Given the lack of budget, the fact most of the actors have not appeared in any other film and a completely homemade feel of this film, I would ascertain it must have been a student project for film school. Given that assumption, the film manages to succeed modestly on a few levels. The lack of budget only enhances this type of film and most everyone in the film, including the antagonists, is at least likeable. The mood is too light, even comical, for most of the film. It never sinks into misogyny, even though several opportunities arise. While this makes the film more appealing, it does not necessarily make for an effective thriller. There is some quite terrible acting is displayed here; especially atrocious are Randy Daitch as the professor and Max Manthey as Gary. Additionally, Phil Therrien hams it up something awful as Dr. Mabuse, a man obsessed with carrying on the experiments of a German rocket scientist who had relocated to the area following WWII. The choice of naming the doctor after Norbert Jacques's criminal mastermind is intriguing, though the relationship is apparently perfunctory. As fortune would have it, a student from the local City College comes knocking on Dr. Mabuse's door, looking for information about our German scientist for her school project. The good doctor conspires to use this student for some bizarre experiments. He reads some incantations in what, one can assume, is supposed to be German (as a fluent German speaker, I could not recognize more than two words he reads) and orders his assistant, Gary, to brand the student with a hot iron. Alas, the dim-witted Gary has fallen in love with student Sally, who really only wants to escape this madness. (Rather wisely and perhaps presciently, Sally is listed in the credits only as "Irene F.") To compound matters, a killer is roaming the area concealed by a mask of Richard Nixon. The actor is listed as Ronald Reagan, which, obviously with intention, conjures thoughts of animosity toward these two Republican presidents. "You fascists!" screams Sally at her captors at one point. It is not apparent to me what point the filmmakers were trying to make, except to compare her oppressors with Nazis, Reagan and Nixon, and to make it abundantly clear these people are all wicked. There are no heroes, however, only victims. Despite some (ostensibly intentional) overacting throughout most of the early proceedings, the film does manage to build a modest amount of suspense toward the end. The other high point is Susan Leslie, who plays a student conducting research on rocket propulsion. Ms. Leslie is one of the most attractive actresses I have seen in recent memory and she appears to have some acting ability, so I find it unfortunate this film was her sole appearance.
While not great, this movie does serve as a fairly entertaining diversion: there is a little nudity (a rather attractive female with a fantastic body); an engrossing, albeit simplistic, storyline; some cool music, and the aforementioned Ms. Leslie. If you are a fan of horror, especially 70's and 80's cheapo horror, give this one a look. If you like your films with big budgets, extravagant effects and Hollywood stars, pass up this one.
One final note: I find it ironic that an obscure, independent film such as this is coupled on DVD with "The History of Hollywood Horror Films." Just one more odd thing about this DVD.