'Heaney, Christopher Allport, Marylin Hamlin, Yancy Butler, William Sanderson

The actors really milk this scene for maximum erotic effect. It doesn’t work.

Otis’ entire character, like Nicky’s outbursts, exist as a red herring so that we think they could be the masked killer that shows up later.3 He’s not and if you’re paying attention to the movie you won’t have any problem knowing who it really is before their identity is revealed, but this was such a weird character concept. With Otis, they transplanted Nubbins Sawyer from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre into the movie and he’s just sort of around and able to find employment and hang out around whoever and people are nonplussed. Upon hearing of Otis’ deeds, Marie even fantasizes about having this done to her. Not long after this she comes onto a local handyman via an erotic cow milking scene. This isn’t a euphemism, she gets rapidly turned on at the site of a cow’s utters and starts fondling them to draw the attentions of her potential beau.

Otis’ yacht planning technique consists of
walking around shooting rats all day.

I haven’t really said anything about how this movie begins, there’s a great reason for that. The movie opens up with a montage of almost its entire climax, but then when the full scene actually happens the movie…abruptly concludes with another graveside Otis conversation. It ends on a note glorifying Otis, no wonder Golan Globus era Cannon picked this up! Savage Weekend is worth seeing for the awful script and some of the spaced out performances. You know how due to bad planning sometimes a face to face or phone conversation between characters in a movie is filmed on two different days in two totally different places and it’s very obvious? A lot of this movie is like that except somehow the actors are in the same shot.

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  1. Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies (p. 149)
  2. Surely to capitalize on Halloween coming out the previous year.
  3. In a rare moment of inspiration for the film the killer wears a similar shirt to Otis.
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Chris Rasa
Chris’ only known functions are learning about video games, watching movies, and writing about both. Much of his published work can be found on Hardcore Gaming 101, where he has worked as a contributing editor since 2004 and, more recently contributed to HG101’s ever growing selection of books.