Spine (1986) ***

In this nicely misogynistic shot-on-video horror, L.A. police investigate seemingly in vain as a madman goes on a spree, murdering nurses by ravaging them with a knife and exposing their spines.  The murderer obsesses over someone named Linda, though none of his victims has that name.

The police and their detective work aren’t exactly fascinating, since it largely consists of sitting around, talking, and typing search terms into a bare, green-text-on-black-screen computer display – and the breakthrough, when it comes, is anticlimactic, to say the least.  There’s something compelling about the unsteady, voyeuristic camera work, the grimy synthesized score, and the whole dangerously sick and seedy sensibility of Spine, however, that artistically lifts it somewhat above the snuff sludge aesthetic from which it springs.

Janus Blythe, a familiar face from a handful of 70s-80s genre classics, and Lise Romanoff, who more notably contributed special effects work to such films as Night of the Creeps and Never Too Young to Die, appear as tortured victims of the elusive back-ripper.  Hippie-bearded R. Eric Huxley gives an interestingly soft-spoken, almost Bob Rossish performance as the culprit, generating menace and humor in moments such as when he pauses in the midst of repeatedly stabbing a woman to lick the blood from his knife.

One aspect of the cast that enhances a film of this type is that none of the actors really seem like actors; they just look like ordinary people you’d see on a street – or would have seen in the 1980s – people you’d see and pass without notice, unaware they were on their way to being hogtied, raped, and butchered by Bob Ross.  Director John Howard, according to IMDb, previously made an adult feature subtly titled Rope Burn, so there’s something to add to your checklists, you unredeemed masturbators.


True Crimes of Passion

The True Crimes of Passion (1983) ****

Raven-haired, pouty-mouthed Janey Robbins scorches the celluloid as private investigator B.J. Fondel in this adult take on the hardboiled detective genre.  In classic film noir fashion, Robbins delivers dispassionate voice-over narration of her sexual misadventures in a trio of tawdry tales revolving around one or more perversions of varying deviance.

The star is dressed and coiffed differently in each story, which helps to keep it interesting, but the first segment has her looking the best in a shiny maroon jumpsuit as she investigates the lesbian infidelity and light B&D play of a preacher’s wife and her lover – only, of course, inevitably to join in with the sluts.  This is stuff that will have the viewer’s hand down his pants in no time.

Director Kim Christy, who discovered a niche in adult films involving transsexuality, offers more of that in the second story, which features an escaped convict-turned-tranny posing as a maid and exacting revenge against a district attorney by forcing him at gunpoint to screw his sister and get it on in a perverted threesome.  (The maid slips Robbins a mickey, so she’s disappointingly unconscious for most of this one.)

Finally, the flimsiest of the stories is basically an excuse for the insatiable Robbins to take on first one and then two studs in a hotel room – and she earns her audience’s sympathy, if she doesn’t have it already, by bravely taking it in the rear for the climax.  Overall, not at all a bad show.  It’s a shame the B.J. Fondel character didn’t continue through a series of X-rated investigative adventures, as Robbins could have serviced such a franchise with hardboiled and hardbopping panache.