The Sadist

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

The Sadist (1963, USA) is a Crime-Thriller film directed by James Landis.

Sadist.jpg SadistLobby.jpg

Main Details

  • Released in 1963
  • B & W
  • Running Time: 92 Min.
  • Production Co: Fairway International Pictures
  • Distribution Co: Fairway International Pictures (1963) (USA) (theatrical) | Cinemation Industries (1971) (USA) (theatrical) (retitled re-release) | Prima Film (1971) (Canada) (theatrical)
  • Directed by James Landis
  • Written by James Landis
  • Starring Arch Hall Jr., Richard Alden, Marilyn Manning, Don Russell, Helen Hovey
  • Produced by L. Steven Snyder
  • Original Music by Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
  • Cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond (as William Zsigmond)

Also Known As

  • Der Mittagsmörder (Austria / Germany)
  • A bruciapelo! (Italy)
  • Profile of Terror
  • Le Sadique (France)
  • Sadisti (Finland)
  • Sweet Baby Charlie (USA) (reissue title)
  • Todesangst (Germany)


  • Never before a motion picture Rampacked with... Suspense... Terror... Sudden Shock, as The SADIST
  • A Human Volcano Of Unpredictable Terror!
  • What Fiendish Passion Twisted His Mind--Made Him Torment, Torture, Kill?


After their car breaks down on the way to a baseball game, three friends: Carl Oliver (Don Russell) a teacher, Doris Page (Helen Hovey) and Ed Stiles (Richard Alden) find themselves in an old junkyard. They search for the owner, but can't find anyone. The place looks deserted. That is until Carl Oliver enters the main house and finds a table set up for dinner. Soon they are confronted by Charlie Tibbs (Arch Hall, Jr.) a psychotic criminal (inspired by real life teen killer Charlie Starkweather) and his quiet girlfriend Judy (Marilyn Manning). Tibbs holds the three hostage at gunpoint and begins his sadistic terrorizing. This role is probably Arch Hall's finest performance. He brings a level of unnerving cruelty and menace throughout the entire film. His maniacal giggles, taunting dialogue and cold stares come across as very disturbing. The Sadist is a classic potboiler that builds tension until the very end.


The film was made for only $33,000 and took six weeks to produce. The director of photography was a young Vilmos Zsigmond who would later work on such mainstream Hollywood classics as Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of The Third Kind (1977), Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978) and Brian DePalma's Blow Out (1981) among others. His work on The Sadist showed his early mastery of eyecatching camera angles and stark lighting contrasts. The film was set in the bright sunlight, which made it especially important to have the right mix of effective camerawork and believable reaction from the actors. This is where Zsigmond essentially turned the film into a strange kind of sunbaked exploitive film noir. The high contrast black and white style and hot, desert setting of The Sadist would be seen again in another cult classic, Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! which was released in 1965. These two films would make a great double feature!

Fairway Films, the production company behind The Sadist was the brainchild of real-life South Dakota cowboy Arch Hall, Sr., who had himself acted in a succession of B-movie Westerns in the 30s and 40s. Throughout the late 50s and 60s he would produce a run of exploitation fare including The Choppers, Wild Guitar and Eegah, but it was this psychodrama The Sadist that would stand head and shoulders above not only the Fairway catalogue but also the vast amount of low-budget movies of the decade. Tough and nihilistic, it would divide audiences of its day and would remain a well kept secret among cult movie aficionados. Indeed, Gremlins director Joe Dante described it as, “one of the most underrated B-movies ever” and “a brilliant example of the kind of tension and intensity that can be generated - in broad daylight, no less - on a shoestring by the right combination of people.” [1]

  1. From essay published as part of DVD insert. 2009 Powis Square Pictures.
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