Cover Girl Killer
The idea of exploitation films having bizarre double standards, and seeming
to rail against themselves, may well have started with this little
gem, the influences of which can be seen in other "porn is bad /
here's another naked lady" extravaganzas such as Night
After Night After Night.
Try to imagine that esteemed taste monitor of middle England, Mary Whitehouse,
running her own "rhythm" magazine. That's the impression that
these strange little films seem to revel in - the idea that everyone else's
porn is responsible for all the ills of society, but what they're doing
Of course, Cover Girl Killer being a 1950s film, there's actually
very little flesh on show, but there's at least as much as there is in
"Wow!", the pin-up paper that's at the root of the trouble.
And surprisingly, the film also subverts a couple of clichés and
comes out with some great dialogue along the way. All this in just 58
Wow! Is introduced to us as the kind of magazine that's "not for
people who can read" by the leering doorman at the strip club at
the centre of the story, who adds that he's not much of a lady's man these
days: "At my age?! I like Brazil nuts, but I got false teeth,"
He's talking to Johnny, who's become a literal "stage door Johnny"
recently, as he's a journalist writing "A day in the life of a showgirl"
for that very magazine. He's got quite close to one of the stars at the
Casbah Club, the extremely attractive June, but she flounces off when
she finds out he's not actually getting paid by the publication
(she thinks he's making it up just to get close to her and her stripping
At the same time, a Mr Spendoza has turned up to take one of the other
girls out for a meal. He's spun her a line about being in television,
but the next time we see her (in a shocking jump cut) she's very dead.
Johnny's an immediate suspect (being one of the last people to see the
unfortunate girl alive), but we all know it was "Spendoza" -
for one thing, he's played by the only real star name in the film, Harry
H Corbett. For another, when we first see him, he's wearing a flasher's
mac, a badly fitting wig and a pair of the most ridiculous pebble glasses
you've ever seen. His whole look just screams "sex pest". Yet
bizarrely, this is all a front. "Spendoza" (we never learn the
killer's real name) is actually quite a dapper young man, and the kiddie-fiddler
outfit is just a disguise (told you this film had a few cliché-busting
Johnny soon stops being a suspect (he's just too nice, obviously),
and he explains that he doesn't actually work for Wow!, because he owns
it. He's a former archaeologist who inherited the magazine, and describes
his half-arsed attempts at journalism as: "a case of amateur fools
stepping in where professional angels fear to tread."
He's also sussed that the girl was found in the same outfit (a leopard
skin bikini) and pose as she appeared on the cover of Wow! recently. Luckily,
so have the police (they're slightly less stupid in this film than usual,
which makes a refreshing change) - a girl was found dead in the bath a
couple of months ago (once again in the same pose as her cover debut),
and yet another went missing six weeks ago, leaving her husband for a
man matching "Spendoza's" description.
The police and Johnny come to the same conclusion - that they need to
find the next cover girl - who recently won Miss Torquay. But by the time
they get to Devon they're too late - the killer's got to her first and
spirited her away to a photographic studio. Doing his best Cary Grant
impersonation, Harry H Corbett tells the slightly worried young model:
"I can assure you, your nudity
means nothing to me.
"You hesitate to take your clothes off in front of me, yet you're
quite happy to exhibit your nakedness to the whole world, on the front
of this filthy magazine!"
With Miss Torquay dead, the killer does what all the best nutters do -
he goes and shows off at Scotland Yard, getting an interview with the
officer in charge of the case and saying that he "knows the killer"
(he looks so different to their description of "Spendoza" that
they don't realise they've got their man).
The police decide that the only way they're going to get their man is
by setting a honey trap - using June as bait. But the killer remains one
step ahead of them, sending in a man dressed up in his "pervert"
disguise to the club and avoiding the police himself.
The film ends in typical "killer at bay" style (Steptoe and
gun?), with June in an extremely fetching bit of underwear (of course)
and Johnny proving that not all heroes are handy with their fists.
Cover Girl Killer is a great little movie, which actually seems
a bit ahead of its time (despite its almost sweet approach to the subject
matter), pointing the way to the sex and horror thrillers of the late
60s and 70s. After all, as the killer says: "Surely sex and horror
are the new gods in this world of so-called entertainment."
The highlight has to be seeing Harry H Corbett playing the villain - because
he does it so well. The bit where he goes to show off to the police and
ends up bristling when the inspector calls him "insane" is fantastic.