Point of Terror is the final film in a career cut short. Actor/producer Peter Carpenter only has four credits on his IMDb page, and this is the last. There are conflicting stories in the tubes, but what they all agree on is that Carpenter is dead. It happened at any time between 1971, not too long after this film was released, and the early 1980s. Either way, Carpenter was poised to have a fantastic career in shitty movies, akin to that of Andrew Stevens, but it wasn’t to be.
Carpenter and fellow producer Chris Marconi came up with the story for this flick, with Ernest A. Charles and Tony Crechales supplying the screenplay. Alex Nicol directed.
In many ways, Point of Terror is a reworking of the previous Carpenter/Marconi joint, Blood Mania. Like that film, this film is not a horror flick, although it is titled as if it were. Also like that film, Carpenter plays the lead, there is an affair between him and a rich, married woman, there’s a little bit of murder, an inheritance, and the late appearance of an ingenue that throws a wrench into everyone’s plans.
Carpenter plays Tony Trelos, a struggling lounge singer whose career has landed him a regular gig at, I shit you not, a seafood restaurant called the Lobster Shack. Viewers are treated to an opening song and dance number from Trelos that has to be seen to be believed. I’m pretty sure it’s actually Carpenter singing. Even if it’s not, the opening number is an astounding example of shitty movie fearlessness, and makes me wish, more than anything else in this film, that Carpenter had lived and kept making movies.
By happenstance, Tony meets Andrea Hilliard (Dyanne Thorne), the wife of the owner of National Records, Martin Hilliard (Joel Marston). Tony and Andrea strike up an affair, with the promise that Andrea will trade a record contract in return for sex. That’s the setup, and all that’s left is murder and betrayal. Like Blood Mania, the plot plays out like an old EC comic. That is, it’s the simplest noir components with a couple of twists and turns to keep viewers guessing.
Watching Carpenter and Thorne chew up scenes together is another treat for viewers. Carpenter is swarthy enough to be believable, while Thorne dialed up massive reserves of soap operatic venom whenever her character gets pissed. She’s not as good in this film as Maria De Aragon was in Blood Mania, but when she’s called upon to lose her mind, does just fine. The main reason that Thorne appears in this film, though, is her fantastic rack. This being something of an erotic neo-noir thriller, there is nudity, and Thorne has always been willing to bare it all.
The ingenue that shows up for the final act is Martin’s daughter from his first marriage, Helayne (Lory Hansen). Now Tony has more lovers than is good for him, setting up a decent denouement.
Point of Terror really is the same film as Blood Mania, with a lot of new window dressing. It’s almost as if the previous film were an early draft of this film. What makes this film stand out from its progenitor is Carpenter. His character is more outlandish than the staid, yet caddish, doctor of the previous film. He just has so much confidence in his lounge music, and that music is such a perfect accompaniment to all the other shittiness in this film, that it raises this film’s watchability all by itself. If the internet is to be believed, before Carpenter made it into b-movies in his early middle age, he worked the lounges of Vegas. He brought that polished futility to this film, and left me wanting more. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
Point of Terror has some slow bits, and there were plenty of flubbed lines spread around the cast. But, a tighter production than Blood Mania, and the performances from Carpenter, Thorne, and a lively Leslie Simms as one of Andrea’s girlfriends, push this flick ever so slightly into the top half of the Watchability Index. Point of Terror takes over the #135 spot from Women’s Prison Massacre. It’s worth checking out just for the shitty lounge music.