THE PSYCHOPATH (1975) – Category: The 70s version of camp, with a premise and plot elements that would have been banned in previous decades
If you’ve ever wanted to see Mr Rogers and/or Pee Wee Herman and/or Barney The Purple Dinosaur go on a killing spree this is the movie for you! Tom Basham plays Mr Rabbey, the host of a popular kiddie show. The key to Mr Rabbey’s success – his knack for knowing what children want to see – is no accident, since Rabbey himself is soon revealed to be a crazed, child-minded nutcase. Picture how much creepier Paul Reubens’ Pee Wee Herman character would be if it was no act and he really, honestly behaved that way 24/7. That’s Mr Rabbey.
The victims of Rabbey’s murder spree are people who beat and otherwise abuse their children, so it’s not all that hard to take the death scenes. You see, it turns out Mr Rabbey himself was the victim of an abusive parent, and when he realizes some of the children he visits on a charitable trip to the hospital have been beaten by their parents he sets out to kill those parents. (The original title of this movie was Eye For An Eye, which is why the film opens up with an extreme closeup of one of Mr Rabbey’s eyeballs)
Mr Rabbey uses things like a baseball bat, a lawn mower and garden shears in his killing spree, but my favorite death scene is the one where he strangles a victim to death with his security blanket … yes, not only does Mr Rabbey carry around a security blanket like Linus inPeanuts but he uses it to kill one of the abusive parents! We’ve got to introduce Rabbey to the mass-murdering priest from The Confessional (qv).
The lovably insane vibe of this flick is established right from the opening scene, which shows Mr Rabbey taping his show before a live audience of adoring children. Mr Rabbey is putting on a puppet show which is a violent and demented sketch on child abuse and should be titled Punch And Judy Meet Mommie Dearest.
Best of all, after just watching Rabbey perform a puppet show that proves he’s certifiably insane, the show’s director simply chews him out for not standing close enough to his cue mark! And I swear the director looks like Martin Scoresese trying to hide behind a fake beard.
A creepy argument (everything Mr Rabbey participates in is creepy) breaks out between Mr Rabbey and the director, but the show’s producer, a woman who likewise seems oblivious to how nutty their star is, sides with Rabbey in the creative tussle. Expository dialogue makes it clear that The Mr Rabbey Show(which originates from a nice “Neighborhood”, if you get my drift) is so successful its looney star can get away with throwing his weight around.
Mr Rabbey’s next puppet show, performed at the children’s hospital, is equally deranged, featuring one puppet nastily beheading another. All this plays like Mr Rogers saying “Let’s see what Picture-Picture wants to show us from Auschwitz today, boys and girls” but as usual nobody in this movie’s bizarre parallel universe realizes how certifiable Mr Rabbey is.
Other things to love include:
a) the funky music that always accompanies the cops investigating Mr Rabbey’s killing spree. It sounds like theme music from a 70s blaxploitation film.
b) the part of the film where, armed with the name and address of his next potential victim, Mr Rabbey proceeds to … VISIT AN AMUSEMENT PARK AND GO ON SEVERAL RIDES!? And we see every … single … minute of it in a prime example of the low-budget movie motto: “If we shot the footage, we’re gonna use it, no matter what it does to the pacing”
c) the way one of the abusive parents is the only person in the world who seems to realize how creepy it is that Mr Rabbey constantly hangs around at children’s playgrounds in his free time
d) the scene where one of the cops is working on his car by leaning into the engine with a lit cigar in his mouth
and e) the way this film’s musical score could be used as a perfect lesson in how not to use music to set the mood in a horror film. To use just one example, when Rabbey is stalking one of his victims (by riding his prized bicycle, complete with basket on the front) we hear some very odd country-music composition that sounds like it belongs on Hee Haw.
At one point, completely out of the blue, the female producer tells Mr Rabbey his show has been canceled (?), pushing him even further over the edge. He hallucinates that the producer is his abusive mother and attacks her.
SPOILER: Finally, when launching his final attack on an abusive parent, Mr Rabbey is himself shot to death by one of the battered children he’s trying to save from that abusive parent. This movie throws in one more odd twist which I wouldn’t dream of revealing.
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