Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Centerfold Girls (1974)

High and low narrative instincts collide with dismaying results in The Centerfold Girls, a misogynistic thriller about a psychopath preying on women who appear in nude magazine pictorials. The picture has a somewhat arty story structure, and the closing credits divide the film into “The First Story,” “The Second Story,” and “The Third Story.” Presumably this was the filmmakers’ workaround for the problem of killing off a protagonist every 30 minutes, since the psychopath (Andrew Prine) is mostly shown ogling nudie pictures and terrorizing his intended victims with phone calls prior to killing them. There’s even a touch of artiness to some of the actual filming, and The Centerfold Girls contains one very stylish kill—when the psychopath swipes a razor blade across a woman’s throat with terrific force, the resulting blood spray splatters across a windowpane positioned between the victim and the camera. Throughout its running time, The Centerfold Girls has a high level of technical polish, at least compared the usual woman-hating grindhouse fare. Having said all that, the movie is, at its core, clunky and ugly. The scenes with Prine create a modicum of continuity, but otherwise the picture flops from one meandering sequence to the next, burning screen time until the stalker music kicks in and the razor blade emerges again. At its most directionless, the picture drifts into a wholly separate storyline, with a nurse taking refuge in a mountain cabin only to get menaced by hippie cultists who rape her. Yet another unpleasant narrative detour involves a character played by B-movie regular Aldo Ray. Introduced as a Good Samaritan, the fellow is revealed as a would-be rapist who gets frustrated because his intended victim doesn’t put up enough of a fight. Ugh. Loaded with excessive bloodshed and gratuitous nudity, The Centerfold Girls is among the better-made films of its type—but there’s not much glory in being the best of a bad bunch.

The Centerfold Girls: LAME

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