The Toolbox Murders 4K BluRay review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

Review of the recent 4K UltraHD release by Blue Underground of The Toolbox Murders.


The movie opens with a series of gruesome murders that take place all within one apartment complex, carried out with what seems to be various tools. The neighborhood is in fear but the cops stumble around in the dark with no leads to capture the mysterious serial killer. Vance Kingsley (Gordon Mitchell) the building owner, pledges to fully cooperate. The next day, Laurie Ballard (Pamelyn Ferdin), another tenant, is abducted. Her brother Joey (Nicholas Beauvy) decides to investigate on his own in the face of the police's ineptitude. Him and his friend Kent (Wesley Eure), Kingsley's nephew, who's tasked with cleaning up the murder scenes, start digging around. As it starts dawning on Kent that Vance may in fact be the killer and kidnapper, he himself finds himself in grave danger....


The Toolbox Murders starts off like a giallo slasher, albeit minus the style and most of the artistic devices (or rather: it plays on some of the themes and then ditches them pretty quickly). While it does have its moments, it overall comes across as a fairly cheap TV thriller with some added psycho kills, gore and boobs, basically the reasons the movie is known for in the first place. Donnely is mostly a TV director, so expectations should have been low, but the movie drags on after the first third and never really manages to recapture the initial novelty of the first few kills (the ending is about as boring as the first 15 minutes are intriguing, by the way). The movie may be notorious, but it’s boring and not very good, period.

Mitchell does a great job adding some character to this, and is rightfully celebrated for it in the audio commentary that comes with this disc. He plays the psycho with some guts and takes certain artistic liberties without which the movie would be totally doomed. Now, as much as the movie fizzles around if you subtract the gore and nudity, it’s also generally rather dark. The giallo genre as such had also already gone down a fairly dark aisle by that time, but whereas the gialli, even the bad ones, still held style over substance, this one just has very little style, and shoots the little of it is has in the opening sequence.


The Toolbox Murders is less than its reputation suggests, but there’s something that draws fans to this movie, and it has to do with the sort of nonchalant and easy slashing combined with the just really wild ending of the story (which however isn’t very exciting as such) that mimics The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s premise and playout. The makers of this film did an admirable job of packaging a crap script in something that’s playbook exploitation, with some fantastic psycho slaughter of pretty women, but overall it just lacks character I think.

The new 4K UltraHD BluRay that Blue Underground has recently released looks good (it is based on a new 4K scan from the uncut camera negative), but is not reference quality material. The dark scenes look a bit too dark (I do not have HDR) and the picture is overall rather grainy, but alright. The audio (including the revamped Atmos track) is unfortunately a bit hissy I think, and it’s noticeably so. There is a 5.1 DTS-HD MA and an 1.0 alternative as well. It sounds alright, but the hissing could’ve been dealt with I think. There are subtitles in English (SDH), French and Spanish.


This release shines once more in the special features. There are two audio commentaries on the UltraHD disc along with the movie. The first is with producer Tony DiDio, director of photography Gary Graver and Star Pamelyn Ferlin. The second is with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson. The latter is, as expected, superior due to its wealth of information, and it’s also more entertaining and kind of better than the movie. All in all, the commentary offering here is interesting, but not too exciting. You’ll also find the very grindhousey theatrical trailer, a TV spot and radio spots.

On the accompanying BluRay disc, aside from finding the film there as well in standard HD format of course, there’s a plethora of additional extras. You can kick off your journey with a poster and stills gallery. This time there’s no booklet by the way, the release sits in a cardboard sleeve with an embossed finish. Both discs are all region.


There are six interview featurettes on here. One with director Dennis Donnelly (20min) which is kind of interesting. There’s one with star Wesley Eure (27min) which I liked, because Eure is an interesting character in real life and in the movie of course. It gets interesting with the interview with actress Kelly Nichols (31min). She had one of the more lets say daring scenes in the movie and she has some great memories of her career and way into this movie. The interview with actress Marianne Walter (8min) is carried over from a previous disc. But of course Marianne Walter and Kelly Nichols are one and the same person. Then there’s one with with critic and historian David del Valle, who talks about Cameron Mitchell (25min) . You could say rise and fall of Cameron Mitchell. It’s super interesting of course, beyond this movie even, a fascinating trivia rich presentation. From broadway to sleazy grindhouse movies, from hollywood to cinecitta, Mitchell had quite the life. Lastly there is a video essay by film historian Amanda Reyes and filmmaker Chris O’Neill (19min), which is not bad but by the time you get to this you already know most of what they talk about in the essay.

All in all, a great chance to watch this notorious flick, whether you appreciate its qualities or not. The disc is another stellar publication from Blue Underground.

Written by Seb, published February 16, 2022. Thanks to Blue Underground for providing a copy of this disc.

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