Director/Screenplay – Bert I. Gordon, Producer – Rudolf Frenner, Photography – Brett A. Hart, Music – Scott Glasgow, Makeup Effects – Kayla Free, Production Design – Wiley James Fowler. Production Company – Cinema Epoch/Sunrise Motion Pictures
Mark Famiglietti (Henry Foster), Kari Wuhrer (Catherine Foster), Mia Serafino (Georgette), Mary Anthony (Grace Borden), Hilary Anderson (Genine), Caroline Tudor (Helen), Chris Freihofer (Lieutenant Harris), Ty Fanning (Paul), Tom Byrne (Mr Borden)
Grace Borden arrives in the town of Bedford to marry Henry Foster whom she has met over the internet. Henry lives in a big old house with his sister Catherine. He tries to have sex with Grace but cannot and kills her instead. He and Catherine used to have sex together and even had children. Henry longs to be able to have a normal relationship. He meets other women on the internet and brings them to the house but kills them after he finds that he cannot have sex. He is certain that his dysfunction is related to something in the past he cannot remember. After killing Helen, a girl he meets in a movie theatre, Henry brings her roommate Georgette back to the house, making her a prisoner, certain that she will be the one for him.
Bert I. Gordon is a name famous to anyone who watched any number of 1950s B movies. Gordon was at his height during the 1950s making cheap ripoffs mostly of the giant monster cycle with the likes of King Dinosaur (1955), The Cyclops (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Earth vs the Spider (1958) and so on. Bert I. Gordon has been around since then but his output after the 1970s has been erratic. Most of Gordon’s films since the 1970s have been cheap occult films – Necromancy (1972), The Coming/Burned at the Stake (1981) and Malediction/Satan’s Princess (1990) – and the occasional throwback to the cheesy B-budget science-fiction film with the likes of The Food of the Gods (1976) and Empire of the Ants (1977), as well as a couple of sex films. (See below for a full list of Bert I. Gordon’s genre films).
Not having made a film since Malediction, Gordon returned after a twenty-five year absence with Secrets of a Psychopath. Gordon was 93 years old when he directed Secrets of a Psychopath, which makes him one of the oldest directors alive. According to a 2013 article in Film Comment, both Manoel de Oliviera and Leni Riefenstahl were making films after the age of one hundred. Gordon comes in as the fourth oldest director after Kaneto Shindo who released a film at the age of 98.
The majority of Bert I. Gordon’s films are not that good. Secrets of a Psychopath does not disappoint in this regard. It feels more like a psycho film that would have been perfect for the heyday of so-called grindhouse era – alongside works like I Dismember Mama (1972), The Love Butcher (1975), The Killer Inside Me (1976), The Driller Killer (1979) and Gordon’s own gloriously sordid The Mad Bomber (1973).
What grates about the film is the shabbiness of Gordon’s writing – the dialogue often feels like lead bricks in the actors mouths. The characters act in ways that frequently do no resemble human psychology. In the opening scenes, a woman (Mary Anthony) turns up on Mark Famiglietti’s doorstep to marry him without even having met him before. A few scenes later Hilary Anderson travels to another town solely because a guy she met on the internet mentions he might have a job for her and then agrees to get in his car and travel to destination unknown on his say so without even having the vaguest of trust issues.
For that matter, Gordon doesn’t seem that clued up on how the internet and online dating sites work. The police don’t seem at all concerned about these missing girls or capable of finding them. In a real world setting, the most logical thing police would do fairly soon into an investigation is look up the missing person’s online/mobile footprint and find the agreement to meet someone. (For that matter, they would surely have found the address that Famiglietti must have left Mary Anthony for when she arrives on his doorstep to meet him for the first time). The most laughable point is when the police finally do go to investigate the online dating service and it turns out to be no more than a regular office where clerical workers manually match prospective clients on cards just like the old days when it was called a computer dating service. Not to mention that everybody who communicates on the internet in the film has the annoying habit of doing so in caps.
Gordon attempts to get inside the head of his psychopath but only produces paperback psychology rather than psychopathology. However, what does lift the film from its shabby writing is the sordidness of the psychology. You are amazed by a film that has an incestual brother-sister relationship at the heart of it – a rather perverse one that has a vampish Kari Wuhrer twisting the knife on Famiglietti for trying to pursue a normal relationship and where he has repressed all memories of a traumatic event. There are also the bizarrely risible scenes where the two of them dress up in costumes and makeup as dolls to taunt their victims.
Bert I. Gordon’s other genre films are:– King Dinosaur (1955), The Cyclops (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Earth vs the Spider (1958), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), another fantasy adventure with The Boy and the Pirates (1960), the ghost story Tormented (1960), The Magic Sword (1962), Village of the Giants (1965), the psycho-thriller Picture Mommy Dead (1966), the occult film Necromancy (1972), The Mad Bomber (1973), The Food of the Gods (1976), Empire of the Ants (1977) and the witchcraft films The Coming/Burned at the Stake (1981) and Malediction/Satan’s Princess (1990).