EDITOR’S NOTE: Cannon didn’t make all that many slashers, but here’s one that makes no sense and is, therefore, better for it. We first ran this during our yearly slasher marathon on October 6, 2020.
How many names can one movie have? A bunch, because this is also known as X-Ray, Be My Valentine Or Else and Ward 13. It’s directed by Boaz Davidson, the man who was behind Lemon Popsicle and the depressing as anything American version The Last American Virgin. Seeing his name in the credits brought me joy, just as much as seeing the Cannon name always sends me into paroxysms of joy.
Back in 1961, a boy named Harold gave Susan a valentine and when she made fun of it with her friend David, he breaks in and hangs her friend from a hatstand.
Susan grew up to be four-time Playboy covergirl Barbi Benton (Deathstalker). Well, that’s who is playing her, but you know what I mean. She’s just gotten divorced and has to head in for some routine tests at a hospital. Literally, the minute she walks in, an evil doctor laughs while looking at pictures of her as a kid.
Better slashers have started with less.
This is the kind of movie that really uses its environment in the best way possible, as orthopedic saws send heads flying and sinks filled with acid melt faces. It’s also a Valentine’s Day-themed slasher, as the opening sets up just how much that holiday can crush the heart of disaffected young boys. It’s also about getting insurance and how they make you get tests that convince doctors that you’re dying while putting you in the steely gaze of a killer, which could be an indictment of our single-payer health care system. Or it’s just a way to get people killed for your entertainment.
Judith Baldwin, who plays a desk nurse, appeared with Tina Louise in The Stepford Wives before taking over the role Louise was best known for, Ginger Grant, in the TV movies Rescue from Gilligan’s Island and Rescue from Gilligan’s Island.
The abandoned hospital this was shot at is a great location and makes the movie much better, as does the vibe that hospitals are horrible places, where every doctor — look for Davidson as one waiting behind Susan as she uses a pay phone — and hallway is filled with dread. Credit is also due to director of photography Nicholas Josef von Sternberg, who also filmed Tourist Trap, Appointment with Fear and Slaughterhouse Rock.
Marc Behm, who wrote this with Davidson, had an all over the map writing career, scripting everything from The Beatles’ Help! to Charade and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Nana and this movie for Cannon.
If you recognize the kids from the beginning, they’re Billy Jacoby and Elizabeth Hoy who were the murderous children in Bloody Birthday, which came out the same year as this one.
You can watch this on Tubi or get the new 4K UHD release from Vinegar Syndrome, which also has Schizoid and Ultra Violet Vengeance: The Talent & Technicians of X-Ray, an extra feature that goes into the making of this slasher.
Check out The Cannon Canon episode about X-Ray here.