Originally released in 1971, Point of Terror is an early experiment in psychological horror, which comes off as more of a Twilight Zone twist ending. The movie’s underlying themes of narcissism and exploitation are clear enough, but the movie’s twist ending (hinted at in short scenes throughout the film) will leave most empty and frustrated.
Taking point is Peter Carpenter, who not only tackles the lead role but also contributes the story (with co-writer Chris Marconi), which Ernest A. Charles and Tony Crechales turn into a screenplay. As handled by actor-turned director Alex Nicol, Point of Terror comes off as a stage play, complete with chorus. This structure is no more evident than with the scenes in which a bartender and barmaid, both outright narcissists engaging in playful dialogue about manipulation over casual sex.
The principal story is about Tony Trelos (Peter Carpenter), who grew up poor and shunned until he displayed a talent for singing, as shown in the movie’s opener, which Carpenter decked out in Roger Daltrey attire, only all in red. It is also at the end of this sequence that we get a hint that things are not at all well with Tony, as he experiences a nightmare in which he murders someone.
Now working in the Lobster House, Tony works his way through older women, all of whom take freely of his sex and in return give him favors. The latest in line is Andrea Hilliard (Dyanne Thorne—shame on you if you don’t know who she is), the wife of recording mogul and paraplegic Martin Hilliard (Joel Marston). Tony meets Andrea on the beach, and eventually the couple strikes an interesting deal. In return for sex, Andrea promises Tony a three-year recording contract.
Things work out well until Joel uncovers the affair (which isn’t hard to do). During a spat with Andrea, he falls into the pool and drowns. The funeral brings back the Hilliard’s daughter, Helayne (Lory Hansen). Tony falls hard for Heylayne, professing love for the first time in his life. But Tony has a troubled past, one in which he has impregnated a girl and of course his lingering “relationship” with Andrea, who can be quite vindictive when she does not get what she wants.
The tension culminates when Andrea confronts Tony about his marriage to Helayne. The couple get into quite a fight, one in which Tony accidently throws Andrea off a cliff. A gluttonous detective sees no foul play, so Tony and Helayne set off for a trip together to leave behind the turmoil. Just before they leave, however, Tony gets a call from the pregnant girl. He goes off to confront her, only to be shot down. The movie’s coda begins again, with Tony meeting Andrea for the first time while chilling at the beach.
Point of Terror does a pretty good job of exploring the nature of narcissism and exploitation of people, but the movie is a bit too obvious in its theme. The movie drips with narcissism, with Carpenter in particular chewing scenery and posturing every time he is on camera. Thorne and some of the other women join in on the narcissism, which focuses on breasts. Of course, Thorne slays everyone in the competition, particularly when her bikini top comes off and exposes the real deal.
There is some nudity and sexual situations, but these do not go far enough to enter the exploitation genre. Both Carpenter and Thorne show off their assets, but the two lack chemistry in their tame sex scenes. There’s also way too much time spent on musical numbers, with Carpenter doing his best to pull off a Tom Jones imitation.
As to the horror in Point of Terror, there isn’t any, other than the twist ending and some short scenes of violence. Indeed, the “point of terror” is the cliff from which Andrea dies. There is no terror evident, just singing, narcissism, and exploitation.
Point of Terror has little to offer fans of horror and terror, but it does have enough sleaze to keep the psychotronic awake through the entire picture. Thorne worshipers will like this movie just to see what she was like before her transformation into Ilsa and her days in sex comedies and exploitation fare (anyone dare to remember 1973’s Wam-Bam, Thank You, Spaceman?). Otherwise, this is a safe film to avoid.