The Love Butcher (1975)

Caleb (Erik Stern) drives around an ancient pick up truck that is beat all to hell.  His back is stooped and withered with age yet he continues to do his gardening work with little complaint and only asking for a glass of water from time to time.  Caleb lives in a hovel and frequently argues with his “baby brother” Lester.  It turns out Lester (Erik Stern again) is Caleb’s alter ego who is much younger, stronger, and smoother with the ladies.  That’s right.  Caleb dons that tattered toupee and he becomes a young stud with sicko tendencies. Not only does Lester wear the toup but he makes use of a variety of disguises from a down on his luck Texan (eat your heart out Matthew McConaughey) to a Latin Lothario.

The police are baffled and do not want to admit there may be a serial killer in town and the media is angry that the police haven’t solved the crimes or even made any noticeable progress in developing any leads.  The only thing the police do know is that the killer is a “real weirdo.”  They have no idea how right they are on that count.  Reporter Russell (Jeremiah Beecher) finds himself in the middle of the hunt as he tries to spur the police into action.  His lovely girlfriend Flo (Kay Neer) is also in a predicament because Caleb happens to be her gardener.  Russell eventually puts one and one together (if it were two and two this couldn’t have happened) when he realizes the women were murdered with gardening tools.  Of course it must be the weird gardner!  He calls the clueless and bumbling police and lets them know of the suspect.  The film made no secret of it from the beginning and Russel is right though it is part of Caleb’s splintered personality that is carrying out the murders.  The real joy comes in the creepy reveal as to why Lester is in Caleb’s mind or Caleb is in Lester’s.  The police and Russell are finally on Lester’s trail but they will have a tough row to hoe if they want to stop him from killing yet again.

THE LOVE BUTCHER is a pretty fun trip overall.  The kills are interesting if not ambitious and the gore effects are serviceable for a low budget romp like this.  The plot has a touch of cornball as well though it’s a little edgy due to the misogyny on display.  The most interesting thing about THE LOVE BUTCHER is that some aspects of the film foreshadow not only slasher tropes in general but even seems like it may  have been a seed of an idea for MANIAC.  Caleb lives in a rundown basement apartment that is constantly bathed in blue and red light, he also has some serious mommy issues as well.  The acting isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off.  Not in a good way anyhow.  Erik Stern is over the top as both Caleb and Lester.  Caleb’s gorkish mannerisms and Lester’s pseudo-suave malevolence are played out with exaggerated movement, squinty leering and ridiculous delivery.  Jeremiah Beecher is almost unbearable to watch in his only role as the whining reporter Russell and no one in the flick really show much in the way of chops. Oh, one other thing… the most ridiculous line has to be “No one loves a cripple or can abide a mental moron.” 

Code Red’s release of THE LOVE BUTCHER is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen with an English mono track.  It has a menu but only features two options…”Play with the Love Butcher” and “Hear the Love Butcher Commentary.”  The commentary features director Don Jones.  There is no forced trailer and no slate of Code Red trailers. 

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