The Severed Arm (1973, Thomas S. Alderman)
Released by Vinegar Syndrome
Those boffins at Vinegar Syndrome have done it again, rescuing The Severed Arm from obscurity and giving it a stunning Blu-ray transfer. The only film from one-and-done director Thomas S. Alderman, The Severed Arm languished on VHS for years before finally receiving a decent DVD release from Code Red, but the new Blu is a revelation, and will hopefully introduce the film to a much wider audience.
The Severed Arm is very much a proto-slasher, coming out way back in 1973 —that’s a year before Black Christmas, and a full five before Halloween created the genre as we now know it. Now, The Severed Arm is not quite in the same league as those classics, but it often comes surprisingly close.
There’s a great backstory to the killings, wherein a group of men are trapped in a cave-in, and resort to cannibalism to survive, cutting off their friend’s arm to eat it – while he’s still alive! This is the scene, early on in the film, where I realised this was no ordinary low-budget 70s caper. In fact, the section where they choose the first victim by drawing straws gave me huge The Thing vibes. It’s wonderfully suspenseful and quite frightening, in a large part due to the astonishing score from Phillan Bishop.
The music throughout —and believe me, it rarely stops —is performed on early synthesisers, and is a masterpiece of doom-laden intensity. I’m pretty sure it makes heavy use of the Moog, as it sounds similar to the wonderful Lucifer -Black Mass album by Canadian composer Mort Garson.
Funnily enough, the scene in the cave is one of three that made me think of John Carpenter. There’s a stalking sequence that makes heavy use of POV shots, a technique essential to the development of the slasher (used heavily in Halloween), and there’s a murder in a radio station that could have come straight out of The Fog, with old-timey jazz playing in the background and everything. The stalking scenes are all very well-handled, with excellent pay-offs and a couple of moments of mildly gory violence. Like many proto-slashers, the film is established as a mystery, and for once the final reveal is slightly unexpected and leads to a gloriously twisted ending that takes the film into a different plane of insanity altogether.
So with all this praise I’m bestowing upon The Severed Arm, you may be wondering why it’s so forgotten and obscure. It’s a good question! The film comes from that magical time in cinema history —known as the 1970s —when films could have a cast composed almost entirely of rugged and hairy men. There’s only one woman in a main role, (Deborah Walley, veteran of the AIP Beach Party movies!), but she takes a backseat to the male cast. There are no nubile co-eds scampering around in the buff, no skinny-dipping or games of strip Monopoly —just a lot of men in brown polo-necks. Even the inevitable shower sequence features the bearded lead actor. Compare this with the teenage leads of Black Christmas and Halloween, and I wonder —is it possible that the total lack of T&A has condemned The Severed Arm to forgotten status?
It’s possible, but that ends now! The Severed Arm is an absolute must-see for fans of slashers and 70s regional horror films. Confidently handled, well shot and scored, and with intense horror sequences and good performances, there’s never been a better time to see the film thanks to Vinegar Syndrome’s restoration.
The Severed Arm
This special limited edition embossed slipcover (designed by Earl Kessler Jr.) is limited to 4,000 units and is only available at VinegarSyndrome.com!
While camping, a group of friends become trapped in a cave. Desperate and starving, they draw straws to decide which one should suffer the severing of his arm so that the others can eat. But no sooner than making this fateful amputation, they’re rescued, though their unfortunate victim has been driven hopelessly mad by the experience. Years later, the survivors have all moved on with their lives, that is until someone with a very sharp axe to grind begins stalking them and chopping off their arms, one by one…
A drive-in and home video staple, thanks in large part to a notorious title and insane concept, Tom Alderman’s THE SEVERED ARM is a stylish and atmospheric murder mystery/proto-slasher. Co-starring Deborah Walley (Beach Blanket Bingo), Marvin Kaplan (Wild at Heart) and Vince Martorano (The Candy Snatchers) and featuring expectedly excellent cinematography by Robert Maxwell (Blood Mania, The Centerfold Girls), Vinegar Syndrome brings THE SEVERED ARM to disc, fully uncut and in its very first authorized edition, from a brand new 4K scan of its original 35mm camera negative.
You can buy The Severed Arm from Vinegar Syndrome
David Sodergren lives in Scotland with his wife Heather and his best friend, Boris the Pug.
Growing up, he was the kind of kid who collected rubber skeletons and lived for horror movies.
Not much has changed since then.
His first novel, The Forgotten Island, was published on October 1st 2018. This was followed by Night Shoot, a brutal throwback to the early 80s slasher movie cycle, in May 2019.
2020 will be Sodergren’s biggest year yet, with two new horror novels being published. Dead Girl Blues is a slasher-noir mystery, and it will be followed by a return to full-blown supernatural horror before the end of the year.
You can follow David on Twitter @paperbacksnpugs
To find out more about David please visit his official website www.paperbacksandpugs.wordpress.com
Find David on Instagram here
Dead Girl Blues
When a young woman dies in Willow Zulawski’s arms, it sets in motion a chain of events that will push her to the brink of madness.
A mysterious video is the only clue, but as Willow digs deeper into the murky world of snuff movies, those closest to her start turning up dead. Someone out there will stop at nothing to silence her.
After all, when killing is business, what’s one more dead body?
Part noir mystery, part violent slasher, Dead Girl Blues is the latest twisted shocker from David Sodergren, author of The Forgotten Island and Night Shoot.
The Forgotten Island
When Ana Logan agrees to go on holiday to Thailand with her estranged sister Rachel, she hopes it will be a way for them to reconnect after years of drifting apart.
But now, stranded on a seemingly deserted island paradise with no radio and no food, reconciliation becomes a desperate fight for survival.
For when night falls on The Forgotten Island, the dark secrets of the jungle reveal themselves.
Something is watching them from the trees.
You can read the Kendall Review for The Forgotten Island HERE
A group of desperate student filmmakers break into Crawford Manor for an unauthorised night shoot. They have no choice. Their lead actress has quit. They’re out of time. They’re out of money.
They’re out of luck.
For Crawford Manor has a past that won’t stay dead, and the crew are about to come face-to-face with the hideous secret that stalks the halls.
Will anyone survive…the NIGHT SHOOT?
A delirious homage to the slasher movies of the 1980s, Night Shoot delivers page after page of white-knuckle terror.
You can read the Kendall Review for Night Shoot HERE