Violent Midnight

Violent Midnight
Cast: Lee Phillips
Studio: Dark Sky Films
Rating: 8/10

FILE UNDER: Shoestring slasher cuts through the clutter

In this Psycho-esque thriller from director Del Tenney, Elliott Freeman (Lee Phillips) is a Korean War vet-turned-painter who becomes the prime suspect in the brutal stabbing death of his model, Dolores. Did Elliott kill her to end their relationship?

Violent Midnight (1964) is my favorite lost flick of the moment. This ultra-low-budget piece of Hitchcockian horror shot in stark black and white is also an effective mystery with clever twists, and enough purposeful kinks to keep you perched uncomfortably on the edge of your seat. Lee Phillips stars as Elliot, a troubled vet now living as an eccentric artist on a posh inheritance. After a brief tryst with one of his nude models, the dishy Dolores (Kaye Elhardt), Elliot gets implicated in her murder and things go downhill from there. But, did Elliot do it? Or, was it Delores’ boneheaded ex-boyfriend, Charlie (James Farentino)? Maybe it was the nefarious peeping tom (Day Tuttle), or even Elliot’s half-sister Lynn (Margot Hartman)?

Director Del Tenney weaves lyrical pacing and eerie angles into an involved web of tension and uneasiness in this frisky little B-movie, that also pushed the boundaries with a few fleeting nude scenes that surely had the drive-ins of the day all a buzz. The film also features an early appearance from Dick Van Patten (the somewhat annoying dad in TV’s Eight Is Enough).

A crisp black-and-white transfer, a commentary with Del Tenney, a photo gallery and theatrical trailers. Dark Sky Films has also just released a double feature of Tenney’s The Curse of the Living Corpse and The Horror at Party Beach.

Violent Midnight is equal parts thriller, horror film, art-house piece and exploitation flick…it’s amazing what ample vision and a few bucks can buy the right director.

+ Jim Kaz

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