Point of Terror (1971)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2010-09-11 06:52

Written by: Peter Carpenter, Ernest A. Charles, Tony Crechales, and Christ Marconi
Directed by: Alex Nicol
Starring: Peter Carpenter, Dyanne Thorne, and Lory Hansen

Reviewed by: Brett G.

ďWhoĎs your decorator? Bela Lugsoi?Ē

Most long-time horror fans lament the passing of the VHS era for at least one, universal reason: the glorious cover arts that no doubt enticed many a viewer into giving films a shot that would have been ignored otherwise. How many gems would have continued to sit on shelves if their cover art had featured the often soulless and generic Photoshop creations that many DVDs feature today? On the contrary, how many undeserving films left shelves based solely on the cover? In many extreme cases, one might even come across the film whose cover art had absolutely nothing to do with the film at all! For better or worse, Scorpion Releasing is continuing that latter tradition with the release of Point of Terror. The cover (taken from the original poster art) features a masked madman brandishing a knife as a hapless, scantily-clad woman floats in the foreground. Itís a film whose tagline boasts about ďdemons long locked in the depths of the mindĒ that will ďcome out to destroy the weak and believing!Ē It certainly sounds intriguing, but let me tell you that the film couldnít be further removed from that promise; instead, itís just feels like an excuse for writer/star Peter Carpenter to showcase his bad lounge act and frolic with an abundance of babes.

Tony Trelos (Carpenter) is a struggling lounge singer who wants nothing more than to be famous. To achieve this goal, he and his girlfriend concoct a scheme that will get him noticed by the wife of a record producer (Thorne). Trelos charms himself into her life and manages to secure himself a record deal; however, he also learns that the older woman is a bit unhinged and is harboring some dark secrets about her past. To complicate things even further, her invalid husband becomes suspicious and jealous of her relationship with Tony, which leads to a murderous confrontation. Tonyís life begins to spiral even further out of control as the web of murder and destruction continues to unfold.

Not only does Point of Terror manage to stray far away from what its promotional materials promise, but it also barely manages to be a horror film at all. Instead, itís more of a twisted, sex-laden soap opera that sees Carpenter jump from one broad to the next, with reckless abandon. There are a few scenes of murder, but this is hardly at the forefront; expect to see far more unveiled threats and blackmail more so than black masks and black gloves. I would even say that I have a hard time justifying its presence on our fine site here, but I feel like someoneís got to warn the unsuspecting masses about the misleading nature of the film. Thereís even more bad news besides that: even once you realize what the film is, it isnít very good at all.

Indeed, itís a pretty dry melodrama whose various twists and turns arenít very effective, especially the filmís final reveal, which is eye-rollingly bad and groan-inducing, to say the least. Director Nicol throws in some stylistic flourishes here and there in an attempt to make things look interesting, and he sometimes succeeds on that level. Itís not nearly enough to lift the film up from its poor story, but at least thereís some semblance of an effort there. Unfortunately, itís pretty clear that Nicol really didnít know what to do with the film, as it meanders at an uninspired pace and is virtually plotless. Essentially, itís just a series of bad, awkward scenes between Carpenter and his love interests that heís using for various purposes. It sounds like it could be some sleazy sexploitation fun, but it just isnít, no matter how absurdly bad it is.

Thereís a fair share of blame to pass around for the filmís cheesy, absurd quality too. For example, thereís Dyanne Thorne (of Ilsa fame) and her attempts at over-acting to the extreme. Of course, an early pool scene reveals two large reasons why she was cast in the film and puts any criticism of her acting skills on the back burner. Main star Carpenter doesnít fare much better, as he spends most of the time showing off his chiseled physique more than any acting chops. It is hard to deny the charm of this manís man, though--how can you not love a guy who has no qualms about belting out terrible lounge music while wearing flamboyant costumes? He also knows how to treat a lady, especially when they're pregnant with his unwanted child. Carpenter also reveals a viable solution when youíre rejected by your old lady: just move on to her step-daughter, naturally! Iím probably overstating the amount of amusement derived from this character and his exploits, but itís really the only thing Point of Terror has going for it.

To be completely fair to Scorpion Releasing, theyíre only following in the footsteps of the filmís original distributor, Crown International Pictures. CIP was notorious for its bait and switch tactics and would often rebrand films and promote them according to whatever trend was hot at the time. If anything, kudos to Scorpion for their preservation of historical accuracy; more praise is in order for their DVD treatment as well. Even though Point of Terror really doesnít deserve it, the presentation has been restored with an anamorphic widescreen transfer thatís solid despite the presence of some video noise and sharpness issues. The mono soundtrack is as good as it gets, as everything from the banal dialogue to Carpenterís bombastic tunes is delivered loud and clear. Special features include a retrospective on Carpenter, an interview with Thorne, and the filmís original theatrical trailer. Itís a nice package that unfortunately far outshines the film itself; but hey, at least you wonít get suckered in by the alluring cover that promises to take you to ďThe Outer Limit of Fear.Ē If anything, this one will test your outer limits of tolerance for bad films; give it a look for some unintentional laughs, but just know that you would have been regretted throwing away $3 for renting this one back in the day. Rent it!

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