Stroke of Midnight
The Centerfold Girls

The Centerfold Girls

The Centerfold Girls sounds like a sexy Roger Corman romp, but is in fact a rather odd and grim slasher. The plot is basically a three part anthology film revolving around a psychopath stalking and murdering models from a nudie mag. The girls also have decidedly stereotypical male fantasy gaze day jobs: nurse, model, and stewardess. The construction is really clunky as the segments really would have worked better if fleshed out into full movies. There is just no time to build any suspense and some of the ideas are actually clever.

In the opening act of the film a nurse picks up a hitchhiker on her way to a new job at a remote rehab facility. The hitchhiker’s friends, a wannabe Manson family, invade her Aunt’s home, and humiliate her before their leader attempts to rape her. She escapes and makes her way to the facility where she is supposed to have a job. She is given sanctuary, but the caretaker’s wife doesn’t like the way he looks at her and orders him to take her back to her Aunt’s house, where he tries to rape her. At this point she doesn’t have the strength to put up a fight and he gets disgusted a leaves. Our killer then enters and dispatches her with a straight razor. This whole set up of going from one horrifying situation into a worse situation, into an even worse one was a set up with classic horror written all over it, but the rushed nature of the film never let it gain traction.

The second bit is a gothic tinged bit of boilerplate where a group of models are taken to a remote island mansion for a photoshoot. The island is only accessible by boat, but sure enough our slender, bespectacled killer shows up and starts slaughtering everyone. The most clever twist comes when one of the girls thinks the killer is coming through the door but shoots her friend instead. This middle bit was just screaming to be made as a lurid Italian gothic/giallo joint directed by Segio Martino or Emilio Miraglia. The idea is solid but the execution is a tad pedestrian.

The third bit is far less creative and far sleazier. As a stewardess is being stalked, again, yes at this point the repetitive nature of the plot starts to grind down. Her car breaks down and she gets picked up by two sailors who drug and rape her. The next morning you know who comes to her rescue offering aid. Now there is finally some tension as we the audience know he’s the killer but our heroine doesn’t and is trusting of this soft spoken Samaritan. Again the truncated storytelling quickly makes her aware of his identity and forces her to be trapped in the car with him on a lonesome stretch of California highway just long enough for it to end as a routine rape revenge movie.

The Centerfold Girls wastes so much potential with the plots that never got a chance to live and some beautiful California girls, including Francine York, Tiffany Bolling, and Jaime Lyn Bauer, who aren’t shy about taking off their clothes mixed with some gruesome razor deaths. Andrew Prine makes for a memorable villain with his impossibly lanky build house in a dark suit with high water pants and two tone shoes, he looks like a David Lynch character and his calm demeanor proves especially chilling in the final act. Usually movies like this are endlessly padded but director John Peyser and screenwriter Bob Peete could have made multiple films out of some of the material they had in Centerfold Girls or at least could have taken more running time to flesh their stories out. The film clocks in at 90 minutes and even an extra 15 minutes would have given the movie a lot more heft. Sadly the whole is less than the sum of its parts, yet despite its shortcomings, The Centerfold Girls is a worthwhile watch, easy on both the eyes and the brain.

The Centerfold Girls is available on streaming from Amazon Prime and on Blu-Ray from Gorgon Video.

Recently on Ink 19...

Hell High

Hell High

Screen Reviews

Forgotten ’80s horror film Hell High returns on Blu-ray from Arrow. Phil Bailey reviews.