Three schoolteachers stop at a garage on their way to a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium. Their car isn’t running properly and so they need to look at it and maybe try to fix it. But thats not their biggest obstacle- they come face to face with Charlie Tibbs and his girlfriend- a couple of killers who are accused of murders in Arizona and are on the run. Charlie has a gun and insists that they work on the car so that he can get away in it.
This film is like a play that has been filmed- there is primarily one main setting (the film reminded me of Cujo in that respect). But this doesn’t mean that the film is static and boring. The one setting is used innovatively and this means that the film is directed with verve. There is also a sense of ‘us versus them’ with the schoolteachers in their Sunday best (shirts, ties or a nice conservative dress) whilst Tibbs is looking every part the juvenile delinquent in his denims and sporting a greasy quiff. Tibbs is obviously based on real-life serial killer Charles Starkweather.
This film is brilliant- will the teachers get away, when and how? The film ramps up the tension and suspense and never lags- theres no scenes that feel unnecessary. The film is also very extreme for its time. It was even rejected by the BBFC when it was submitted for classification in 1964.
Arch Hall Jr in the lead gives an extraordinary performance as Tibbs- the Sadist in the title. His face and facial expressions are almost other-worldly and supernatural as is his portrayal. Quite extraordinary.
Watch out for the poignant scene in which the schoolteachers hear on the radio the baseball game they should be at instead of fighting for their lives.
Theres also some innovative direction within the film- it almost feels like Tibbs’ gun in the first half of the film is an actual character.
I didn’t know about this film until recently. I’m glad I do now. Why isn’t this more widely available on DVD and Blu ray?
Apparently this film is a favourite of director Joe Dante’s- a seal of approval anyone would be proud of.
4 out of 5