Wednesday, September 21, 2016

#2,198. The Centerfold Girls (1974)

Directed By: John Peyser

Starring: Andrew Prine, Jaime Lyn Bauer, Aldo Ray

Tag line: "The most beautiful girls in the world ... some are for loving ... some are for killing!"

Trivia: A fire had broken out at the forest location in Topanga Canyon, CA, that was used for the climax of the film

One thing that 1974's The Centerfold Girls is not is a mystery; from the very first scene, we know exactly who the killer is, and watch as he (Andrew Prine) drags the naked corpse of a pretty young woman across a deserted beach and buries her in an open grave. The girl’s throat has been cut, and her murderer shows no emotion whatsoever as he shovels sand onto her lifeless body. Later on, when the killer returns home, we learn that his victim had once posed nude for a men’s magazine, and to signify he’s finished the task, he cuts her face out of said magazine with a straight razor.

She was Miss January, which means he’s only just begun… 

A top-notch thriller directed by John Peyser, The Centerfold Girls follows this killer as he stalks a trio of potential victims. Jackie (Jaime Lyn Bauer), aka Miss March, works as a nurse, and before heading out of town to interview for a new job she offers to give Linda (Janet Wood), a depressed young woman she’s only just met, a lift. Linda claims that she and her boyfriend had planned a trip to Barstow, but he never showed up, leaving her stranded in the middle of nowhere. But Jackie will soon discover that Linda isn’t what she appears to be, and as a result the next 24 hours will become a living hell for her.

Another model in terrible danger is Miss May, otherwise known as Charly (Jennifer Ashley), who travels to a secluded island with fellow models Glory (Ruthy Ross) and Sandi (Kitty Carl) to pose for yet another skin magazine. Joining them are Melissa (Francine York), who’s running the shoot, as well as photographers Perry (Ray Danton) and Sam (John Denos). Things get a bit tense when Melissa and Perry, who have a history together, start bickering non-stop, but it’s nothing compared to what awaits them all once the sun goes down…

Also on the killer’s list is Vera Porter (Tiffany Bolling), a flight attendant and part-time nude model. After returning home from several days away, Vera finds two dozen yellow roses in her apartment, which her neighbor Patsy (Connie Strickland) says arrived without a card. Moments later, the killer calls, telling Vera the roses were from him, and will look perfect on her grave. Frightened, Vera heads out of town and checks into a remote motel, only to have another two dozen roses show up in her room. It seems that the killer has no intention of quitting until the job is done, but has he met his match in the wily Vera?

For a low-budget thriller, the performances in The Centerfold Girls are quite good, especially Andrew Prine as the psychopath driven to eliminate those women brazen enough to “show their bodies”. As played by Prine, the killer (whose name is Clement Dunne) is clearly turned on by the nude photos (in one scene, he’s sitting naked on his bed while thumbing through the magazine), and the sexual feelings they stir up are too much for him to bear, causing him to lash out at those who arouse his passion.

Yet what’s truly impressive about The Centerfold Girls is how it successfully relates three very unique, yet equally engrossing stories, each centering on a different potential victim. All three girls experience their share of problems, some of which have nothing at all to do with the maniac who is stalking them; the 1st segment, which features Jackie, is, without a doubt, the most tragic of the bunch (what happens to that poor woman over the course of a single day is beyond belief). Each of these tales would have been strong enough to be their own film, and to have them together in a single movie makes for one very intense, wholly satisfying motion picture experience.

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