CALIFORNIA AXE MASSACRE- UK re-release 'exploited' label
(aka AXE)

This is one of the group of horror movies banned in the UK in the early 80's; which came to be known as the 'Video-Nasties'...   1 and a half stars


directed by: Frederick R. Freidel
starring: Jack Canon, Ray Green, Frederick R. Freidel, Leslie Lee, Douglas Powers, Frank Jones Carol Miller, Hart Smith, George J. Monaghan, Scott Smith

choice dialogue:

"Why did he do that? It's twelve floors!"
"Nah, it's only nine..."

- two of the crooks discuss why a man jumped out of a window to get away from them.

(back of video blurb):

       "Three demented killers, Steele, Lomax and Billy, hide from the police at an old farmhouse occupied only by a tender young girl and her invalid father. The innocent girl, Lisa, finds herself the object of the savage brutes' sordid desires. Thus the axe comes into play and the blood starts to flow. AXE

       The nation's moral panic, sparked off by vote hungry politicians and ignorant tabloid journalists, led to the banning of a number of horror flicks in the early eighties. "The Video Nasties" black list included titles like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, THE EVIL DEAD, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS as well as some lesser known titles such as Fredirick Freidel's atmospheric slasher, AXE. The film was distibuted by "sultan of exploitation" Harry Novak whose impressive repertoire includes THE SINFUL DWARF, MANTIS IN LACE, and THE BLACK CONNECTION plus a number of soft-porn hillbilly pictures. It was advertised in many territories, including the UK where it played on a double bill with ZOMBIE CHILD (aka THE CHILD), as CALIFORNIA AXE MASSACRE - for maximum exploitation value. Most prints of the film carry the more modest title, AXE."

slash with panache?

       This low budget bore which rips off the title of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), and borrows the feel of Wes Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) has finally escaped the clutches of the 'nasties' list; making a belated, and butchered (cut by 19 seconds by the BBFC), re-appearance courtesy of the relatively new exploited label (in the UK). Don't worry- that is really tomato ketchup!

       The plot, if you can call it that, revolves around the flight from justice of three violent hoodlums (one of whom, Billy, is played by the director Frederick R Friedel), after they cause the deaths of two gay men during a torture session; and terrorise, a female shop assistant with a game of William Tell- using live ammunition. They take refuge in a remote farm house where the only occupants are a blank faced girl called Lisa, and her near catatonic Grandfather. To their surprise the girl isn't as harmless as they first presume and, after one of them tries to rape her, they begin to drop like flies...

       There isn't much to recommend here. Most of the gore (if there was much in the first place) has been trimmed by the censors; what's left is just, literally, pools of tomato soup- and lets face it, who wants to watch an emasculated 'nasty'? The Lisa and the AXEfilm is certainly unpleasant- especially in its opening half hour, which comes across like a sordid skid row take on COLUMBO. The spartan and edgy score, by turns effective and grating, soundtracks a grinding, and pretty dull, catalogue of misanthropy. It's pretty offensive stuff, in only the way low budget early 70's exploitation can be- it certainly achieves it's aim of getting you to dislike the three psychos; but it's also pretty amateurish- badly paced and mind numbingly dull. Even if you enjoy your sleaze, you'll probably find yourself stifling a yawn before long- never a good sign. Even the title's a bit of a cheat- there are only two axe killings; and one of those (offscreen) is of a chicken!

       Somewhat making up for the inane nature of the main feature is the inclusion of some of a documentary with the film's producer- the self-proclaimed 'Sultan of Sexploitation', Harry Novak. He looks every inch the exploitation maestro you'd expect, and naturally makes no apologies for any of his crimes against celluloid- CALIFORNIA AXE MASSACRE included. Novak chats about his career in the cheapo film business over the years; producing such largely forgotten exploitationThe one other victim of THE CALIFORNIA AXE MASSACRE apart from the chicken! delicacies as HITCH HIKE TO HELL (1967), WHAM BAM THANKYOU SPACE MAN (1972) and THE SINFUL DWARF (1973). He talks briefly about how CALIFORNIA AXE MASSACRE was a bankrupt production he took over, and was originally passed by the BBFC for its UK cinema run; and marvels at the fact it was eventually banned on video- clearly unable to understand what all the fuss was about. Quite!.... Albeit a pretty cheap video job, the documentary (or at least what we get to see here- exploited neglect to mention on the box's blurb that you'll have to buy their upcoming release of THE CHILD (aka ZOMBIE CHILD) (1976) if you want to see all of the documentary) is far more interesting than the actual film that proceeds it. Full marks then to exploited for unearthing obscure genre items- their next releases are: Bob Clark's zombie movies CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS (1972) and DEAD OF NIGHT (1973). Unfortunately, they should have left the deadly dull CALIFORNIA AXE MASSACRE in blissful obscurity.

(Review originally appeared in the Winter '99 issue of CHAOS magazine)

BODYCOUNT 5  bodycount!   female:0 / male:5

       1) Male beaten to death with, amongst other things, a doll
       2) Male falls to his death
       3) Male killed with cut throat razor
       4) Male hacked to death with axe
       5) Male shot dead

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