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THE TODD KILLINGS



Surely one the major feel-bad movies of recent times, THE TODD KILLINGS can be called the anti-BREAKFAST CLUB. This all-too-convincing story concerns a young murderer's influence on a group impressionable teens definitely not John Hughes fare. Made in 1970 and mostly forgotten today, THE TODD KILLINGS remains an intelligent and convincing example of the "teens from Hell" cycle of films (1986's RIVER'S EDGE, 1995's KIDS, etc).

The Package
     For many viewers this film will be difficult to take, if not for the violence (most of which takes place offscreen) then for its unrelentingly nihilistic view of adolescence. THE TODD KILLINGS opens with a familiar caption: "This story is true only the names have been changed to protect the innocent." We've heard it all before and we've learned to disbelieve it every time, but in this case the disclaimer is true: the events of the film were inspired by the real-life crimes of Charles Schmidt, the "Pied Piper of Tuscon" (who also inspired the superlative THE LOST). 
     Outdated fashions aside, the film is just as relevant today--perhaps even more so--than it was in 1970.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that THE TODD KILLINGS was actually ahead of its time rather than a product of it.

The Story
     In THE TODD KILLINGS we are introduced to Skipper Todd, a charismatic twenty-three year old who leads a group of teenagers astray. He functions as the local drug supplier as well as the resident Casanova. Skipper arranges parties and has a carefree, thrill-seeking attitude that the kids find irresistible. Unfortunately, he's also a sociopath; he kills a young girl "to see what it would feel like." In spite of this, the local teenage populace bands together to help him escape detection. Three kids even help him hide the body. Needless to say, adults begin to grow suspicious and Skipper's world is brought crashing down, but not before he kills again. In the film's unforgettable final moments, several teenagers turn on the young man who reported Skipper to the authorities, screaming, "You finked on him!"
     It's a well-plotted story, told in near-documentary fashion. Abandoning traditional screenplay structure, screenwriters Dennis Murphy and Joel Oliansky develop their tale through a series of emotionally-charged sequences, capturing the shiftless, fragmented existence that Skipper and his disciples lead.

The Direction
     Director Barry Shear's film previous to THE TODD KILLINGS was WILD IN THE STREETS, a movie aimed squarely at the then-burgeoning youth market. With THE TODD KILLINGS he made a 180-degree turn. This is almost an anti-teenage movie, one which decries the young generation's lack of motivation and herd mentality. Shear shows an assured hand with the actors, coaxing top-notch performances out of the youthful cast. Sadly, this was to be one of Shear's last quality productions; he spent most of the remainder of his career directing mediocre made-for-TV movies.


Vital Statistics

THE TODD KILLINGS
National General Pictures

Director: Barry Shear
Producer: Barry Shear
Executive Producer: Walter Wood
Screenplay: Dennis Murphy and Joel Oliansky
Cinematographer: Harold E. Stine
Editor: Walter Thompson
Cast: Robert F. Lyons, Richard Thomas, Belinda Montgomery, Sherry Miles, Joyce Ames, Holly Near, James Broderick, Gloria Grahame, Barbara Del Geddes

     

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