Welcome to Arrow Beach [a.k.a., Tender Flesh]

| September 12, 2005

This is one of those obscure flicks that cult film fans just love to come across. The kind of flick where the sheer oddity of it all, the audacious outrageousness of it simply outweighs its own aesthetic flaws. Simply put, it’s a good bad movie.
The movie stars Laurence Harvey (best known as the brainwashed soldier at the center of all the turmoil in The Manchurian Candidate) as Jason Henry, a lecherous photographer with an inhuman “hunger” for young girls. He shares a lavish mansion–as well as some inappropriate and passionate kisses–with his sister Grace (played by the familiar 70s TV face of Joanna Pettet) in the quiet seaside town of Arrow Beach. When a free-spirited hippie chick named Robin (the crystal blue eyed Meg Foster) decides to skinny dip on Jason Henry’s private beach the gentlemanly letch invites her in for a hot meal, a warm bath (thank you) and a comfy bed. This nubile young houseguest doesn’t sit well with Jason’s cagey sister, who does her best to hide her brother’s dark dirty secret behind a locked cellar door. But what would a horror flick be if the curious young guest didn’t wind up trapped in the labyrinth like basement, hunting down the source of a strange whacking sound? The answer falls some where in between Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
It’s a curiosity why Laurence Harvey picked this project for his directorial debut. The role of the cannibalistic ex-Korean War Vet turned fashion photographer gives the accomplished actor plenty to chew on –and he does a disturbingly intense job–but his direction falls a bit short of matching the intensity of his performance. There are moments of horrific promise, like the sequence that flashes from an unsuspecting Robin eating a “steak” to shots of the victim who supplied the prime cut from his shoulder. And whatever Harvey did to get the brilliantly riled-up performance out of Stuart Whitman (as the embittered Deputy) was perfect. Unfortunately, Harvey became ill after shooting the film and was sidelined during most of the editing, leaving the studio in charge of the final cut. As a result most of the movie’s more horrific moments are left on the edit room floor (there’s a flashback hinting that Jason Henry’s taste for human flesh was the result of a war-time plane crash, but we never get the full gory details), and the sum total of murders seen on screen reaches a whopping one, leaving this “shocker” more heavy on performances rather than gore. Still, for fans of the obscure 70s “shockers,” Arrow Beach is well worth the 84 minutes.

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