Schizo (1976)

Schizophrenia… When the Left Hand Doesn’t Know What the Right Hand is Doing!

Theatrical poster from 1976's Schizo

Professional ice skater Samantha Gray is getting married, and her impending nuptials are being covered by all the major gossip rags. Weirdo William Haskin catches wind of the upcoming ceremony and boards a bus, determined to crash the festivities. He’s an unstable man carrying a big bloody machete, so he shouldn’t be too difficult to spot in a crowd; and yet Haskin comes and goes with a ghostly grace, disrupting Samantha’s happy new life without earning the suspicion of anyone else, and leaving plenty of dead in his wake.

An occasionally dull psychologically-minded thriller that isn’t quite deft enough to stick the landing, SCHIZO may still be appreciated by the patient viewer with a taste for anticipation and extreme bouts of violence.

The title of the film is SCHIZO, and the point is really hammered home with a bit of opening narration that offers an (admittedly incorrect) definition of schizophrenia. So the grand reveal at the end isn’t all that unexpected, and you’ll likely see it coming from miles away. Can you enjoy a whodunnit when you already know whodiddit? Sure you can, as long as the rest of the film is crafted well enough. I’m just not certain that SCHIZO is.

This is a Pete Walker thriller, and it functions in much the same way that his other films do. It plods through the running time at a stoic and deliberate pace like a British horror film; and it behaves as if it’s an Italian giallo film; but it occasionally bursts into extreme and over-the-top violence like an American slasher film. This three-pronged approach makes it a strange sort of animal, a thrice-headed beast. One might even say that it’s schizophrenic…but that might be a little on the nose.

Death scene from 1976's Schizo

There are some positive notes: On occasion, SCHIZO effectively captures terror in the trivial, such as the scene at the supermarket. Also, Samantha is truly beautiful, and she’s not afraid to shed some clothing to keep things interesting. And Pete Walker certainly knows how to direct a death scene. Unfortunately, though, when there’s no sex or violence (or the threat of them) unfolding onscreen, the whole thing just feels so dreadfully dull.

There’s also a brief foray into the supernatural, when Samantha attends a séance and the medium is possessed by the spirit of one of the murder victims. This scene was quite effective, with the psychic’s eyes turning milk white and talking in a reverb-filled masculine voice, but was ultimately out of place in this movie—which is a shame, as it spiced up some of the otherwise drab minutes of downtime.

As previously mentioned, this is from Pete Walker, an exploitation director who specialized in showcases of sex and horror. Genre fans may be interested in his THE BIG SWITCH (1968), DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE (1971, with Susan George as a go-go dancer!), THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW (1972), THE COMEBACK (1978), and HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983).

Screenwriter David McGillivray also scripted horror films SATAN’S SLAVE (1976) and TERROR (1978)—both for director Norman J. Warren—but much of his output was for comedian Julian Clary. He wrote three additional scripts for Walker—FRIGHTMARE (1974), HOUSE OF WHIPCORD (1974), and HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN aka THE CONFESSIONAL (1976).

John Leyton, who played Samantha’s new husband Alan Falconer, can be found most often in war and adventure films: THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), GUNS AT BATASI (1964), VON RYAN’S EXPRESS (1965), and KRAKATOA: EAST OF JAVA (1968), just to name a few. He was also quite the crooner, with his song “Johnny Remember Me” maintaining a position at the top of the charts for nearly two months. His producer for this track was the notorious Joe Meek, and the biopic TELSTAR: THE JOE MEEK STORY (2008) has Callum Dixon portraying John Leyton during this era (and Leyton himself appearing as Sir Edward).

John and Samantha’s friend Beth was played by Stephanie Beachem, who appeared in classy Hammer horror hits like DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) and AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS (1973), and the aforementioned THE CONFESSIONAL (1976), but she may be known to Americans of a certain age as Dylan McKay’s mother Iris from the original BEVERLY HILLS 90210; Rounding out the cast is prolific actor of the UK stage and screen, John Fraser, as Leonard; and Jack Watson as the menacing William Haskin.

Lynne Frederick as seen in 1976's Schizo

Our leading lady, Samantha, was played by Lynne Frederick, who got her start as a teenager in the lethal virus drama NO BLADE OF GRASS (1954) and can also be found in VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972), the Saul Bass killer ant movie PHASE IV (1974), and the Fulci western FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE (1975), among others. Frederick lived fast and died young, and was no stranger to controversy—especially in regards to her handling of the estate left to her by first husband, Peter Sellers. Her film and television career lasted only nine years, but she racked up thirty credits in that time. She died in 1994 at age 39.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s