Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Centerfold Girls

The Centerfold Girls / USA 1974 / Directed by John Peyser

"Killing me won't do any good. There are lots of pretty girls in the world. You can't kill the whole world"

This is the desperate plea for mercy offered by one of the victims in The Centerfold Girls, John Peyser's severely underrated 70's slasher. She makes a fair point, but psychopathic killers aren't really known for their willingness to reason. This really is a film that deserves to be seen. On the surface it may not seem that exciting; a male psychopath killing pretty girls is hardly an original concept when it comes to slasher films. But Peyser's film is so much more than that and will keep you intrigued (and baffled) from start to finish. It's safe to say that some serious thought has been put into the cinematography. The film is both beautifully and unusually photographed, making constant use of unconventional camera angles and movement to keep the viewer visually entertained at all times. What we get are the kind of expressionist camera angles that are often used excessively by young film students only to be abandoned as they get more serious about the craft. It should be annoying, but here it just works. It does take a while to get used to, however, and you have to convince yourself that it's not just a cheap gimmick to make up for the admittedly thin plot. But, stick with it and it just makes the film a pleasure to watch. As expected from a film called The Centerfold Girls, there is also plenty of flesh on display.

The casting is also pretty spot-on, especially Andrew Pine and his extremely creepy performance as the depraved, but oh so stylish killer, Clement Dunne. Looking more like a 60's hipster in his smart slim-fit suit, black and white brogues and Beatles-style shag haircut, it's no wonder that he manages to get so close to his victims. In the real world you'd never suspect him on anything. Of course, as viewers we know from the start that he is severely messed up and on some sort of religious crusade to rid the world of filth, but it's hardly surprising that he gets to inhabit the world of the film without arousing suspicion.

There are always things that don't make sense in horror films and The Centerfold Girls have its fair share of oddities, or just elements that are bit badly thought out. For example, the killer's 'Centerfolds of the year' magazine is designed in a way so that you get one girl on each page. When the killer is "finished" with one victim and symbolically cuts out her face from the magazine, he automatically cuts out the girl in the next month as well. He then moves on to the next girl with an intact picture in the magazine. So, Miss January, Miss March, Miss May become victims, while Miss February and Miss April gets away. Letting the layout of a magazine determine who deserves to die seems a little lazy and does make one doubt his "reasons". This is even the case in the promotional posters (see above) where February and April are left out.

There's also a rather confusing and almost experimental second act. It is told in images from the present, as Dunne breaks into a house where his next victims are sleeping. The soundtrack, however, is taken from a later portion of the film and goes on for quite some time. It is a strange technique and from just one viewing I'm not quite sure of the intended effect. Personally, I spent most of this part wondering if there was something wrong with the soundtrack.

But these are all minor irks and just make the film more mesmerising. Despite its flaws, The Centerfold Girls is simply quite awesome. It's sleazy , gritty, disturbing, confusing and beautiful at the same time. It doesn't always make sense, but who cares?

The Centerfold Girls on imdb

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