The Warner Archive camptastic '70sclicious horror film "Wicked, Wicked" further cements the position of Archive as the leader in obscure home video releases. The studio tagline for this film, which is largely presented in the split-screen format dubbed "duo-vision," aptly describes the movie as "Twice the Tension! Twice the Terror!"
As an aside, "Wicked" writer/director Richard L. Bare is a veteran of the '60s sitcom classic "The Beverly Hillbillies" rural spinoffs "Petticoat Junction" and "Green Acres." Setting the hotel-based mayhem of "Wicked" at the "Junction" B&B The Shady Rest would have been beyond awesome even though young blonde Billie Jo in that series would have been the first to get diced and sliced.
The fun of this film extends well beyond a truly "Psycho" killer (who is tense and nervous and can't relax) stalking his prey at a busy seaside hotel that has the same architectural style as the grand lodging at which the horror classic "The Shining" is set. An opening scene in which the first depicted victim is seen checking in to this hotel California on one side of the screen while the other side shows a concealed individual watching her through a removed panel in the lobby ceiling quickly introduces the audience to the awesome fun of the aforementioned "duo-vision."
The following clip, courtesy of Archive and YouTube, also wonderfully conveys the "Wicked" elements described above. We see a creepily eerie scene between a quirky hotel electrician and a lonely old female guest played by Madeleine Sherwood of "The Flying Nun" unfold next to equally disturbing images from the mind's eye of the former that help us understand how he becomes the manboy he is today.
The initial concern of stereotypically blustering hotel manager Mr. Simmons is that the handful of female blonde guests who check in but do not check out are doing midnight skips. This prompts him to put hairy chested studly hotel dick (and disgraced former cop) and wonderfully named Rick Stewart on the case. Of course, Stewart figures out the real score long before his highly unpleasant superior. They are no Higgins and Magnum, but their interaction offers somewhat comparable entertainment.
The best casting comes in the form of having Edd "Kookie" Byrnes of the classic television series "77 Sunset Strip" play studly hotel lifeguard Hank Lassiter. Suffice it to say that the extra attention that Lassiter provides female guests extends beyond moonlighting as a room service waiter. Further, the special effects in the scene that depicts the fate of Lassiter hilariously evoke thoughts of 12 year olds with a early model video camera.
The latest target for our villain being the singer ex wife of our hero additionally contributes to the '70s style fun; revealing that Rick and the former Mrs. Stewart end up in bed together is not an especially egregious spoiler.
This time capsule in film form wonderfully has our killer using his knowledge of the hidden areas of the hotel to pursue his hobby while Rick is not so hot on his trail through most of the movie. The aforementioned stereotypes of the era being well represented add to the fun.
All of this culminates in a final chase that is very much in keeping with the post-Code standard of "Wicked." However, the manner in which this comes to pass is adequately surprising to entertain.
All of this amounts to "Wicked" being another in a long string of Archive releases to which the phrase "they don't make them like that anymore" applies. The difference this time is that the emphasis is more on cult than on classic.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Wicked" is encouraged to email me. Connecting on Twitter via @tvdvdguy is another option.