Despite my usual aversion to movies about violence against women, I wanted to like A Knife for the Ladies because of its novelty, seeing as how it’s a serial-killer saga set in the Old West. Alas, the toxic combination of sluggish pacing and stupid plot twists makes the picture tedious and unsatisfying. Oh, well. Set in a small town somewhere in the Southwestern frontier, the picture follows two men as they investigate a series of mysterious killings. Jarrod (Jack Elam) is the local sheriff, a surly tough guy convinced he’s capable of keeping order all by his lonesome, and Burns (Jeff Cooper) is some sort of traveling specialist whom town officials hire because they think Jarrod isn’t up to the task. The movie’s rhythm is painfully predictable—in between gloomy scenes of a mystery figure slashing women, Jarrod and Burns engage in a pointless pissing match that distracts them from their investigative work. All of this unfolds on the same types of prefab locations used for a zillion cowboy shows, so even though the film’s production values and technical execution are fine, A Knife for the Ladies lacks authenticity in the same measure that it lacks suspense. The nature of the acting doesn’t help matters. Elam is restrained to a fault—the movie could use his customary over-the-top saltiness—and Cooper is genuinely terrible, a mannequin with a bad perm. Although costar Ruth Roman lends some energy to her scenes as the town’s grand dame, she unfortunately resides within the subplot that renders A Knife for the Ladies ridiculous during its final act, when the picture awkwardly transforms from a detective thriller to a campy horror show.
A Knife for the Ladies: LAME