|Review||Intruder (1975)||Director||Chris Robinson|
|Cast||Chris Robinson, Phyllis Robinson, Robert Leslie, Patricia Hornung, Bobby De Sarro, Ted Cassidy, Yvonne De Carlo and Mickey Rooney|
“I’ll be right back!” – Would be victim
A group of people arrive at an abandoned mansion on a remote island. All of them are relatives of a money mogul who is believed to have perished in a plane crash somewhere in Panama. The host, Peterson, is nowhere to be found and all the guests have individual letters upon arrival and are assigned to a specific room. The only other person there is a male maid who serves them dinner and seems to be in love with one of the guests.
Before long the guests start dying one by one in bizarre ways. Who’s the Intruder and just what’s his game? Could one of the guests be the guilty party?
This film is quite the curio. Unreleased in any form until it’s Blu-ray debut in 2017; it wasn’t exactly considered lost because most people didn’t know it had ever existed. That is rather strange since it does feature Mickey Rooney, Yvonne De Carlo and Ted Cassidy. While not the biggest names in 1975 they were at the very least noteworthy actors with a ton of credits to their name. Apparently, writer, director and star Chris Robinson shot this film immediately after completing “Thunder County” (1974) which also starred Cassidy and Rooney (check out the reviews for that one on IMDB!) and somehow got lost in the shuffle afterwards. The only 35mm copy of “The Intruder” was found in a garage in the Mohave desert in piss poor condition in 2012. This backstory alone makes the film quite desirable for cult film enthusiasts and not to mention the fact that it’s a proto-slasher type of a genre film that’s heavily influenced by Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”.
Having viewed “The Intruder” twice now I can safely recommend the film to slasher film lovers and overall cult film enthusiasts. Whatever shortcomings you can point to (and there’s a lot!) it more than makes up for them with sheer entertainment value and a “throw in everything but the kitchen sink” attitude simply to keep the audience guessing.
The viewer barely gets a feel for the characters as they assemble at the huge mansion. The dialogue exchanges are clumsily written and delivered by very stone-faced no-name actors. The only actors to register at all are Robinson (as the hero of the piece named Reardon – who looks very much like a young Alan Alda) and Cassidy who makes a huge impression, as usual, with few lines and by simply being menacing using facial expressions. The murder set pieces range from being quite effective and eerie to downright pedestrian and there’s no gore to speak of here. The film does feature a scene where a recently killed person appears in the frame dangling from the ceiling (three years prior to “Halloween”) with two puncture wounds in the neck! While the Agatha Christie inspiration is clearly evident director and writer Robinson conjures up preciously little in terms of normal human behaviour, sophisticated wordplay or rational suspense building as the motives of the characters and their actions are truly mind boggling at times.
Which brings me to the film’s real asset. It’s so patently weird at times that it’s anyone’s guess as what’s going to happen next and therein lies the fun factor. A second viewing confirmed this as you are more likely to be annoyed by the film’s faults the first time around when you’re waiting for something coherent or enjoyably surprising to elevate the proceedings. A few kills in (and with a full half hour to go) the film looks very much out of steam and then the weirdness comes thick and fast; a standing corpse which no one seems very upset at seeing, a main character up and drowns out of nowhere and is left unattended by another character, a karate fight featuring the one overweight person and, finally, a gonzo twist at the end that can in no way be explained rationally. When a film is in danger of becoming repetitious and bland (and therefore very unlikely to register at all with any viewer) it’s goings-on like these that firmly put a stamp on it and make an impression…for better or worse.
Also, there are a few things quite praiseworthy here. Director Robinson creates an eerie atmosphere on occasion and thanks to a solid director of photography (Jack McGowan – also shot Bob Clark’s “Deathdream”) some scenes are splendidly shot and play out well; especially Rooney’s bit where he enters a lighthouse and some thunderstorm sequences that are stylish. The music score by Tommy Oliver is also effective with some suspense cues that up the tension and a main theme that’s quite catchy.
Despite being such an obscure film and with it’s interesting history there hasn’t been much of a fanfare for the film since its release. Had it been unearthed a bit earlier and come out while DVD’s were selling like hotcakes it probably would have made more of a splash with cult film lovers and horror fans. With 5 user reviews on IMDB and 5 critic reviews it looks like “The Intruder” will be an obscure and little seen film.