The Fool Killer (1965)
Directed by Servando González
George Mellish (Edward Albert) can’t take it anymore. The 12-year-old tires of the whippings he gets from his Bible-thumping foster parents. So he runs away, meeting an assortment of characters while tramping through Knoxville, Tennessee, where the film was partly shot. He meets Dirty Jim (Henry Hull), who tells George about the fool killer. A folk figure with roots in literature (O. Henry penned a short story) and pop music (dig that Gene Pitney tune), the fool killer is a Civil War veteran. Nobody knows which side he fought on, though. He’s a giant who chops with an axe those who act the fool. During his Huck Finn adventures, George meets the fool killer, a soulful and psychotic vet (Anthony Perkins) suffering from PTSD.
Adapted from Helen Eustis’ eponymous novel, and recalling The Night of The Hunter (1955), this independent film plays like a Southern Gothic fairy tale, one that González (a subject for further research if ever there was one) directs with a brass, punchy approach. What’s that line written by Alexander Pope and sung by Ricky Nelson? “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Forget the angels, here’s to the fools. Tanner Tafelski (August 22, 4:30pm, 8:30pm at BAM’s Joe Dante retrospective, as part of a Dante-programmed double feature with Confessions from an Opium Eater )