I freely admit as a Nebraskan, we as a State, an entire entity, have an inferiority complex. We hayseeds and shit-kickers have a chip on our shoulder the size of Lake McConaughy (-- buy a map and look it up!) and rabidly defend our place in the Union by hoping our lack of uniqueness somehow makes us unique. What else do we have to be proud of? Our biggest claim to fame is having one of the dullest stretches of any Interstate; Johnny Carson, Marlon Brando, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, and a lot of other famous people were born here (-- but I point out they all left); and the schizophrenic weather, with all four seasons known to occur within the span of a few minutes, aren't really tourist attractions, either.
And then there's that whole Charlie Starkweather thing. E'yup, we had the Nation's first fugitive spree killer. Yay us. For those few who are unfamiliar with this yahoo, back in 1958, nineteen year-old Starkweather and Caril Fugate, his fourteen year-old girlfriend, terrorized the heartland as they blazed a trail through five States, leaving another trail of dead bodies behind them -- eleven people all together, including Fugate's parents and baby sister, whom Chuckles beat to death -- before finally being caught. My mother, who was twelve years old when these two were running amok, honestly doesn't like talking about it all that much; it scared her pretty good. What little she recollected was that the deadly couple were [allegedly] spotted in the nearby town of Hastings at one point -- as I'm sure they were [allegedly spotted] in every town at the time, and how her folks kept both doors locked and a shotgun, also locked and loaded, stationed by each. Everyone was scared, for this was a whole different kind of gun nut than, say, outlaw bandits like Bonnie and Clyde, or John Dillinger, who came before them.
After they were finally caught, Fugate turned against her boyfriend, claiming to be a hostage the whole time, but nobody bought her story. For their crimes, Starkweather got the electric chair, Fugate got a life sentence, and teenage delinquency had taken a new, and dangerously lethal turn. And advocates against things like rock and roll music, violence in the media, and the decline of moral values had a new poster couple to vilify as a new phrase entered our pop-culture lexicon: the thrill-killer.
Over the subsequent years, Starkweather and Fugate's homicidal relationship served as the basis for several films, most notably Terrence Mallick's Badlands, and its influence spawned a whole genre in the 1990's about trailer-trash with guns with films like Kalifornia and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Crackers -- erk, I mean, Natural Born Killers. Still, Badlands debuted almost fifteen years after Charlie got the chair. Seems mainstream Hollywood was reluctant to tackle the sore subject of this new breed of mass murderer; and while they wouldn't touch the likes of Starkweather, Richard Speck or Charles Whitman with a ten-foot pole, many a smaller, independent production companies were, forgive me, quicker on the trigger. And one of the first fledgling adaptations came out in 1963 by the anti-dynamic duo of Arch Hall Sr. and Arch Hall Jr. And judging by what they'd done before, cinematically speaking, you never would have guessed they'd have this good a movie in them. Coming on the heels of EEGAH!, their giant caveman on the loose epic, came this criminally underrated gem of a film: an honest study in unbridled brutality and mounting terror called The Sadist...
The Sadist (1963) Fairway International Pictures / P: L. Steven Snyder / D: James Landis / W: James Landis / C: Vilmos Zsigmond / E: Anthony M. Lanza / S: Arch Hall Jr., Marilyn Manning, Helen Hovey, Richard Alden, Don Russell