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Oldskool Review: The Mutilator

October 1, 2009 at 11:02 pm by  

Ed Jr and his college friends are hanging around the local watering hole lamenting the fact that they have absolutely nothing planned for fall break. But that changes when Ed’s father calls and informs his son that he needs him to go to their beach condo and close it up for the winter. Ed finds the request strange seeing as him and his father have not been on good terms ever since Ed actually killed his mother while cleaning some guns for his dad’s birthday. Nevertheless, Ed agrees and decides to take his friends along and make a vacation out of it. But what should have been a relaxing, drunken break from academics will turn into something much more terrifying. Turns out Ed’s father has grown quite insane since the death of his wife, and he now he wants revenge. The request to prep the condo was merely a trap and Ed and his friends have walked right into it. Read on for more info on The Mutilator than anyone could possibly ever need. But it has interviews and a theme song you can download!

Image and video hosting by TinyPicAs is apparent with some of the horror movies I choose to talk about, I really dig bad horror, especially out of the slasher genre. God knows there are enough to choose from, especially during the slasher’s glory years during the ’80s. There is a level of charm and personality that some amateur slasher films bring to the table along with the bad acting and shoddy production values. Buddy Cooper’s The Mutilator is one of those types of slashers and a film I saw on the shelf of my local video store back in the ’80s. It had a very memorable cover showing four young people hanging by hooks, with one female in a bikini looking quite horrified at the instrument being held by an unseen killer.

I really liked the film the first time I watched it, even though it turned out I had watched a cut version of it. Sure it has abysmal performances, a low budget that consistently shows and some long stretches that slow the film down to a crawl. But it also had a bit of that grimy feel to it that only seems to overlay the older horror films along with a nice mix of cheese-and-sleaze that leave a movie so bad that it is oh, so good.

I have watched the film multiple times since that day, and while it isn’t one of my favorite horror films, it is still one of my favorite low-budget slashers. The bare-bones plot is pretty straightforward, even if there are some long gaps of nothing happening. Just a group of young people being placed within easy reach of a homicidal maniac. There are no twists, and The Mutilator even strays a bit from slasher cliches by revealing the killer from the beginning.  And on that note…

Mr. Cooper got pretty lucky in the gore department. By employing a young Mark Shostrom (X-Files, Phantasm II, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) he got a lot of bang for his buck. The violence in the film should satisfy gorehounds with scenes of mutilation by outboard motor, impalement via pitchfork, amputation by battle-axe, decapitation by machete, and in the most infamous scene that people talk about the most – a gaff through the snatch. Depending on what version you watch, they are done well and are on the bloody side. The death by outboard motor also happens to rank high in my Funniest-Death-In-A-Movie list.

The Mutilator is not the worst horror movie ever made and definitely not the worst slasher, but for you lovers of bad, cheeseball horror, The Mutilator fits the bill. Buddy Cooper, Atlantic Beach entrepreneur, wanted to make a horror movie and by using his own property, family and friends, that’s exactly what he did. So even with all its warts, it is a true testament that the movie is still talked about, both fondly and not-so-fondly, 25 years later. That’s something to proud of, I think. So if you have not seen this film, but like these type of slashers, grab some brews, turn off your brain and watch Big Ed go to work.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

I wrote an initial review for this film over four years ago. It sucked a lot worse than the one you just read, but in the process of getting information I realized that the movie was filmed fairly close to where I reside. I had this bright idea that I would drive my ass up there and get some pics and maybe interview some people about the movie. In the process of doing the research, I got in touch with Tom Outlaw. He in the movie briefly and gave me a lot of information including getting me in touch with Bill Hitchcock, who plays Ralph in the film. Along with Tom, Bill gave me a lot of insight into the film and even answered some impromptu questions I had put together. Extremely nice guy and the info he gave me about the movie and how it came to be just makes me enjoy the film on a different level. Here is the email “interview” I had with him and I apologize for some of the questions, I had no clue that I would actually be talking to a cast member that day – note that this took place years ago, so some of the information may not apply any longer:

Bill Hitchcock Interview (10-21-2004)

I was curious how you got involved with The Mutilator? Were you hired by an agency or were you a local resident of Atlantic Beach at the time? (reason why I ask is because out of the starring teens, you were the most convincing…Tom Outlaw stated that a couple of the teens were from L.A.)

It was by pure luck that I found out about the movie. I was playing “tourist” and vacationing in Atlantic Beach. While sitting in the lounge of a restaurant, a fellow sitting beside me asked what I did. I told him. He informed me of the movie about to be made by Buddy Cooper. Oddly enough, Buddy Coopers offices were about 100 feet away from the restaurant

You may have answered this in the first question or bio, but your accent in the movie sounded to real to be a fake southern accent. Born and raised in NC?

And here I thought I had laid the accent on too thick!!! No-that is not how I normally sound. Actually I have somewhat of a confusing accent. I was born in the mountains of Tennessee. My father is from England. My mother is from Ohio but her family came from Scotland. I spent my “growing up years” in the Chapel Hill/Durham area. I lived in NYC and now live along coastal NC. So mix all of that together and you come up with how I talk. And it’s getting even more confusing. My fiance’ is from Poland.

Any memorable moments while filming? You know, mishaps, problems, any pranks or issues? What about any dirt on any of the other characters at the time of filming. You were all young, any hookups?

There were many memorable moments during the production of the film. But I can’t go any further without adding this. Buddy Cooper was wonderful to work for. He took care of us all both on and off set. Hook ups? Well, let’s just say that the on screen relationships got somewhat intermingled off screen. No real issues as often occurs when dealing with “talent”. (It used to bother me when the AD would call for “Talent on the set”. So I would respond, “But what about me”. So the AD started saying, “Talent on the set. And Bill too”)

Have you kept in touch with any of your co-stars? I am trying to get in touch with as many of the main characters as possible. I have found that a couple of characters are Atlantic Beach natives (especially the Coopers). But aside from seeing that Matt Mitler and Frances Raines both starred in Breeders I am having difficulty locating any of them.

I spoke with Matt about a year ago. He is still in NYC and evidently doing quite well. I saw Buddy Cooper around the same time period. Buddy was thinking about doing another movie a bout 7-8 years ago. I went to the auditions, not for myself, but for my daughter. It was the first time I was ever nervous in an audition-watching my daughter read!!!!

The house the majority of the movie was filmed at…any knowledge of who owned the house at the time of filming? The Mutilator actually has a fan club and a horror movie website creator actually drove out there and found the house…he has a lot of pictures up on his website. Was curious if you may also have any info on who owns it now?

I have no idea who owns the “Condo at the beach”. But it is very easy to find the place. It is located between the Oceanana and Sportsman’s Piers in Atlantic Beach.

What are you up to now? Tom Outlaw actually steered me to your location and stated that you did some fishing reports for the news, but when I finally found your website, I see you have been up to a LOT more than that. You seem pretty busy.

With the exception of one acting job (I played Richard in a professional theatre production of “The Lion in Winter”), I have done nothing but film/television production since “Fall Break”. I formed my own company,”Hitchcock Broadcasting” in 1989. We primarily do things for the networks, large industry, state/federal government, the military as well as create some of our own programming. Our emphasis over the past several years has been to move everything over to the internet, where we concentrate heavily on live and pre-produced video/audio content. http://www.ncwaterman.com is a good example of this.

One of the SFX artists that you worked with (Mark Shostrum) went on to work on some Nightmare on Elm Street films along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. This leads me to one of the cool deaths in the movie…your pitchfork death. How long did that actually take to film?

My death scene was shot over several nights and had many components to it. I don’t know how detailed you want me to get but I will say this. The base for the blood was Caro Syrup. Nothing like having syrup poured all over you for 4-5 nights in a row!

Who came up with the hide and seek game played by your characters in the movie? Was this an actual game any of you had actually played before filming? (Didn’t know if this was any type of nod to Friday the 13th’s Strip Monopoly, or just a way to get the characters separated).

The hide and seek game was in the script. (By the way-I still have the final shooting script with all notes in it). And I guess you could say there were a lot of “games” and “hide and seek” being played off camera. Hey-It’s a movie-What do you expect from a bunch of actors and crew members!!!!

Were you aware that this movie, made 20 years ago, would still be being discussed by horror fans to this day? If they liked it or not, it says something to even have the film still being talked about. Tom Outlaw thought I was joking at first (I still think he does:) ). How does you feel about starring in it? Any regrets?

It is difficult to imagine that 20 years have passed. I had a blast working on that project. At first I was surprised by the following it garnered for all the years after its release. But when you realize that there are websites like this, magazines, organizations, etc. that are all dedicated to this type of film, then it becomes understandable. I thought it had great potential for becoming an audience participation film like “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. My greatest ambition or rather “dream” for the film has always been to make it on “Mystery Science Theatre”. I think it meets all of the criteria. I only have one regret about the film. Buddy Cooper sent me a copy of the video sleeve of the Asian release of the video. I immediately called Buddy and asked if the film had been subtitled or dubbed. To my chagrin, it was subtitled. Life would have been complete to see myself dubbed in Japanese. But I guess it best. Otherwise people would have been looking for the strings or for some giant moth flying in the background.

What’s your marital status? Any kids? I only ask as I was curious how your family likes the movie or if you would ever allow them to watch it at all?

I am currently divorced, but my ex-wife and daughter have watched the film. But not while I was around. In fact, I have never seen the film from start to finish, just bits and pieces of it. All of the actors were brought to the film’s theater premiere. I sat through the first half of the film with an empty popcorn bucket on my head. It occurred to me that this may not be what the film’s producer would have me to do, so I got up and left. I figured I knew the plot and how it ended so what’s the point.

Bill went on to add some closing info on the film:

In the scene where I go into a store, buy beer and leave. The interior was one of the first things shot. The exterior was one of the last things shot. I had lost 30 pounds between the two shoot dates (Breach of contract). I went in weighing 160. Bought the beer at 190. Left at 160 again.

At the beginning of the film I am wearing sunglasses. When we make it to the “condo at the beach” I hung my sunglasses on the collar of my sweater. If you watch the film carefully-my sunglasses magically disappear from one scene to another. I lost them and continuity didn’t pick up on it.

In any scene that you see us drinking beer-Ginger ale was put in it’s place- So the producer’s thought.

In the beginning of the film as we are driving, the car suddenly stops, I get out and run in a field, take a whiz (I told you we were really drinking beer) and then the car pulls off with me chasing behind it. That was not in the script. It was a spur of the moment thing that Matt and I came up with. The producer’s had no idea what was going on.

***SPOILER***

The final scene where Big Ed dies was written on the spot. There use to be a turn style bridge that crossed from Morehead City to Atlantic Beach. Big Ed was to be killed by being ripped apart as the bridge opens, but the state “killed” that idea at the last second.

The Mutilator also has something you do not normally find with no-budget horror, and that is a full-fledged theme song. It is a complete piano-and-sax driven tune called “Fall Break” (the original title of the film) and performed by Peter Yellen and The Breakers. It sticks out like a sore thumb because of just how out of place it is. The song sounds like it should actually be playing at the beginning of a low-budget teen comedy. The song does not make the movie better as much as it is just another one of the things that makes The Mutilator stand out. I decided to find the man who created it.

It took me a little while to track him down, but I finally found Michael Minard, the man responsible for this theme song as well as the films score. Aside from providing the score for Ms. 45 and Return to Salem’s Lot, Mr. Minard also teaches and is working on an opera. I emailed him and simply asked him if he remembered anything about his involvement with the film and how he became attached to it. Here was his reply from 10-10-2007

There are some interesting things to note, particularly about the song “Fall Break”: I wrote it with Artie Resnick who also wrote the song “Under the Boardwalk” for the Drifters. I was working with him at the time and A.B. “Buddy” Cooper, Jr. was thrilled that I could bring him on the project because of the “confluence” of subject matter… there was something else. “Under the Boardwalk” was one of the great “shag” dancing hits of the outer banks of North Carolina, and all of the people involved with the movie were from Carolina and were shag maniacs. Shag (dancing and music) is slightly slower than standard hyper rock and roll, something that I didn’t know at the time. It’s a bit like a jitterbug on quaaludes. Sexy and more intimate than what we normally associate with the early to mid fifties.

So when we got into the studio (using the actual mixing board that had been used for Springsteen’s “Born to Run” with Larry Alexander who was a huge, but local, engineer) “Buddy” kept asking me to slow the tempo down. In an “executive” decision that I now regret, I gainsayed him and said “No way, let’s keep it lively and up. The faster the better”. He gave in to my greater authority, though he kept referring to this “shag” music that his friends and he were immersed in down South. Several months later, at the premiere in North Carolina, when everyone including the parking attendants were “shagging” up a storm, I realized it would have been far more idiomatic to have slowed the tempo slightly… Who knows? It might have made it eerier as well.

None of the singers (including Peter Yellen) had a low enough voice for the “pickup” into the chorus… the spoken “we’re goin’ on a…” We all “auditioned” for it and then gave up. We took a break and went outside to Franklin St. in Nyack, where the studio was located. A very congenial, tall African-American man was walking by… it was late at night… we’d been working for hours. We asked him to say “We’re goin’ on a…” He did, and the timbre of his voice was perfect. We asked him if he would come in and do the line. He was delighted! We put him in the booth, strapped the headphones on, and we were able to finish the piece!

As for the writing of the “score” itself, “Buddy” Cooper was very hands-on, almost dictating the notes as we went along from scene to scene. I acceded to this process, but I think it made the musical ride of the movie a bit bumpier.

One scene, with the killer, a girl and a gaffe, I think it was… I never actually watched the movie. It made me so uncomfortable I just scored it to the sound of her screaming. I’m told it worked out okay.

Also, the P.O.V. shots of the killer watching the kids on the beach: originally those were to be without sound, but at the mix it seemed too “dead”. So they put me in the sound booth and we “freestyled” some foley by having me do some heavy raspy breathing. I can improv that kind of thing pretty well…

By the way, the whole production team of Fall Break aka The Mutilator were a great bunch of people. It was always fun to work with them.

He then emailed me a special mix of the song Fall Break. (Click here to grab it)

Since the time I originally wrote a word about this film, other fans have crawled out of the woodwork as well. While I would like to think that has everything to do with me, as I am special, I am pretty sure it is just more fans wanting to show their appreciation for a movie that deserves a decent DVD release. So check out the KandJHorror’s Youtube Channel for interviews with the director, Buddy Cooper, as well as shots of locations as they appear now – including the beach front home. I also found this guy’s blog where he describes being in charge of cutting the gore out of the film so that it could be distributed in Australia. It’s a funny read, even if his version never made it to any shelves.

Code Red, the guys responsible for releasing a decent Don’t Go In The Woods DVD as well as other obscure horror titles, announced that they were working on the first full-fledged, Region 1 DVD of this film, completely unrated and with bonus material to include commentary from Buddy Cooper. But it seems as if that deal never happened. So until it gets a decent DVD release, be sure to get your hands on the German DVD by Dragon – you can pick up bootlegs pretty cheap. It is the only completely uncut version that has been released (un-officially as there has been no official DVD release). The US theatrical version, as well as the UK video released in 1993 removed 26 seconds of gore. The UK DVD and VHS re-issue in 2000, dubbed The Extreme Version is less censored and only removes 7 seconds from the hook-in-puss scene.

So there ya’ go. More than you could ever possibly want to know about The Mutilator. Any other fans or haters of the film, please chime in. Would love to here some of you old-timers out there who first saw this as a kid on VHS.

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  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    In the spirit of Halloween, the best holiday ever created in the history of the universe, I will be attempting to write on a horror movie every day. This means that you will get some good ones worth reading, along with some shitty ones I will throw together so I can say that I did one every day.

  • Siobhan

    In the spirit of Halloween, the best holiday ever created in the history of the universe,(…)

    Blessed be the Samhain.

    (…)I will be attempting to write on a horror movie every day. This means that you will get some good ones worth reading, along with some shitty ones I will throw together so I can say that I did one every day.

    Good, bad, or completely sucks ratings aside – I love horror films.
    Actually, I love all ages and genres of cinema, but horror has always held the highest pedestal in my heart.

    I look forward to your reviews Morbid, and I share your love of bad/B horror
    flix; in fact, this summed up my kind of movie(s) perfectly:

    Sure it has abysmal performances, a low budget that consistently shows and some long stretches that slow the film down to a crawl. But it also had a bit of that grimy feel to it that only seems to overlay the older horror films along with a nice mix of cheese-and-sleaze that leave a movie so bad that it is oh, so good.

  • Anonymous

    And I thought I was THE ultimate Mutilator fan!! I scored a copy of the 45 of the theme song and the original artwork poster when it was called FALL BREAK. Still waiting for a proper DVD release. Awesome review!!!!!

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    Even with all its faults (and Lord does it have ‘em) I still love this movie. It may also have a lot to do with talking with some of the people behind it and how the whole thing came to be. Also, if you didn’t know, Creepy Tees has a great shirt I love to wear around:

    http://www.creepy-tees.com/tshirts/themutilator.htm

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    Even with all its faults (and Lord does it have ‘em) I still love this movie. It may also have a lot to do with talking with some of the people behind it and how the whole thing came to be. Also, if you didn’t know, Creepy Tees has a great shirt I love to wear around:

    http://www.creepy-tees.com/tshirts/themutilator.htm

  • http://www.dreamindemon.com Morbid

    Even with all its faults (and Lord does it have ‘em) I still love this movie. It may also have a lot to do with talking with some of the people behind it and how the whole thing came to be. Also, if you didn’t know, Creepy Tees has a great shirt I love to wear around:

    http://www.creepy-tees.com/tshirts/themutilator.htm

  • Anonymous

    That shirt is bad ass! I found that picture on the internet a while back and made it into a 13″x19″ poster. Wouldn’t mind ordering the actual t-shirt, though! I googled “Mutilator on DVD” and this site popped up. Glad I got to read the review and find out the behind the scenes stuff. It only makes me appreciate the movie even more. You’re right, though. It does have its faults. That’s what makes it so damn fun!