Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Electric Chair (1976)

The second and final picture directed by J.G. Patterson Jr., who died before this film hit theaters, drama/thriller hybrid The Electric Chair is a weird viewing experience, but not in a good way. Built around the sensationalistic promise of scenes filmed inside a real prison’s death row, The Electric Chair devotes about a quarter of its screen time to horror elements including violent crimes and, as the title suggests, a lengthy execution scene. The horror material comprises grimy scenes of pain and suffering accompanied by grating electronic noises that pose as a musical score. Yet what makes The Electric Chair truly strange is everything else in the movie. Patterson tracks the confusing story of a dual murder, a criminal investigation that results in a false arrest, and finally a melodramatic court trial that unexpectedly reveals the identity of the real killer. These scenes are mesmerizingly bad not only because of Patterson’s clumsy camerawork and stilted writing, but also because of his propensity for casting amateurs (or incompetent professionals) in prominent roles. Actors in The Electric Chair often seem as if they’re reading off cue cards, parroting lines they were fed just before the camera rolled, or improvising based upon insufficient guidance about what to say. The confident actors look foolish and the nervous actors look embarrassed. Some might enjoy laughing at these bits, but the wise viewer avoids The Electric Chair entirely, since watching the picture is like enduring an evening of deranged community theater.

The Electric Chair: LAME

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