Saturday, 11 September 2010

Three on a Meathook

An early backwoods horror film, Three On A Meathook made in 1972 was William Girdler's attempt to out psycho Psycho by returning to the source material for Robert Bloch's original novel, namely Wisconsin's own favourite son, Ed Gein. In the film, four girls drive to the country for the weekend only for their car to breakdown in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night. However, their troubles are only beginning when local shy guy brings the girls back to his home where he lives with his father, and a very dark secret...

Three On A Meathook is no great shakes, but fans of the lo-fi ambiance of American independent exploitation of the early 70's should check his out. The film suffers from some stiff performances, and there's some pacing issues with two sequences in particular - when Billy goes to a bar in the city to cure his depression we have to sit through two (?) numbers by some awful crooning folk rock group; and a sequence in the latter half of the film where Billy and his girl endlessly walk through lyrical shots of meadows.

Director William Girdler is no Hitchcock, but thankfully he's no Andy Milligan either and at least Girdler knows how to frame a shot. Also, good use is made of the isolated farmhouse and its particularly sinister in the final act of the film. And while the film is not awash with the blood and carnage that the title promises, we do get the odd splash (albeit, subliminally) of some Hershall Gordon Lewis style gore. Girdler went to direct a handful of well known exploitation films throughout the 70's - Asylum of Satan (1972), Abby (1974), Sheba, Baby (1975), Grizzly (1976) and Day of the Animals (1977), before he was killed in a helicopter accident in the Philippines.

Three on three meathooks actually...

Three on a Meathook arrived almost two years beforeThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and one wonders would Girdler have made a better film had he modeled it on Tobe Hooper's film rather than Psycho. Furthermore, when the plot strands finally tie together in the final act, the film ultimately develops an interesting kinship with Pete Walker's 1974 film Frightmare.

There is a US DVD currently available but I hear the quality is quite poor. Perhaps, a better release will surface one day courtesy of Dark Sky or Code Red. Certainly the film is no better or worse than other obscure films of that era that have arrived on DVD with bells n' whistle special editions.


  1. I haven't seen this but find Girdler interesting - a director who tried his hand at many horror subgenres and never managed to distinguish himself at any of them. A sort of flipside to Jeff Leiberman. Have you seen The Manitou, Wes?

  2. That's a good summation of Girdler's career Jon. I havn't seen The Manitou - wasn't Girdler killed while he was making this ? The last one of his I saw was Sheba Baby - not classic Pam Grier but a decent enough film. I think I might pick up Grizzly at some stage - I actually had a run in with a grizzly bear a few years ago in Yosemite National Park in the US, and I've been strangely fascinated with them ever since...

  3. You must like the Werner Herzog documentary then! I saw Grizzley at the cinema when I was about 12. I don't remember much about it except being pleased to have snuck into a 'AA' certificate. Is it in Grizzly where the guy gets killed in the sleeping bag, or was it in Prophecy? I dunno -the two films get mixed up in my mind.

  4. To answer Jon's question - there's a sleeping bag death in both movies. I like Girdler - whose films are not able to be measured against a true movie quality yardstick but which do have some nice bits. The Manitou is well worth a watch - it's batcrap crazy. Girdler did not during its production - but location scouting his next movie - right before The Manitou was released to theaters.

  5. Ah thanks for putting the record straight on the passing of Girdler... I just had a quick check for The Manitou on your say-so and the old out of print Anchor Bay DVD is a tad expensive... but luckily, there is youtube...