“The world is full of moldy figs: they’re the squares who eat, sleep, go to work, vegetate, and while they vegetate — I swing.”
A surly detective (Steve Cochran) and his partner (Jackie Coogan) search for a psychopathic rapist (Ray Danton) known as the “Aspirin Kid”, who finagles his way into Cochran’s house and rapes his wife (Fay Spain). When Spain discovers she’s pregnant, she and Cochran face the difficult decision of whether or not to abort; meanwhile, Danton blackmails his buddy (Jim Mitchum) into instigating a copycat rape against a woman (Mamie van Doren) in order to throw the police off his trail.
It’s difficult to know where to begin in assessing this painfully insensitive detective flick, conveniently situated within a Beatnik milieu simply for its novelty and exploitation value. Danton and Cochran are posited as two sides of the same flawed coin — one a psychopathic killer, the other a determined cop, yet both with an inbred distrust of (and/or hatred for) women; the intersection of their two characters seems designed to provide psychological complexity to the script, but instead just leaves us cringing. The rape scenes are disturbing, as expected — but what’s genuinely shocking is how Cochran treats the victims he interrogates, essentially accusing them of complicity in the crimes. (We’re reminded that his former wife was a tramp, which excuses his behavior, I guess.) Meanwhile, when Cochran’s current wife learns she’s pregnant but isn’t sure whether the father is Cochran or Danton, the storyline veers into a truly bizarre pro-Choice subplot that must be seen and heard to be believed. There’s some curiosity value to be had in the sight of a short-haired Vampira in Beatnik get-up, spouting a moronic poem about parenthood while stroking a white rat perched on her shoulder, but this ultimately just feels wildly incongruous to the plot. And while Mamie van Doren brings a bit of life to the second half of the film as a would-be victim, her presence once again feels superfluous, and is clearly designed simply to bring sexual star-power to the film. What’s most astonishing is that the screenplay for this clunker was co-written by the estimable Richard Matheson (who clearly must not have had any final say in what appeared on screen).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Good use of L.A. locales
- An occasionally campy Beatnik sensibility: “There’s no tomorrow — not while the sky drools radiation gumdrops.”
No; definitely feel free to skip this one.