Recently escaped from the hospital for the criminally insane…the Mad Killer, Gunther Wyckoff
So one of the librarians was processing a group of donated DVDs, and I just happened to spot Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume 5. It had eight films on it: Cornered (1945), Deadline at Dawn (1946), Desperate (1947), Armored Car Robbery (1950), Backfire (1950), Dial 1119 (1950), The Phenix City Story (1955), and Crime in the Streets (1956).
After I mentioned it would be a good film to watch, they let me be the first one to check it out. Some of the films were good and some were okay. That happens in a collection.
I thought this movie was really exceptional and all because of Marshall Thompson, who plays Gunther Wyckoff. He was phenomenal in playing his part. He was able to be cold, calculating, creepy; but then have moments of appearing almost innocent and a troubled boy. Not as good as Anthony Perkins in Psycho, but close.
I haven’t found a lot of pictures so this will mostly contain ones from other films and reviews. But I don’t let that stop me, let’s begin our review.
The film starts off with gruntled newspaperman, Harrison “Harry” D. Barnes. Harry is tired of being paid so little and working his whole life to only be in the exact same place as he started. He tells his pal that he is quitting and heads off to the Oasis bar to drink up his troubles. Because of his early departure, he misses an important announcement that Gunther Wyckoff has escaped from his institution.
Elsewhere in Terminal City, Helen is leaving to go on vacation with a friend of hers. She lives with her mother, taking care of her as she has a weak heart, but is sorely in need of a break. She heads out but instead of meeting up with a her girl friend, she instead is meeting Earl at the Oasis Bar. Earl is a married salesman and the two are planning to go away for the weekend.
Meanwhile, Gunther Wyckoff is headed to Terminal City. Three years ago he murdered a woman, was found to be insane, and instead of being executed, resided in the institution. But now he is out.
Next to him is a women traveling as well to Terminal City ands she notices that something is off about Wyckoff. Like most psychopaths he has no “normal” ways of interacting with other people.
At the front of the bus, the driver has a gun for protection. They all take a five minute break to stretch and use the bathroom, and when they return to their traveling, the woman notices the gun is missing; and that the man next to her was the only one to remain on the bus during the break.
They reach Terminal City, the woman stays as long as she can and warns the driver in their native tongue about what has happened. After she leaves the driver approaches Wyckoff, and tells him to return the gun and clip. Wyckoff shoots him.
Wyckoff is extremely creepy and scary as he is so emotionless, cold, and calculated. He doesn’t freak out, break a sweat, or worry; just demolishes what is in his way.
Wyckoff heads out to Dr. John E. Faron, police psychologist. When no one answers his knock, he decides to go to the nearby bar to wait. The Oasis Bar.
In the bar we have Harry, Helen, and Earl; as mentioned before. Also there is Chuckles the extremely pessimistic, sarcastic, and grumpy bartender/owner. His assistant/waiter Skip is the exact opposite, pleasant, kind, and optimistic. Today he is extremely worried and frantic as his wife is about to have a baby and he doesn’t want to miss a thing. In fact he didn’t even want to come to work, but his wife made him go as the baby won’t be coming for a while. She’s going to regret that decision.
There is also Freddy, a bar floozy who is drunk all day and night on anything she can get and hits on any young guy that moves.
All are talking while Wyckoff waits. Freddy tries to hit on a big, strong, young man; but when he leaves She turns toward Skip. Skip keeps calling to see if the baby has come yet, but no luck. Helen is trying to justify what she is doing as she is lonely and unsure about if she really wants to go away with a married man. Earl is trying to get Helen drunk so she can “relax” and “settle down.” Harry gets the call about the dead bus driver, but as he has “quit” his job, he decides not to go. Too bad.
Meanwhile as the newsmen and police are going crazy as they are worried about Wyckoff killing again and searching for him. They locate the woman who was sitting next to him to get confirmation, and when they do flash his picture on TV.
Chuckles is the only one who notices the TV news flash, and knows it is Wyckoff in his bar. He looks at his gun under the bar and heads down “cleaning” to grab it. But at the last minute he changes his mind and tells Skip to take over, while he “heads in the back to get Vermouth”. Big Mistake.
He goes to the phone, but doesn’t count on Wyckoff being paranoid and very suspicious. He follows Chuckles and shoots him.
Body count is at two already.
Afterwards, he shuts down the bar and gets the rest of the people together, they are now his hostages.
A couple of people walking by hear a scream from Helen, and tell the police. When an officer goes to investigate, Wyckoff shoots him in the leg.
Lieutenant “Whitey” Tallman heads out to handle the situation. They set up barriers on the street and try to figure a way in.
Wyckoff calls the police and tells them he wants Dr. Faron in 25 minutes or he will kill everyone in the bar.
Lt. Whitey is very upset over all this. He was the arresting officer, he worked hard to get Wyckoff convicted for his crimes; and to have him sent to a hospital instead and be out in three years is extremely upsetting. He is furious with Dr. Faron who was the one who provided the evidence and testimony that sent him free to the hospital rather than prison and the death penalty. He has no intention in trying to get Dr. Faron involved, but in finding another way to free the hostages.
Dr. Faron is out walking when he comes upon the huge crowd of police, newspapermen, and bystanders. He finds out that he is needed ad goes to Lt. Whitey, but Whitey doesn’t want him involved at all.
Meanwhile the group inside is trying to figure out what to do. They recognize that the gun he has holds eight rounds, two of which have been used on killing Chuckles and shooting the policeman (the earlier third one hit the bus driver but they don’t know about it). They believe him to have six (really five) left; but then he pulls out another clip and puts it in. They discuss charging at him, but think that it is not a good idea and will get them all killed.
Outside the police have come up with an idea to sneak a smaller policeman into the air conditioning to shoot at Wyckoff. Which is a bit strange to go about it.
Dr. Faron wants to go in and speak to Wyckoff, as he believes that he won’t harm him ad that he will be able to shock him out of his delusions ad bring him into reality. The Lt. says no.
Inside the bar Harry tries to get Wyckoff to let him go, as this is the story of the year; just like his previous exploits were. Wyckoff says no and starts going on about how the government is to blame for making him this way. They gave him a gun and uniform, trained him to kill,and expected him to come back into society. He is a killing machine because of them.
While that is going on, the police work hard to get through the air conditioning. But unbeknownst to them, Wyckoff has been looking at it all night, and when it turns off suddenly he notices, and shoots at it;
killing the policeman.
Freddy tries to seduce him, but no dice. Wyckoff sees right through her.
Wyckoff has them turn on the TV so that they can see what is happening outside. They see that the Dr is there but that the Lt. won’t let him in. Harry convinces him to let him call the newspaper, and that they will get the public going and force the police to let the doctor in. Wyckoff lets him, but the newspaper ignores him, because of his earlier conversation, they think he is just drunk and going to mouth off.
Wyckoff s extremely angry and trying to determine what to do next. Outside the Lt. has decided to blow open the bar and cut the lights. While they are planning, Dr. Fanroe goes in to speak with Wyckodff.
Dr. Fanroe tries to get Wyckoff to put down the gun down but he won’t listen. You see the only reason Wyckoff came to Terminal City was because he wants to kill Dr. Fanroe.
Wyckoff makes everyone sit at the bar while he deals with Dr. Fanroe. Freddy notices Chuckles’ gun under the counter.
Dr. Fanrie tries to bring Wyckoff back to reality, and here Thompson shines in his acting. We discover that Wyckoff was not a soldier. He always dreamed of being one and wanted to, but they wouldn’t let him as he didn’t pass the psych evaluation. He went crazy upset and killed.
Wyckoff argues with Fanroe and kills him.
Afterwards he looks at his hostages trying to determine who is next. While doing so the phone rings. Skip afraid that it might be his wife, rushes at Wyckoff to knock him off balance. Meanwhile the cops have set the charge blown up the door and cut the lights. Wyvkoff picks up his gun and intends to shoot them all when before he can, Freddy shoots him.
I have to admit I never saw that one coming. The drunk saving them all? Pretty cool ending as I never would have guessed that.
Afterwards the cops come in and the people all go their separate ways. Skip to the hospital to see his newly arrived eight pound baby. Helen goes home as she believes the whole thing was an intervention from God to keep her from sinning. Earl tries to pick up Freddy and she tuns him down flat, heading to a different bar. Harry calls the desk and starts to relate the story of all that occurred. The mad killer is dead.
To start Horrorfest V from the beginning, go to Who You Gonna Call?: Ghostbusters (1984)
For the previous post, go to How To Survive A Horror Film
For more film-noir, go to I Do Think You Are Confused Mrs. Bowman: Dangerous Crossing (1953)
For more “mad killers”, go to We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes: Psycho (1960)