Point of Terror
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Director: Alex Nicol
Stars: Peter Carpenter, Dyanne Thorne, Lory Hansen
A nightclub singer has nightmares about being involved in adultery and murder, only to wake up and find that they may not be nightmares.
That First Impression
So I start up this movie expecting a typical 1970s low budget horror film. Maybe something sort of cheapie B-movie like Night Fright? Maybe some Italian trash that ends up being really good like The House that Screamed? The last thing I expected were the opening credits that I did get.
Peter Carpenter plays Tony Trelos, a talented singer with a regular gig singing nightly at the Lobster Lounge. His desire to become a major success is what motivates a lot of the story in this film. It’s kind of like if Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was about one guy instead of girl group, was a horror film and – you know what, this isn’t like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls at all. Scratch that analogy. No, this is more like Hustle & Flow just happening to take place in the early 1970s. More on that comparison later.
A Pre-Ilsa Ilsa
Simply the greatest thing about Point of Terror is Dyanne Thorne’s performance. She is the one thing that takes this film from being a generic 1970s thriller to become something truly memorable. Dyanne Thorne’s most notable role in her career was that of the title character in Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS and it’s various spinoffs. While she’s very well known as an actress in exploitation films, its her early work like in Point of Terror that I find more interesting. It seems to me that by the time Ilsa came around she knew the types of movies she was making and ran with that role – putting in fun performances that fit the genre. With Point of Terror, however, she puts in a rather sincere performance and one can tell that she really is a talented actress.
Here she is Andrea Hillard, the crazy alcoholic wife of successful music producer Martin Hillard. She meets Tony on the beach one afternoon and after seeing his performance onstage sets out to get him a recording contract and make Tony Trelos the next big thing in the music industry. However it’s soon apparent that she has an ulterior motive. She begins a passionate affair with Tony not because she loves him or his music but rather this is part of a psychotic revenge plot against her husband. Her spiteful goal is to make her crippled husband jealous and… that’s pretty much it. When Martin discovers his wife’s affair she drowns him in a pool.
Dyanne Thorne does a fantastic job in this film – I really can’t stress that enough. Her descent into drunken madness is played out wonderfully. Sure it’s a bit over the top but it works well here. If you’re interested, Dyanne Thorne’s most recent work is in the upcoming House of Forbidden Secrets directed by Jackalope Radio’s Todd Sheets.
The Hustle & Flow Analogy
Hustle & Flow is a 2005 drama starring Terence Howard as a hustler and pimp in memphis struggling to become a rapper. While Howard was nominated for a Best Actor academy award for this film and it did win the Oscar for Best Song (“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”) it was initially not the type of movie I would have watched at all. However, when I did it happened to be a real good movie. However, why bring this up in the middle of a review for a 1970s horror film? Because the two movies surprisingly have a lot in common. In fact the easiest way to fully explain the entirety of Point of Terror is to compare it to Hustle & Flow.
If you’ve never seen Hustle & Flow, here are the key things to point out. As I mentioned, Terence Howard is a pimp. Not in the metaphorical sense either, he has a couple women in his employ that sell their bodies for sex give him the money. Being a pimp is just a day job, however, because his true passion lies in music. and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make it big as a rapper. His means of achieving this goal are selfish and Machivellian. If success means getting one of his girls to blow a music store clerk in exchange for a condenser mic then so be it. If he’s got to beat Ludacris within an inch of his life just to get someone to listen to his music then, by God, he’ll do that too. In the end it is this passion for success that destroys him. He ends up in prison for his actions and while his songs eventually do get a bit of radio play it’s bittersweet because he’s not really there to enjoy that modicum of success.
The character of Tony Trelos in Point of Terror is not unlike that of Terence Howard’s role in Hustle & Flow. Tony’s success as a musician is his only goal and he’ll do whatever it takes to achieve that – no matter how many people he has to use. While he’s got a supportive girlfriend at the start of the movie, Tony is not past forgetting about her to enter into a love affair with Andrea in exchange for a record deal. When he proposes marriage to Andrea as a means to secure his success is when he discovers that he’s been a pawn in her own selfish game all along. Tony’s next step then is to romance Andrea’s daughter and marry her as a way to get at that record company fortune. Poor girl doesn’t even know she’s being used. When Tony’s early girlfriend reveals that she’s pregnant, Tony is willing to do whatever it takes to make her lose that baby – he doesn’t need drama like that interfering with his schemes. After he kills Andrea in a fight and is about to successfully make off with her daughter and the money Tony thinks he’s finally succeeded. The finale of the film, however, comes when Tony goes to tie up that one last loose end and is shot to death by the pregnant girl. It was his selfish drive for success that destroyed him in the end.
While Point of Terror does have a greater soap-opera style tone to it, both this film and Hustle & Flow eventually tell the same thing, that one should never be so greedy in pursuit of their dreams. Never forget the people that help you in your rise to the top – you step over and use others when trying to climb that ladder the consequences will destroy you.
And we, of course, have Dyanne Thorne’s awesome death sequence
Some Background Info
While I watched this as part of the Pure Terror DVD set, the movie intrigued me enough to seek out another DVD copy of the film available from Scorpion Releasing. While it’s the exact same movie (though a cleaner and widescreen presentation of it), I got the DVD for the special features which included a short documentary, “Remembering Peter Carpenter”, and a telephone interview with Dyanne Thorne.
Point of Terror was one of four movies Peter Carpenter starred in and the second one he wrote and produced (the first being Blood Mania) before passing away shortly after the release of this film. It’s pretty tragic that he died so young because the guy did show an amazing amount of talent. That is really him providing the vocals for the songs in this movie and he was also a Las Vegas jazz dancer prior to working in films. From the interviews on the DVD it’s easy to see that Peter Carpenter was a charismatic and nice guy, fondly remembered by all he worked with. Interestingly, Carpenter’s imdb bio lists him as passing away from a massive cerebral hemorrhage the same year Point of Terror was released but in the DVD interview co-star and friend Leslie Simms remembers hearing that he died from pneumonia in the late 70s. Is there a mystery here? What really happened to Peter Carpenter, a man with a lot of potential. The closest I could find was a forum thread talking about his death and pretty much asking the same things I am here.
While full of classic 70s exploitation cheesiness, Point of Terror ends up being a pretty good movie. The cast really puts in a passionate performance and the story, while a bit overly melodramatic, is still pretty captivating. I have to say that this movie really is one of the better things I’ve encountered on this DVD set. As for the upcoming movies – I only wish I could say the same.