Looking at the flicks that paved the way for Halloween and the heyday of slasher movies.
Andrew (Grizzly; Simon, King of the Witches; Terror Circus) Prine stars as Clement Dunne, a repressed psychopath who stalks and kills women who have posed for a nudie magazine called Bachelor. The film is split into three stories. The first follows a nurse (Jaime Lyn Bauer) who travels to the countryside for a job interview. Having graced the pages of Bachelor Magazine in her spare time, she’s also become one of
Clement’s targets, and he’s followed her to the country. This episode is very Russ Meyer-like with our poor nurse being harassed by almost everyone she comes across including a Manson Family-style group of hippie weirdoes and an unsavory motel owner played by Aldo Ray. Bauer goes through so much trauma here that it’s easy to empathize with her, adding to the suspense of the segment, as does Prine’s performance. As
usual, he gives his all, creating a believable creep with homicidal tendencies… and a straight razor.
Next, Clement trails a model (Jennifer Ashley) to an island where she and a group of other models, photographers and industry types are shooting a layout for the magazine. It’s a very giallo-like segment, with bed hopping and backstabbing taking place in equal doses, and Clement slashing his way through the group with luck and aplomb.
In the final segment, Clement stalks a Flight Attendant/Bachelor model played by the great Tiffany (The Candy Snatchers, Bonnie’s Kids, Kingdom of the Spiders) Bolling. His eye always on his victim, Clement intervenes when Bolling is about to be raped by a couple of sailors. Of course, she then finds herself in an even worse predicament. The last scene in this segment, and of the movie itself, is unforgettable. Set among a recently razed forest (in reality, the trees at this location HAD actually just burned down) the charred stumps and bleak landscape look absolutely surreal, and Bolling’s heartfelt primal shrieks are penetrating.
Directed by John Peyser, The Centerfold Girls is a grimy and grim precursor to 80’s slashers like Maniac and Don’t Answer the Phone; it’s also a prime example of 70’s Grindhouse filmmaking. With its dark take on that 70’s standard, the Battle of the Sexes, an argument can easily be made for this as a feminist horror film; the audience empathizes strongly with the women, while almost all the men here are operating on some predatory level, viewing women as things to be used or destroyed. For my money, The Centerfold Girls is essential Proto-Slasher viewing.