The Psychopath was completely unknown to me, but most of the Amicus titles are. Their catalogue has been a huge blind spot for me as a horror viewer, mostly because they weren’t as widely available as Hammer films. The Psychopath was penned by Robert Bloch, who wrote the source novel for Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal classic Psycho (1960). If this is all you know about Bloch, he may sound like a one trick pony, but he began his career as a sort of acolyte of HP Lovecraft, writing some very good weird fiction.
The plot is simple; a group of four men framed a German man after World War II, a little over twenty years later the man’s wife and son are suspects as the four conspirators start getting picked off one by one. Then the killer turns his sights on Inspector Holloway (Patrick Wymark) who’s threatening to blow the case wide open. While the plot is almost pedestrian, it makes a great skeleton for Freddie Francis and cinematographer John Wilcox to beautifully decorate this creepy murder mystery, that has several similarities to the gialli of Mario Bava and predates Dario Argento by a few years. The pinks and reds really pop on this gorgeous 4k restoration from Kino Lorber. The interiors are ornately designed, the exteriors are appropriately dread inducing British. Comparisons to Hitchcock will be unavoidable, but I really feel more an Italian touch here.
Starring alongside Wymark are Margaret Johnson John Standing, Alexander Knox, and Judy Huxtable. The film moves at a brisk, but not rushed, pace, clocking in at a mere 82 minutes and racking up a decent body count. The kills are unique to each victim, with a barely seen, black gloved killer, but most of the kills take place off screen. While my personal taste would want more blood, some of the deaths are brutal and Francis does a good job of giving our imaginations just enough to go on. That doesn’t mean that the creepiest moments are left to our imagination though. If you’re freaked out by dolls, this movie is pure nightmare fuel. And while you can’t help but think of Psycho now and then, The Psychopath has some fresh turns that elevate it above just another retread.