Anatomy of a Psycho (1961)


‘Look, Mac, when you’ve got the bracelets ready, come and get me. Until then stay off my back!’

 A young gang member spirals out of control after his brother is executed for murder, eventually turning on his friends and his sister. She is planning to marry the son of the man who was the secret eyewitness at the brother’s murder trial. 

 Ron Burns was the adopted son of comics George Burns and Gracie Allen and had appeared on their popular TV show. But his career as an actor never took off and this was his last feature. His performance in the title role is a little on the hysterical side but then so are script and subject matter. This is more of a study of juvenile delinquency than psychosis but of course the word ‘Psycho’ was big business at the time. 

 Our hero and his gang hang at the shed where one of them lives and look particularly dangerous for white college boys in comfortable cardigans. They beat up the District Attorney’s son wearing masks, smoke cigarettes and play cards. Burns broods, shouts and is generally far ‘too cool for school.’ When someone foolishly invites him to the tamest pool party in history, he puts the host’s head through a mirror and burns the house down! The second half of the picture is dull courtroom drama that doesn’t skimp on the clichés, my favourite being the weak but loyal gang member that won’t tell the truth. However, Michael Grainger is quite good as the local cop on the case. 

Ronnie's Adam Ant impression was a little half hearted.

Ronnie’s Adam Ant impression was a little half hearted.

 The main talking point now is the possible involvement of Ed Wood. It has been suggested that he was ‘Larry Lee’ who is credited as co-writer. There is some circumstantial evidence to support this theory. For a start, director Boris Petroff (as Brooke L Peters) and scriptwriter Jane Mann were also responsible for monster flick ‘The Unearthly’ (1957). That film has no apparent connection to Wood but it does have Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson playing ‘Lobo’, essentially the same character he’d played in Wood’s ‘Bride of the Monster’ (1955).

Some of the music used in Wood’s ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ (1959) also turns up in ‘Anatomy of a Psycho (1961), although this was library music and freely available. There are no obvious Wood idiosyncrasies in the dialogue but juvenile delinquency was a subject Wood had tackled before (‘The Violent Ones’ (1956)) and Petroff did film Wood’s script for ‘Shotgun Wedding’ (1963)

 So the case remains unproven.

Perhaps the greatest argument against Wood’s involvement was the quality of the film. It’s certainly not a big budget picture but it is professionally made and a long way removed from a bargain basement Wood production. 

Buy ‘Anatomy of a Psycho’ here

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