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The Driller Killer

Directed by: Abel Ferrara

Produced by: Rochelle Weisberg

Written by: Nicholas St. John

Starring: Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day, Harry Schultz, Alan Wynroth

Music by: Joseph Delia

Distributed by: Cult Epics

Release date(s): June 15 1979

Running time: 96 Min.

Country: United States

Language: English

A young artist, Reno Miller (Abel Ferrara) and his girlfriend Carol enter a Catholic church. Reno approaches an elderly bearded man kneeling at the pulpit. Although Reno seems to recognize the man as his long-lost father, he is merely a derelict. After the man seizes Reno’s hand, Reno grabs Carol and runs from the church. The derelict had a paper with Reno’s name and phone number and requested a meeting with him.

Later, in the Union Square (New York City) apartment he shares with Carol and her lover Pamela, Reno receives a large phone bill and cannot pay his rent. He hates his crime-infested, derelict-filled neighborhood.

Reno visits Dalton, a gay gallery owner, and tells him that he is currently painting a masterpiece. Reno asks for a week’s extension and a loan of $500 to cover the rent. Dalton refuses, saying that he already lent money enough to Reno. However, if he finishes a satisfactory painting in one week, Dalton will buy it for the necessary amount.

The following day, the Roosters, a No Wave band, begin practicing their music in a nearby apartment. The loud music makes Reno more unnerved and frustrated. That night, Reno, Carol, and Pamela watch a TV advertisement for a Porto-Pak, a battery pack which allows hands-free use of electrical appliances.

At 2:00 a.m., while painting, Reno becomes more agitated from the Rooster’s music. After seeing his own image saturated in blood, Reno walks in the dark. He sees an elderly derelict sleeping in a garbage-strewn alley. It seems that Reno plans to accost the man, but instead, he takes him down an alley where they see gang members chasing another bum. Reno drops the bum and vows that he will not end up like him or his derelict father.

The next day, Reno complains about the Roosters to their landlord. However, the landlord refuses to act because the music does not bother him. He gives Reno a skinned rabbit for dinner, but demands the rent money. Reno takes the rabbit home and repeatedly stabs it while preparing it.

Later, Reno buys the Porto-Pak. During a brief reprieve from the music, Reno hears voices calling his name and sees an image of an eyeless Carol. That night, Reno goes out with the Porto-Pak and his drill attached to it. He sees another bum sleeping inside an abandoned diner and kills him by drilling into his chest.

The following evening, Reno, Carol, and Pamela see Tony Coca-Cola and the Roosters at a nightclub. As the Roosters play, Reno becomes agitated by the loud music and crowd. He leaves as Carol and Pamela dance and make out.

Reno returns to his apartment, grabs the drill and Porto-Pak, and goes out on a drilling spree. He kills a number of bums before returning home to sleep. Later, Tony visits Reno’s apartment and asks Reno to paint him. Tony agrees to pose that instant for the $500 rent bill.

As Reno paints, Tony poses, playing his guitar and making out with Pamela. A bum in a nearby alley, upset the noise, is attacked by Reno who drills his hands to a wall in a crucifix pose before killing him. Afterward, Reno works on his painting. After a night’s work, he wakes Pamela and Carol to tell them it is finished.

Reno and Carol show the painting to Dalton, who leaves after declaring it “unacceptable.” Carol yells at Reno for sitting with a blank expression. The next morning, Reno awakes to find Carol is leaving him for her ex-husband, Stephen.

That evening, Reno calls Dalton and invites him to see another piece. When Dalton arrives as the Roosters are practicing, Reno drills him. After visiting the Rooster’s, Pamela returns to find a bloody drill bit in front of the door and Dalton’s body inside. Pamela backs away screaming, but Reno grabs her.

Across town, Carol is back with Stephen. She takes a shower while Stephen prepares tea. Reno sneaks in, drills Stephen in the back, and hides his body behind the counter. Carol, done showering, walks to the bedroom where Reno hides under the bed covers. She turns out the lights, gets into bed, and tells „Stephen“ to „come here…“

Driller Killer was a low budget independent feature, with a cast of unknown actors, produced by Ferrara’s own Navaron Films company 1977-78. It was filmed on 16mm film and utilised Ferrara’s Union Square apartment and adjacent streets as locations. It features many of the elements which became trademarks of Ferrara’s later films. These include Catholic iconography, lesbian scenes, gritty urban locations filmed at night, an eclectic soundtrack combining punk rock and Bach, scenes of extreme violence and a religious theme of redemption, salvation and damnation. The punk rock band in the movie reflects contemporary New York punk bands such as the New York Dolls and Television.

In the Driller Killer trailer, Reno is heard to say a line from a scene that does not appear in the finished movie: „It’s just a window, Dalton.“

Many cut versions of the movie still exist, which show scenes of drilling into heads and abdomens blacked-out. The uncut version of the movie does show certain parts blanked out using the colour red, most notably the final scene.

The film was released theatrically in America without controversy in 1979. In the United Kingdom, however, the reaction to the video release was very different. In 1982, the UK distributors of Driller Killer, Vipco (Video Instant Picture Company) took out full page advertisements in a number of movie magazines showing the video’s violently explicit cover, depicting a man being drilled through the forehead by the Driller Killer. The tagline for the advertising and video box was : „There are those who kill violently.“

The advertising resulted in a large number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency, and opposition to the film from the press and elsewhere; however, it seems that very few of the complainants ever actually saw the film but rather based their opinion on the poster and the shocking title of the film.

The film was lumped together with other „video nasties“ released at the time and a vociferous campaign was launched by the press to ban them all. Driller Killer was added to the list of banned UK films on 4 July 1983, just a year after its release date. According to Mike Bor, the Principal Examiner at the British Board of Film Classification, „The Driller Killer was almost single-handedly responsible for the Video Recordings Act 1984″ under which it and others of the „video nasties“ released at the time were banned in the U.K. According to Brad Stevens, author of a biography on Abel Ferrara, the banning of the film was „almost entirely due to the cover of the video.“

The movie was not officially released uncut in the UK until 2002.



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Posted by on Feb 27 2012. Filed under # HORROR-NEWS #, B-MOVIES, SPLATTER |, VIDEONASTIES |. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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