Director: Frederick R. Friedel

USA - 1974

  Hoff! Hoff!  


For the benefit of those with a short attention span...

When not hacking up chickens, Lisa likes to hack up gangsters.

The Guilty Party

My chicken and my thermos...that's all I need!

Leslie Lee plays Lisa: A young woman who lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere. She spends most of her days caring for her invalid grandfather. Living out by Green Acres, hobbies are few and far between; Lisa seems to enjoy killing chickens, but has a bad habit of leaving headless fowl in the sink for days on end. Needless to say, she’s a bit off her rocker.

Jack Canon plays Steele: The leader of a trio of thugs who inadvertently kill (they merely meant to pound him a little) a former associate named Aubrey. After the unintentional homicide, Steele and his cronies seek refuge at the aforementioned farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Steele also harbors a deep hatred for bad fruit.

Cat Stevens makes a rare cameo

Frederick R. Friedel plays Billy: One of Steele’s thugs. Billy feels guilty about the murder of Aubrey, and feels even guiltier still after the gang takes over Lisa’s farmhouse. He’s the crook with a heart.

Hey! That's a Versace! This guy *is* ruthless!

Ray Green plays Lomax: Yet another thug. Lomax is just as ruthless as Steele, but unfortunately, not as bright. After Axe Green went on to do The Natural History of Parking Lots. You think I’m joking?

Frank Jones plays Aubrey: The poor slob that is accidentally killed by Steele and the gang (not to be confused with Kool and the Gang). Even when it isn’t fatal, having a cigar shoved down your throat is rarely pleasant. We’re never given a reason as to why Aubrey was targeted by Steele - or who Aubrey is, for that matter – but in retrospect, I guess it really doesn’t matter.

Douglas Powers plays Lisa’s grandfather: A disabled WWII veteran who nowadays merely sits around the house, watches television, and is spoon-fed by his granddaughter.

My "thoughts" on the film. Thinking! Ha!

Way back when I was a kid, my first exposure to the art form known as b-movies was a show on a local cable-access channel called Thriller Double Feature. As the title implied, the show consisted of two back-to-back horror films (with the occasional sci-fi thrown in for good measure). Said horror films were usually of the ridiculously low-budget variety - such not ready for primetime fare as: The Rats And you thought sleeping while driving was dangerous!Are Coming, The Werewolves Are Here, Shriek of the Mutilated*, and Zombie Lake. And because of Thriller Double Feature, these grainy, poorly-lit, basement-bargain productions became somewhat of an obsession. Sure, I love Halloween just as much as the next dork, but there is a special place in my cold, black heart for those relatively unknown gems.

Thriller Double Feature ran only on Saturday, and was usually a highlight (if not the highlight) of my weekend. Like the films themselves, the show’s production was fairly cheap: The opening titles were goofy – several movie clips strewn together with Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” playing in the background (I have strong doubts about that song being public domain); cheesy computer graphics comprised the opening titles. And though these monetarily-challenged production values can easily be viewed as detrimental, ironically, they were the exact reasons why I found the program so endearing. Despite its miniscule budget, you could tell that the operation was a labor of love – not unlike Axe. (See? Didn’t think I was coming to a point anytime soon, now did you?)

Axe was filmed almost entirely in a single house, and featured actors who, for the most part, played in this film alone. A majority of the special effects could probably be found in most kitchen cupboards. Because of this, Axe falls easily into the aforementioned “labor of love” category; Despite its"You gotta know when to hold 'em..." shortcomings, director Friedel somehow manages to pull off an effective mood piece. Three depraved murderers on the lam seek refuge in an isolated farmhouse – the sole inhabitants being a pretty, young girl (who is oddly quiet) and her invalid grandfather. An intriguing (albeit predictable) formula, supported by strong performances from the cast in general (specifically, Ray Green and Frank Jones). This being her first and last feature, Leslie Lee proves fairly convincing as the naïve farm girl who’s just a bit nutty.

The foundation of Axe, however, is the cinematography – or lack thereof, if you will. Cheaply shot and dark is usually a problem, but in the rare case when it’s done right* (like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for instance), it can add a little ambience to the proceedings. Axe has a rustic look that helps adhere a somber tone to the action. Considering the story’s slow pace, said tone proved to be a fine fit. 

Again, let me stress that Axe is not for everybody – few films are, save perhaps Jungle Hell. Axe is seriously flawed, but for some odd reason, I kinda liked it. But I also like The Jackson’s “Victory” album, so what does that tell you?


These are the times of which to cherish...

 - The fruit fight!

- The thrilling consumption of raw eggs!

- Feeling rather saucy, Lomax attempts to have his way with Lisa one evening while everyone's asleep. He makes his move, she screams, they fight, she stabs him in the back of the neck, he screams, he dies, she drags his big carcass down the hall, into the bathroom, then chucks said cadaver into the tub. Finally, she hacks up the corpse with an ax then hides the pieces – all the while, not a soul hears them!

- Artsy chicken beheadings!  

- Steele’s insatiable fascination with his cuticles!


Check out a clip from this film, along with many others, here!


Good luck finding it!




-- Copyright © 2001 by J. Bannerman


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* You can read Dr. FreeX’s review of Shriek of the Mutilated here. As usual, the critique is great, despite the fact that he doesn’t seem to like the film. Then again, this is the guy who liked The House on Haunted Hill.




















* I seriously doubt that the moody cinematography was intentional.