ShadowsOfTheMindA little-seen slasher directed by LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET’S late Roger Watkins. Quite simply: it’s NOT a good movie!

This low budgeter, filmed under the pseudonym “Bernard Travis,” was Roger Watkins’ second and last non-porno feature. Watkins was said to have hated porn, yet he spent a decade making XXX films, starting with 1979’s HER NAME WAS LISA. That SHADOWS OF THE MIND got lost in the shuffle seems entirely understandable given the film’s non-qualities.

The naive young Elise molders is severely traumatized by her parents’ untimely demise. Her overly trusting shrink Robert elects to have Elise released from the asylum where she’s spent much of her adult life. She moves back to her parents’ country home, where she’s visited by her asshole stepbrother Leland. He’s desperate to have Elise re-committed but Robert won’t hear of it. Then a new problem presents itself when the burly house gardener Andrew is dispatched by an unseen psycho via a scythe blade through the neck.

Elise is quite nonplussed when Robert turns up for a dinner party with his slutty girlfriend Diana in tow–Elise, after all, is attracted to Robert, and the presence of Diana makes her jealous. The dinner, which takes place amid a rainstorm, is awkward and unpleasant, and the situation is worsened when Robert and Diana are obliged to stay the night after their car breaks down.

The trouble starts when Elise spies Robert and Diana having sex. She responds by going into a psychotic funk and killing Leland via a sharp object in his eye. Next she stabs Robert and then burns Diana to death on the front lawn. This alerts the fire department, and lands Elise back in the asylum. Here she confronts the ugly reality of her parents’ death: she killed them.

Roger Watkins’ touch in SHADOWS OF THE MIND is evident in the all-too-noticeable low budget production values and overall atmosphere of ugliness and despair. Few other directors have ever conveyed a sense of such total annihilation, and had Watkins’ career developed in proper fashion I’m certain he’d have become one of America’s top purveyors of cinematic grunge. Sadly that wasn’t to be, leaving us stuck with so-so fare like the present film, which lacks the style and resourcefulness of Watkins’ signature film LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET.

There are some striking visuals here, such as a climactic stalk through a darkened hallway, but they’re few and far between. From an aural standpoint the constant audio flashbacks are vastly overused (there’s one seemingly every few seconds), and the flute(!) based music score is horrendous. The Brooklyn accented Marion Joyce, who also wrote the screenplay (and whose only film credit this is), isn’t very strong in the lead role, wavering between catatonia and overwrought fits of insanity. None of the supporting cast members are terribly impressive, either.

The splatter also falls flat, done in a manner that even by early eighties standards is hopelessly cut-rate, with close-ups of hands wielding sharp objects followed by shots of the (supposed) victims with the objects stuck in them. Clearly, for those interested in early eighties slasher cinema or the output of Roger Watkins, SHADOWS OF THE MIND is not the place to start. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be bothered with at all.

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LBS Properties/Production Concepts Ltd.

Director: “Bernard Travis” (Roger Watkins)
Producer: Leo Fenton
Screenplay: Marion Joyce
Cinematography: Domonic Paris
Editing: Arnold Larschan, Roger Watkins
Cast: Marion Joyce, Erik Rolfe, G.E. Barrymore, Bianca Sloane, Anthony Frank, Don Renshaw, Marcia Watkins, Richard McNichol, Pamela Dawn, Lisa Susanne, Len Fine, Margaret Smith, Dorothy Klein