THE CRY BABY KILLER
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
Jus Addiss/Roger Corman
What's it about
When he tries to win back "his girl" from a mobster, Jimmy (Nicholson) lets loose with some wild gunplay and hits some innocent bystanders. Thinking he's a killer, the situation breaks down into a harrowing and overwrought hostage drama. It's a classic dose of B-movie 1950's youth angst, and the already impressive first steps of a cultural icon.
Is it good movie?
Definately, and it's also a rare gem that has been released on DVD. It's easy to see the burgeoning talent that is Jack Nicholson in this movie, which is his first major role at the age of 21. He clearly does an impressive job with what was originally some poor scropt material, giving us an emotional performance and showing glimpses of the manic brilliance that would make him famous.
This movie is also one of the early low budget, B-movie productions from the legendary Roger Corman, whose career would follow a different path from Nicholson's, mostly staying within the realm of independent, "no budget" features filled with schlock and ample amounts of genre cheese. However, working with only three sets and a handfull of largely unknown actors, Corman and director Jus Addiss (a mainstay of Alfred Hitchcock Presents) create an entertaining story filled with emotion and no small amount of angsty tension. The story of Jimmy and his doomed love for Carole, while being slightly cheesy and over emotional, is a tragic and well plotted one. The flick plays out much like an episode of Hitchcock or many other films of the time, like a stage play instead of a cinematic creation. However, much like Addiss's other work, the staged drama is pulled off nicely.
While The Cry Baby Killer is a rare cinema treat in itself, the main attraction of this DVD is the inclusion of the original 1960 version of Little Shop of Horrors. While this version was overshadowed by the musical remake that would follow two decades later, it's atill a darkly comic tale of love and murder, finely acted and well directed by Corman himself. Jonathan Haze plays poor hapless Seymour, whose love for flowergirl Audrey (Jackie Joseph) conflicts with his care for Audrey II, a giant carniverous plant that is making Seymour kill just to feed it blood! Add in a seriously sadistic dentist and an appearance by Jack Nicholson as the most masochistic patient ever (he really does steal the entire movie with his part, giving us a look at his later manic, arched-eybrowed brilliance) and you have a classic of dark humour and playful horror. Too bad it's been digitally colourized, which in my opinion detracts from the charm and black comedy fun of the original.
Video / Audio
The Cry Baby Killer - Video: Full Screen (1.33:1) Black & White.
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1).
Little Shop Of Horrors - Video: Full Screen (1.33:1) Colour.
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1).
We get 2 All New Introductions from legendary independent B-movie producer/director Roger Corman, which serve as great primers to the two films.
Two movies in one great disc, despite the lack of features, that showcase the ealy steps of two very different cultural icons. It's worth picking up simply for it's place in film history, giving us the early performances of Hollywood acting great Jack Nicholson before he became a legend. It's also a rare look into the early career of independent producer Roger Corman, whose genre efforts have always been entertaining and schlocky in an oh-so-good way. It may not be everybody's idea of great cinema, but it will entertain nonetheless, especially for fans of 50's teen/mobster drama and dark horror/comedy.