The Toolbox Murders

The Toolbox Murders

The Toolbox Murders

Directed by Denis Donelly

Starring Cameron Mitchell, Pamelyn Ferdin, Wesley Eure

Blue Underground

This is a popular title with multiple conflicting IMDB listings, so I want to be clear this is a re-issue of the 1978 slasher/exploitation film that was a low-budget horror piece shot in the San Fernando valley. It’s based on a real serial killer who did in women with a battery-powered drill with a spade bit. As a reformed woodworker, this seems horribly inefficient and messy, which of course is the effect the director aimed at, and nailed. The setting is one of the endless mid-century apartment complexes off Ventura Boulevard, and it opens strong out of the gate with three murders in the first 10 minutes. It’s spiced up with just enough nudity to drop a cherry on top of the cake. In a manner of speech, of course. The police are right on the case, but there are three dead already and nary a clue. Then you get a bunch of plots, a passel of old white guy police officers, and pretty much the ending you would expect.

This version of Toolbox Murders became a big underground hit, particularly with frat houses and those filmgoers who only come out at night. The actual move dialog is about as elegant as eating Vienna sausages right out of the can, and it ranges from creepy to tedious and then back to improbable.

This release has two soundtracks which I found much more interesting. One track talks about the talent, many of whom went on to well-deserved obscurities. We learn about the times and who in the cast went on to become Los Angeles C-listers. Those soundtracks swing with well informed film historians Troy Howarth and Nathanial Thompson. The other track spends most of its time on the genre and where this film fits in that world. Both are good. I also received a bonus disk with plenty of fun little features including a short doc on Cameron Mitchell. While the main disk is 4K Ultra, the original film was shot on 16 mm and that’s what sets the quality of the playback. It’s a good solid slasher film made before the genre really took off, and while I’m not nuts about it, it offers a good selection of fun facts and acrid opinions. Fake blood and real boobs, 1970s style!

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