The Clown Murders (1976)

Article 2949 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-4-2009
Posting Date: 9-10-2009
Directed by Martyn Burke
Featuring Stephen Young, Susan Keller, Lawrence Dane
Country: Canada / USA

Four friends hatch a scheme to dress up like clowns and kidnap a businessman’s wife to prevent him from closing a land deal. Though the scheme is intended as a prank, it takes an ugly turn when real violence is used at the kidnapping. As the kidnappers deal with the fallout from their actions, it becomes apparent that an outside party (also in a clown costume) is stalking them.

About ten minutes of this one is a horror film; the rest is a potentially interesting variant of the heist film. I say “potentially” for a reason; the movie’s concept of having each member of the group deal with the stress of having gotten in over their heads is much more interesting than its execution. One problem is that the characters aren’t quite as complex as they need to be to make the movie really compelling. Another is that parts of the movie are incredibly improbable; I find it particularly hard to believe that none of these people ever considered that their kidnapping would be considered a crime. Add to this the problem that the beginning exposition scenes are more confusing than elucidating, that it takes nearly twenty minutes before the plot starts to move, that the direction is flat and dull, and that the identity of the clown stalking the characters near the end of the movie is obvious, and you have what amounts to a missed opportunity. Of course, what the movie is most known for anymore is for giving us an early John Candy role, but I suspect that fans of the comedian will be disappointed here; though he gives a good performance, it’s a fairly humiliating role in which far too much time is spent commenting on his size and his eating habits, and the scene where he’s bound, roughed up and humiliated by the most psychotic member of the group is just unpleasant. The ending is rather unsatisfying as well. There’s a much better movie in here fighting to get out.

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