Love Butcher, The (1975)

Imagine, if you will, a long, steady pan of a garden. It’s blurry. You squint to make out some grass…some hedges…maybe some roses. You finally understand what it’s like to have cataracts. Then a scene comes into focus. You see a young woman impaled by a rake. A yellow rose is tossed carelessly onto her body. Cue the tubas, slide whistles, and Beethoven’s Fifth. This is The Love Butcher.

There’ve been a series of murders in a quiet suburb of absent husbands and discontent housewives. A psychotic killer is targeting women! A cop and a reporter discuss the case while coroners wrench the rake out of the woman.

“The killer could be an ordinary man. He could be just like you!”

If you are an unhinged gardener/record salesman with a split personality and a fake Puerto Rican accent, then the killer is just like you.

Caleb is a mentally challenged gardener with Coke-bottle glasses and severely busted teeth. He actually has teeth growing on top of his teeth. There was an episode of That’s Incredible where a guy ate a bike — chain and all. I don’t remember his teeth, but I’m sure they were mad busted. Fun fact: the same guy also ate a Cessna. I can only imagine the indigestion. Eating a plane might actually be worse than eating from that Indian food cart parked outside of Port Authority. Though, it’s probably not as bad as eating the Indian food cart itself. What I’m trying to say here is that Caleb chews with his mouth open. And like every “touched” person depicted in the movies, he wears overalls and a plaid shirt that’s buttoned all the way up. It’s such a trope that you’ve got to wonder if buttoning the top button actually causes mental disabilities.

Caleb goes home to his decrepit apartment with a blinking red light. He talks to his brother Lester.

“What’s wrong with me, Les?”
“You’re ugly. You’re a cripple. No one loves a cripple or a mental moron…Blame yourself for what you are.”

It is important to note that Lester is a dummy wearing a blazer and a blonde wig. He is also a dick.

Caleb dons the wig and the blazer. He looks in the mirror: “I am Lester, and I am alive.” Lester has fine, chiseled features and perfect teeth. He is quite the pussy tamer too. He arrives at a woman’s house, complaining about car trouble. Soon they are in the sack making a pants sandwich. Then he chases her around the kitchen with a knife.

“I’m going to awaken you from this early nightmare, awaken you from the sweet repose of…death.”

That doesn’t make sense, but I like it anyway. The best lines in this movie easily belong to Lester. He tells a woman, “Fill me with nymphoid satisfaction.” He gets angry when he’s rebuffed: “You emasculate a man with your bottomless body pits.” He gazes at his reflection in the mirror and exclaims, “I am the great male Adonis of the universe. I am beautiful, I am love…and I am alive.” He whispers that last part, which makes it even better. Then he conducts along to Beethoven’s Fifth.

The Caleb/Lester dynamic is quite the set-up for some twisted crimes of passion, or at the very least, some righteous sleaze, but The Love Butcher keeps things G-rated. It never quite delivers on its promises. We never get the “nymphoid satisfaction” we crave and deserve. Violence happens mostly off-screen and there are only fleeting moments of nudity. There is no lust or joy. As Caleb unravels and Lester becomes more volatile, we expect mayhem. We expect literal insanity. But save for a dude talking to a dummy, nothing outrageous really happens. The story doesn’t go far. It doesn’t build to some wild climax that makes you rewind the tape. But this is not to say that The Love Butcher is boring. It’s a solid offering from Donald M. Jones and Mikel Angel. There are some precious moments, like when Lester poses as a traveling record salesman and tries to woo a vagina with his fake Puerto Rican accent. My mother could do a better accent, and she’s Korean.

I particularly enjoy the women in this movie. The ladies are undersexed housewives, harpies who henpeck their men, and sex-hungry whores who claim they can’t be satisfied. But they all serve beer when instructed. Sometimes Ovaltine. Ultimately, they are all victims, both of Lester and of their men. Flo gets upset when Russ doesn’t want to get married: “Because once you’ve been burned, you don’t put your hand back in the fire again.” Naturally, Flo starts crying, tears streaming down her face. Russ sneers at her, “A woman’s favorite weapon.” And here I thought it was my vagina.

No one eats a Cessna in this movie.

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