Gordon (Chard Hayward) works as a handyman and gardener at this Sydney mansion on the coast, a modern kind of dwelling situated quite a way away from the rest of the city, which suits its owner fine. She is Marie Coleby (Deborah Coulls), international singing star who has hit records to her name and is happy to order around everyone in her employ as if she were in charge of their lives, never mind their jobs. What she is unaware of is that Gordon fan-worships her, which would be nice were it not for his psychopathic tendencies that see him putting one of her records on in his room, staring at his posters of her, and writhing around with a life-size doll of her - how far will he go?
The director and writer here, Terry Bourke, was responsible for what is often referred to as Australia's first horror movie, which in fact was a television episode considered too strong for the Aussie public back in 1972 and so he had to find an alternative outlet for its distribution. Some credit him for kicking off the Ozploitation boom of the seventies and eighties, although there was more than one person responsible for that rash of activity, but he was still plugging away at genre flicks ten years later when he gifted the world this basic as you like slasher thriller, taking one menacing male and one victimised female, then mixing them together in the same plot.
Though actually there were two victimised females here, for Marie had a sister, Jenny (Louise Howitt) who shows up to spend the weekend with her at the house. The trouble with that being what has happened in the first half hour, where Marie was contrived to be left alone in the place with Gordon, a man we have already seen likes nothing more than to spy on her and masturbate as she goes about her daily business. We don't know how long he has been doing this, but we can guess it began about the point she first employed him, and more worrying as he enjoys himself solo he flashes back to the times when he had a naked woman or four in his close proximity.
At least two of whom, if his reveries (and Polaroids) are to be believed, he tortured and possibly murdered. It's men like him who give Peeping Toms the dire reputation they currently enjoy, and into the bargain Gordon was one of those entitled males who believes simply because he finds a woman attractive it is her duty to respond to him, therefore when snobby Marie encounters him in her house and orders him in no uncertain terms to leave, his reaction is something close to bafflement. That turns to anger. That turns to rape. That turns to murder, which at least was performed in typical slasher novelty manner: the poor lady is picked up, turned upside down and drowned in her fish tank, not something the likes of Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers would have opted for.
Anyway, that gruesomeness out of the way, earning the film its reputation for nastiness of a sort most thrillers made decades later would shy away from, possibly with good reason, Lady, Stay Dead settled into a more conventional woman under siege shocker as Jenny, not seeing anyone around and awaiting her husband's arrival, moves in and has the customary shower to relax, which is almost interrupted by Gordon with his garden shears (was he named Gordon in the script because it sounds a lot like "garden", we wonder?). But he decides he has a romantic streak, and after murdering the warden and his dog - just to really turn us against him and hope for a comeuppance - he appears at the front door with flowers and a bottle of plonk. All of which is too little, too late as Jenny now knows what is going on. If this was predictable for the rest of the running time, Bourke did have the courage of his convictions, and though the villain was weak narratively, the director set about what looked like an excuse for a seaside holiday with some gusto. Music by Bob Young, including a way overplayed ballad by "Marie".