Color, 1971, 88m.
Directed by Alex Nicol
Starring Peter Carpenter, Dyanne Thorne, Lory Hansen, Leslie Simms, Joel Marston
Scorpion (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Rhino (US R1 NTSC)

The first thing you need to known about Point of Terror is that, contrary to the title itself and the lurid poster art, it is not a horror film. The loopy '70s drive-in upstarts at Crown International shuffled this baby around for years on double bills trying to pass it off as an extreme slasher film, but ticked-off viewers were instead confronted with an absurd, campy murder melodrama, bathed in psychedelic lighting and ripe overracting. Imagine the counterculture acid-trip marvel Angel, Angel, Down We Go smashed together with a soapy Lana Turner thriller like Portrait in Black or The Big Cube, and that might begin to convey the sheer unbridled insanity awaiting in this giant, lovable hunk of celluloid Limburger.

The one element that really puts this over the top from the opening frames is leading man Peter Carpenter, a Tom Jones lookalike with a singularly strange onscreen presence who made his debut as one of Erica Gavin's conquests in Russ Meyer's Vixen and went on to headline a trio of unique trash classics in the early '70s: this film, Blood Mania, and Love Me Like I Do. His co-star from the latter film, Dyanne Thorne, returns here and of course went on to sleaze infamy in Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS and its sequels. The fun starts as lounge singer Tony Trelos (Carpenter) belts out a song over the main credits in an eye-searing red fringe outfit, only to wake up on the beach screaming from his own performance. His hysteria is cut short by a passerby, buxom Andrea Hillard (Thorne), wearing the world's first frumpy bikini. Not minding that he's trespassing on her beach, they strike up a rapport that continues when she decides to catch his act at The Lobster House in Santa Monica, CA (yeah, it's still there, but it's just called The Lobster now), where he charms the crowd with another pop ditty. They begin an affair that leads to a boost in Tony's recording career, but things take a downturn when Andrea decides to bump off her wheelchair-bound recording maven husband (Marston) by chucking him in the swimming pool. Then there's Andrea's sexy young stepdaughter, Helayne (Hansen), who also shares Tony's bed (or couch, or car seat). Naturally, this cannot end happily.

As long as you know what you're getting into, Point of Terror is one hell of a good time. Rampant fashion violations, loud musical numbers, obscene checkered furniture, violent dream sequences, ratty wigs, equal opportunity nudity, saturated primary color lighting years before Suspiria, and reams of purple, sex-obsessed dialogue will keep even the most seasoned trash fanatic giddy with disbelief. While Blood Mania might be tacky fun, this is definitely Peter Carpenter's bonkers masterpiece. Unfortunately he died a few years after completing his mighty trilogy, but thankfully this film remains to convince generations of viewers that the '70s were a filmmaking decade truly unlike any other. The scene in which Thorne lures her husband to his death while the soundtrack explodes with bullfighting taunts should be enough to convince any doubters, but then the plot twists, turns, and flips upside down for the final third, and you' really won't believe the last-second twist ending. A lot of credit must also go to director Alex Nichol, busy TV actor who also helmed The Screaming Skull and several television episodes. God knows what he and all four of the writers were smoking when they made this, but it must have been great.

Point of Terror first appeared on DVD as part of Rhino's Horrible Horrors collection in what was easily the best transfer of the lot, though the open matte presentation exposed a huge amount of extraneous picture information on the top and bottom that constantly threw the compositions out of whack. The Scorpion special edition version wisely gives the film a spotlight all its own and restores the original widescreen framing, while the image quality is even better with stronger color definition. It's really quite a work of hideous beauty, though for some inexplicable reason, a couple of players used for this reveal displaying a heavy crawling dot pattern over the yellow opening credits and occasionally throughout on bright objects. On an Xbox it displayed no problems, however; just be aware that this could happen. Extras include the very misleading theatrical trailer, a telephone interview with Thorne (who talks about her early career and memories of Carpenter, but it's difficult to make out some of her comments), and a more informative interview with co-star Simms (who plays Thorne's best friend in the film), Carpenter's acting teacher, who covers everything from his real name to her repeated admiration for his physique. She reveals he had no singing experience before the film (which doesn't come as a huge shock) and discusses how she found out about his death as well as his "nice" stripper girlfriend at the time.

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