BILL’s BIZARRE BIJOU
William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
THE INTRUDER (1975)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if there’s a multitude of drag queens and camp sensibility, if go-go dancers in cages are featured, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.
Discovering movies is my schtick, but sometimes other people discover films that have never even been released in any manner, never viewed by any audience at all. Recently, when going through hundreds of cans of film stock in a rental storage unit, Harry Guerro and a friend discovered the beginning of a movie entitled THE INTRUDER, which appeared to be from the mid-1970s. They did a bit of sleuthing, eventually finding the star/director, Chris Robinson, who revealed that he had shot such a film on an extremely low budget, that the film had been lost in the 70s, and that this was the only print ever struck of the movie. After months of careful restoration, the movie has been made available on Blu-ray, and the public can finally view this strange little thriller.
But was it really worth all the effort?
We open on Mickey Rooney (yes, that Mickey Rooney of NATIONAL VELVET, 1944, GIRL CRAZY, 1943, and a slew of ANDY HARDY films) driving a yacht beneath a drawbridge at dawn. Inside the yacht are a group of people gathered to go to a mansion on an island, accompanied by thunderous, dramatic piano music. There’s a hotsy-totsy lady in a bad Angie Dickinson wig and a halter top; Ted Cassidy (Lurch on THE ADDAMS FAMILY, 1964) somewhere in there; a chubby Mexican in an unfortunate wig and looking as though he is three sheets to the wind; a handsome guy in a rather unfortunate checkered and suede jacket (Chris Robinson of SAVANNAH SMILES, 1982 and 12 O’CLOCK HIGH, 1964, also the director, writer, and producer of this film); a chubby man in a white suit; a playboy in a beige leather jacket and sunglasses; a Jackie-O wannabe; a Matt Huston wannabe; and Yvonne DeCarlo (Lily Munster of THE MUNSTERS, 1964). Hey! We have a cast member from THE MUNSTERS and one from THE ADDAMS FAMILY in the same flick! Has that ever happened before? Are the families cross-breeding?
The guests have all been invited to the mansion by Henry Peterson, who is running late and leaves them a note and envelopes with the keys to their rooms. It seems they all knew a man named Axel, whose plane crashed in the jungles of Panama, and whose body was never found. Before leaving, Axel had converted all of his assets into gold bullion, and the gold was last traced to Columbia. His lawyer, Peterson, maintains that the gold had been hidden on the island where they have all decamped. Since there was no will, all his distant relatives have been gathered, and if they find the gold, they can split it between themselves. Or has Peterson brought them all to island to bump them off and keep the gold for himself, unhounded by the IRS and angry family members?
The phone lines are down. The maid, a handsome young man(!), is avoiding everyone, except for the POLICE WOMAN wannabe, who admits she loves him. And, cue the lightning and the thunderstorm! It’s the perfect time for everyone to begin searching the house for the missing gold, some of them pairing up and forming alliances. Outside, a dark figure with a huge knife can be seen.
We then see Mickey Rooney as he drives the boat through the night. Then, we see Mickey Rooney piloting the yacht at dawn. Mickey Rooney pilots the yacht into a pier. He ties it off on the pier. He drives to a lighthouse. He climbs the stairs of the lighthouse. (I’m thinking the production only had the diminutive star for a few hours, and they were going to use every second of footage they could get of him, dammit!). At the top of the lighthouse, he confronts somebody, who tosses him to the rocks below. It’s a well-shot scene, involving the revolving lighthouse lamp and the hidden face of The Intruder!
Meanwhile, on the island, Yvonne De Carlo is discovered in bed with her throat slit (so much for the name stars of the film). Suddenly, the phone works, and they report the death to the maritime officers. One of the men, a lawyer, gets a call from his partner, who is at Peterson’s house. The place has been stripped bare, and the family is missing. Then, he hears several gunshots and the phone is cut on that end! The lawyer remembers that there is some clue to the gold in his briefcase. He goes to his room to get it, and they discover him stabbed to death in the elevator. The briefcase was empty!
The body count continues to mount as the guests stupidly wander off alone. Seriously, have they never seen one of these films? Never wander away from the crowd, especially if you say, “I’ll be fine.” Especially, if you say, “I’ll be fine.” Several of these victims do, and they end up dead, killed by a very large man who leaves very large footprints. All signs point toward the grinning Mexican, who seems rather pleased that his portion of the treasure is growing with each successive death, but is he really the killer?
Who is the killer? Where is the gold? Will anyone survive? Were all clothes this hideous in the 1970s? Where’s Ted Cassidy in all of this?
By the end of the third absolutely ridiculous plot twist at the end, you will discover the whole truth. And by ridiculous plot twist, I mean fabulous plot twist. Even if you see one or two coming, there is that last one that is hilariously nuts.
I’m a sucker for old dark house movies such as THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932), AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (1945), HORROR ISLAND (1941), ARNOLD (1973), THE BEAST MUST DIE (1974), and THE CAT AND THE CANARY (all three versions, 1927, 1939, and 1978). Put together the reading of a will, a gathering of highly suspicious guests, secret passages, and a killer on the loose, and I am a happy camper. While THE INTRUDER isn’t quite as good as the best of these films, it’s also rather decent considering it was never released. The acting is respectable, the killings are fun, and the mansion on the island is a very good location for shooting a picture like this. The cinematography by Jack McGowan (DEATHDREAM, 1974, CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, 1972) is quite moody and atmospheric, beautifully done. It’s full of bitchy dialogue, which adds to the fun. The film also checks off all the required boxes for an old dark house mystery while remaining modern—well, modern for 1975. The unfortunate costumes and unfortunate wigs truly date this one. At least there isn’t any disco music!
THE INTRUDER keeps your interest, providing plenty of weird action and spooky scenes with a little bit of gore here and there, and bizarre music throughout the film. Compared to the lightning pace of today’s motion pictures, this may seem a little slow to some viewers, but I thought it was appropriate considering the storyline. The last twenty minutes are actually pretty tense, and you’ll never guess which guests survive the weekend. Added bonus—a rather large man performing some of the worst karate choreography of all time! And several drownings! And a double-pitchfork killing scene! And an electrocution!
The restoration is fairly good, considering how degraded the film elements were upon discovery. The picture is always at least acceptable, and it veers sometimes into the very, very good lane, especially in brightly lit outdoor scenes. The sound is a bit fuzzy throughout the film, and bits of the dialogue were hard to discern, but . . . once again . . . considering what they had to work with, Garagehouse Pictures did a very good job.
I give THE INTRUDER two and a half unfortunate costume decisions out of four, but three and a half out of four if you love these kind of old dark house movies as much as I do.
© Copyright 2017 by William D. Carl