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  Axe Strange Little GirlBuy this film here.
Year: 1974
Director: Frederick R. Friedel
Stars: Leslie Lee, Jack Canon, Ray Green, Frederick R. Friedel, Douglas Powers, Frank Jones, Carol Miller, George J. Monaghan, Smith Hart, Scott Smith
Genre: Horror
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Three criminals, the leader Steele (Jack Canon), the older hitman Lomax (Ray Green) and younger novice Billy (Frederick R. Friedel, also the director of this), are waiting in a hotel room for their latest target, who has somehow crossed them. As they wait, they begin to grow impatient and Lomax especially becomes ever more unruly, with Steele's stern manner keeping him in check, but eventually the man returns and they pounce on him. As his friend cowers in a corner, the thugs beat up their quarry until he collapses dead at their feet whereupon they must take off into the countryside...

Presumably they were doing that so the cops would not catch them, but there was a lot about Axe which went unexplained. Apparently that was thanks to the producer, ahem, hacking out the expositionary and character establishing scenes to reach the more exploitative sequences quicker, which might have been right enough as the results as they stood lasted barely over an hour. Nevertheless, it is a movie which has tested the tolerance for obscure seventies horror movies ever since it was first released, under its original title of Lisa, Lisa or the more lurid Californian Axe Massacre (gee, where did they get the idea for that?).

Axe would be a lot more obscure if it were not for one dubious honour bestowed upon it by the British Department of Public Prosecutions: yup, it was one of those darned video nasties, banned on videocassette for having a corrupting influence on whoever watched it, or that was the notion behind its illegality, anyway. As it was, this made it much sought after and when it was finally given a proper release once the ban had been lifted, horror fans were able to see what the fuss had been about, or rather be let down by yet another movie built up as something sensational in their minds only revealed as a bit dull.

Therefore Axe got a latter day reputation as one of the most boring video nasties, which was not entirely unearned but did spawn a small and loyal following who responded to its blankly sinister goings-on and rural chill. Not that it was much of a movie, it looked more like somebody's student film than a work deserving of a cinema release, but once the three baddies get out into the middle of nowhere after a brief detour to victimise some poor soul behind the counter of a convenience store, an almost eerie stillness settled over the proceedings. They show up at a farmhouse where a paralysed old man and his spacey, chicken-beheading granddaughter Lisa (Leslie Lee) live, and decide to invite themselves in.

Lee, although playing a teenager, was plainly in her twenties at the time, but then as her age is never given in the story we cannot be sure, one of the many gaps in the details that might have cleared up the spotty plot, but then would probably not have made this quite as bewitching for its fans. The leading lady was making her only film with this, and she went on to be the subject of an urban myth that she had committed suicide shortly after it had been completed, which was not true (reputedly her mother was the one who did). However, mix that with the banned history of the movie and the fact this was one of the Last House on the Left rip-offs, and you have a decidely minor item bolstered by a curious mystique. It was true that though the story featured rape and murder very little was seen outside of the chicken execution, so it was more the self-contained, airless nature of the project that made Axe a strange experience. Or, yes, a boring one - the wasp trapped in a jam jar score not helping.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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