‘Do you enjoy this? Being a ghoul?’
The Love Butcher is the delightful tale of a recently widowed small town butcher who, in between preparing his delicious sausages for the hungry townsfolk, dispenses sage advice in the matter of love to all the residents. But one day, a beautiful woman looking for a man who knows his beef walks into his shop…and into his heart.
Nah I’m just fucking with you. The Love Butcher is actually about a disabled gardener who’s a necrophiliac serial killer with multiple personalities, thank goodness. We’re back in Don Jones territory, and though the sleaze quotient is lower than Abducted, the film is even better than that unexpectedly interesting movie.
Initial signs are not good. The first shot is of a girl with a pitchfork through her chest, followed by a rose being pruned, which I believe is Chapter 1 of Symbolism for Dummies. We quickly find out that the murderer is Caleb, the ‘crippled gimp’ gardener, who’s brother is actually a polystyrene tailors dummy. I was initially worried that this was going to be a twist in the same way that the obvious reveal at the end of Abducted was, but no, Don Jones knows we’ve seen that old trick too many times. He gets good mileage out of that dummy though, and scenes of Caleb arguing with it while the dummy wears a wig and smokes a cigarette hit the perfect blackly comic tone. Erik Stern plays Caleb and his imaginary brother Lester and gives something of a tour-de-force performance, using every accent in his Big Actor’s Book of Tricks. And if he just happens to look exactly like Larry ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ David while playing Caleb, then so be it.
There’s even some intentional broad humour in the film which, as expected, fails to come off. The addition of comedic sound effects and ‘wah-wah-wah’ music is a real mis-step, but Jones makes up for it by trying again for some of the more unusual and artistic touches that were found in Abducted. There’s a stunning sequence where Caleb/Lester (let’s call him Calester) murders a nude woman with a hose down her throat, which ends with Calester dancing in front of mirror flashing back to how he imagined her supposedly seducing him. He dumps her body in the bath and turns the tap on, the bubbles obscuring her face as she sinks down under the water, now just a body with an indiscernible face, which is how Calester seems to see all women.
Later there’s a similar scene that plays with perspective and imagination, when one of Calester’s victims sees her boyfriend standing at the window. She runs to him and he changes into a corpse who crashes down on top of her in super slow motion. It’s a moment that is more Brian DePalma than HG Lewis, which is ironic as the plot is very similar to DePalma’s later crackpot thriller Raising Cain.
Jones throws everything he’s got at the last half hour, with a couple of genuinely shocking and unexpected murders and a final shot that is beautifully strange and inconclusive. In between those comes the reason for the films inclusion in Section 3, a nasty scene where a woman is stripped naked and beaten with a rake. Apart from that, there’s a general air of misogyny about the film and the women are almost as helpless as those in Abducted, though at least a couple of them try and fight back in this film before being easily overpowered by a man.
Don Jones clearly had ideas and talent. It’s a pity that neither The Love Butcher nor Abducted ended up on the Section 2 Nasties lists, as I have a feeling he would be much better known and more respected if that had been the case. It’s criminal that trash like The Beast in Heat and Love Camp 7 are more desirable titles than The Love Butcher just because they made it onto the list. This film easily matches them for dry, passionless sex scenes whilst adding such niceties as decent performances and an understanding of editing and pace, something I wish more Nasties had…