What is it about hookers. anyway?
Seriously, friends — have you ever heard of a serial killer who preys on flight attendants, teachers, day care providers, or female accountants? I sure never have, nor have I seen a movie about such an individual, but the minute prostitutes come into play, the knives come out. You’d think that any guy with an ounce of respect would be grateful for the services these ladies provide, but apparently that’s not the case since, as film after film —not to mention too many tragic real life instances — have shown us, there’s probably no more dangerous profession than the world’s oldest.
If you’re like me, you’re probably tired of all the belly-aching we hear about how the police are “heroes” because they have such a hazardous job. How many times have we seen cop shows on TV where some detective’s wife is crying about how “she never knows if her husband is going to come home from work alive”? As if the wife of a 7/11 cashier or cab driver or coal miner or oil rig worker — jobs that numerous surveys have shown are all, statistically speaking, much more hazardous than police work — doesn’t feel exactly the same way. Needless to say, a prostitute’s husband, boyfriend, wife, or girlfriend has even more cause to be fearful about the safety of their loved one, don’t they?
I’m not saying we should dismiss the risks that the police face or not be grateful for the public service that cops (at least the good ones) provide — I’m just saying that it’s well past time that hookers got a little bit of respect, too, don’t you think?
One creep who’d probably disagree with me is Richie (played by Ian Scott), the murderous protagonist in director/producer Joseph Zito (here working under the not-even-clever pseudonym of Joseph Bigwood)’s 1979 feature Bloodrage (also released onto VHS — but never, to date, DVD — under the title of Never Pick Up A Stranger, which was actually the fucking tag line on this film’s theatrical release poster), a small-town kid who’s obviously got some serious issues when it comes to cutting the apron strings. He’s taken a liking to a country hooker (who works out of her home, no less) named Beverly (Judith-Marie Bergan), but when she threatens to tell his mommy that he showed up at her door looking for some action but without the means to pay, he does what these guys all do in flicks like this — namely, kills her.
And that’s about it for actual blood in Bloodrage. Oh, sure, Richie high-tails it to New York City, where he lands a room at a fleabag Times Square (or, as he amusingly refers to it in a phone call home to mommy, “theater district”) flophouse, a less-than-prestigious gig at the Yoo-Hoo bottling plant, and befriends a washed-out alcoholic neighbor named Candice (Rita Ebenhart) — hell, for a minute there it even looks like he might have met a young lady who could be actual girlfriend material until he learns she’s just a free-lovin’ hippie chick with an old man who doesn’t mind sharing — and his hooker-killing ways continue, but the first murder we get here is really the only reasonably gory one, the rest being your typical strangulation jobs.
Richie’s evidently a pro at cleaning up evidence, though. When a detective from back home named Ryan (portrayed by James Johnson — like a lot of movie cops he apparently has no first name, but in this case that’s just karma doing it’s thing since Richie’s got no last name), who was sweet on Beverly, comes calling and finds no sign of her, he decides to take some vacation time, head for the Big Apple (does anyone still call it that, by the way?), and see if he can’t track her down and make an honest woman of her.
Curiously, local law enforcement (particularly one Sergeant Malone, played by the always-awesome Lawrence Tierney) actually seems more than amenable toward helping this off-duty interloper from upstate, even though he is, for all intents and purposes, just some guy who’s looking for a hooker who may not even be in the city since he actually has no evidence of where she went at all, much less whether or not she’s even alive or dead. Funny, but I always thought that if a fellow officer from another jurisdiction altogether were to show up at a major metropolitan precinct house and tell the guys there that he was looking for a girl he was in love with, that he wasn’t even sure she might be in their town, and that oh, by the way, she was also a hooker, he’d probably get laughed all the way back to BF Egypt. But I guess that’s not the way it works.
Anyway, while Ryan’s out doing his flat-footing, Richie finds time to take up voyeurism as a hobby — no surprise there — and is generally in the process of becoming a more and more lecherous, misogynistic creep by the day. New York will do that to a guy. And when some unsolved hooker murders start piling up on the desk at the station, and Ryan coincidentally happens to see ” a kid from back home” on the street one day, it’s not long before he puts two and two together and our enterprising young killer’s days turn out to be numbered.
The whole of Bloodrage takes just over 80 minutes and never really delivers anything you’d call unexpected — hell, the chain of serendipitous events that lead to Richie’s demise are downright waaaaaayyyyyy too convenient — but Zito, who would go on to direct comparatively bigger-budget works like The Prowler, Friday The 13th : The Final Chapter, Missing In Action, and Red Scorpion, among others — has a definite feel for the gutter, and his flick has an appropriately sleazy, grimy vibe throughout. I doubt very seriously that he ever went to the trouble of actually getting any filming permits, and the guerrilla-level production values and “get it in one take and let’s get out of here” ethos he employs serve his story well, even if they were more a function of necessity than choice.
The unpolished acting works, too, giving things a reasonably authentic flavor, with Scott especially hitting all the right notes as Richie. This is a guy who would creep you out if you even bothered to pay attention to him, but is so non-descript and unassuming that you probably wouldn’t. You can already hear his neighbors being interviewed on the news saying “I guess I’m kinda surprised he’d do something like this, he just seemed like one of those guy who was sort of — I dunno, there, ya know? Ya never had much reason to pay attention to him one way or another.” How many times have we heard a variation on those very words from somebody talking about a real life psycho?
Okay, fair enough, none of this adds up to the most ringing endorsement for Bloodrage, and admittedly it does drag in parts, as well —but it is what it is, and for what it is it ain’t half bad. As mentioned previously it has yet to see the light of day on DVD, much less Blu-Ray, but you can watch it in all its low-grade less-than-glory via the YouTube link below and decide for yourself. If these kinds of things are your kind of thing, you probably won’t be disappointed.