I don’t know what the Troma team is waiting for but it’s time to give The Love-Thrill Murders a full DVD release because it is easily one of the finest films in the Troma library. The film originally came out in 1971 with the title Sweet Savior and somewhere along the line, it was also called Frenetic Party but Troma made the correct choice by calling it The Love-Thrill Murders when they distributed it a few years after its initial run.
The Love-Thrill Murders is a somewhat fictionalized account of the Tate killings perpetuated by Manson family members. I say “somewhat” because director Bob Roberts followed some of the details but, to make the story work, changed a few of them, like having the Manson like leader Moon (Troy Donahue) present at the Tate killings which, of course, weren’t called the Tate killings in the film. Roberts wasn’t trying to make a straight, documentary retelling of what happened but instead to explore the makeup of the cult, the characters within and what drives them to follow their leader, who is nothing more than a long-haired degenerate.
People claim this is an exploitation film and, in a way, it is but it’s going for more than just cheap shocks. It actually is a well made film that is pretty disturbing. Troy Donahue does a convincing job in the role as he leads a group of hippies from drugged out parties and orgies to eventually commit the murder at the end of the film. The plot is pretty simple. The cult initiates a new recruit, the hippies have sex and do drugs of all kinds then plan the killing of Tate like actress Sandra (Renay Granville) and her swinging group of friends at a party.
While Moon is the main character, he’s obviously just a one-dimensional manipulator, using or rather perverting Christian symbols and rituals to his own need. That’s an interesting detail; that the ceremonies, despite only referring to the cross and Christian mythology look more like Satanic rituals. After all, what kind of Christian ceremony incorporates sex on an altar?
But the other character the movie really focuses on is the above-mentioned new recruit. I wish I could remember her name but the IMDB credits are no help since they don’t have pictures. But basically she’s a confused, run-away kid looking for acceptance among this new, hip group of people. And it stands to reason she has no particular sociopath tendencies. In fact it’s easy to tell she doesn’t exactly feel comfortable with all of the stuff Moon wants her to do to prove she’s with it. Her desire to fit in eventually leads to the film’s disturbing climax where we witness how far peer pressure can lead a person.
The rest of the kids do anything he tells them, including an early scene where the girl and her friend pick up a local dealer and give him oral sex in exchange for drugs. One of the kids is Squeagie who is played by none other than Lloyd Kaufman, weee!
On the other hand, the actress Sandra and her bunch try to live up the modern, swinging late 60s/early 70s lifestyle and want to party with the freaks. Among the group is a particularly flamboyant homosexual whose role is somewhat comical if a bit stereotypical; he gets disgusted by the word “cunt.”
Altogether, as said before, this is a good movie. Some of the orgy scenes go on a little too long and almost threaten to take away the movie’s credibility but since the acting is good and the killing is realistic and violent, the film prevails at doing what it sets out to do.