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The Love Butcher (1975) - Blu-ray Review

Movie Review

4 beersI never would have thought that talking to a wig could be so damn enthralling. It turns out, in this heavily misogynistic film that got considerably lighter in tone once cinematographer Don Jones was tasked to salvage the original director’s bizarre work, that wigs – no matter their length, color, or design – can be damn enlightening with all the truth they hide in the light of day.

We already know that ugliness is often hidden from others but not in The Love Butcher, a proto-slasher flick from a very disturbed mind.

Caleb was born disabled and ugly. His brother, Lester, was not. In fact, Lester’s damn near a catch for any lady, married or not. If only he wasn’t so batshit crazy...

Oh, well.

You’ve probably heard all about the exploits of Norman Bates and his “Mother” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but do you know of the many suburban kills of Lester and his disabled brother, Caleb (both played by Erik Stern from Garden of the Dead) in The Love Butcher? Probably not and, with as much fun as they are having, that’s a damn shame.

First and foremost, this low budget flick is a festival of murderous sleaze. There’s blood dripping all over the place and, with titillation at every opportunity, this cheap exploitation flick earns all sorts of flavored responses. Good or bad, there’s always something to find (and appreciate) crawling around upon this bloodied floor.

And it begins early on with a dime store picturesque camera pan over a very lovely patch of flowers in someone’s yard.

There’s even a swelling of piano music thanks to a very romanticized score courtesy of Richard Hieronymous. The poor guy - considering the history of the quick shoot - must have not been completely dialed in that this deranged flick was a tale of horror and not of the cheap lovey dovey stuff.

Blame it on the flowers that fill the screen in the opening minutes!  There's a message here about the content of The Love Butcher, but perhaps this casual beginning is all the composer ever saw of this schlock and awe.

Everything’s all hunky dory and absolutely “loverly” for a few seconds.  And then the camera stumbles upon the twisted body of a young woman who has been speared through the abdomen by a pitchfork. She looks all sorts of bent out of shape and dead all over. Dun Dun Duuuun!!!

Let the screaming begin!

You see, the small suburban corner of Los Angeles has a seriously BIG problem.   There’s a killer on the loose and the police – led by the poorly dressed detective (Richard Kennedy from Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS) - can’t seem to connect the dots in these residential killings. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that these dead women all share the same sight-challenged gardener: our poor, poor Caleb (Stern), who has a limited vocabulary, grumbles incoherently, and a deep, dark, and very deadly secret.

It is here, in that brotherly relationship, where the film gets its mojo. Stern, in two roles, is a maniac and he works us into a fever thanks to his ability to disappear into the roles of the two distinct brothers and their twisted hate for each other. It’s spooky just how effective he is.  In lesser hands, this idea simply would not have worked very well (as written). 

Shot in twelve days, for $40,000, The Love Butcher does exactly that: kill tenderness and, yes, this includes the whole maternal aspect of love. It’s main thrust is to eradicate all forms of love – including brotherly love – as we realize exactly what’s going on thanks to the demented (and tragic) situation bubbling between Caleb and Lester.  But, thanks to Stern, we simply can't turn away from the screen.  This theatrical art deserves a spot at the Met as far as I'm concerned. 

Even investigative journalist Russell (Jeremiah Beecher) refuses his shot at love and marriage, choosing instead to keep on the police beat and force the incompetent men and women in blue to do their job.  He keeps his girlfriend annoyed.  She could care that the killer that is right under their noses. But Russell keeps on applying the pressure. The police need only scratch and sniff harder.  

And his pressure makes the dynamic duo of Lester and Caleb do some really obscene shit with attractive women and garden tools.

The Love Butcher makes for the perfect Valentine’s Day. It is now on blu-ray thanks to Code Red. Go pick it up and make your heart happy.


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Film Details

The Love Butcher (1975) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 85 mins
Director: Don Jones, Mikel Angel
Writer: Mikel Angel, James M. Tanenbaum
Cast: James Lemp, Kay Neer, Jeremiah Beecher
Genre: Horror
Tagline: He turns a quiet neighborhood into a slaughterhouse.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'm going to awaken you from this earthly nightmare... awaken you to the sweet repose of death."
Theatrical Distributor:
Official Site: Release Date: November 16, 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: Synopsis: A string of murders in a posh neighborhood has the police department stumped and the local press is breathing down their necks. Strangely, nobody notices that several victims share the same gardener, a bent, elderly man with a crippled arm named Caleb (Erik Stern, ASSASSINATION). Even though all of the murder weapons are lawn care tools, Caleb remains above suspicion. Of course, it isn’t Caleb doing the killing, but rather his second personality, a confident, handsome younger brother named Lester (also played by Erik Stern) who Caleb turns into when he dons a toupee. That’s when he seduces and then slashes his employers, most of whom heap insults and derision upon Caleb as he works. Lester dons a variety of disguises to ‘gain entry,’ employing false accents and charming patter to bed down his victims. The two personalities battle when alone, though, and one of them will eventually have to overcome the other. Richard Kennedy (CANDY TANGERINE MEN), Robin Sherwood (TOURIST TRAP) co-star. Directed by Mikel Angel and Don Jones (THE FOREST).


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The Love Butcher (1975) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Code Red DVD
Available on Blu-ray - October 30, 2015
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: None
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Code Red presents The Love Butcher on 1080p thanks to their new 2K scan of the original camera negatives. Framed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and featuring a crisp DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 audio track, this tale of exploitation has never looked as crisp as it does here. The 1080p transfer is all sorts of saturated and pristine as the suburbs of Los Angeles comes to life for its viewers. The leafy greens are impeccable; the film looks and sounds pretty solid. It is filled with fine grain textures as a few pops appear here and there. Overall, this is as satisfying brand new HD widescreen master from Code Red.



There is a new audio commentary featuring the film’s director Don Jones. It is moderated by R.A. The Rugged Man and is quite entertaining as the director recounts how the film came about and what happened to the original director.

Special Features:



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The Love Butcher (1975) - Blu-ray Review