Axe – USA, 1974

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‘More horrific than Texas Chain Saw Massacre…’

Axe – released theatrically as Lisa, Lisa and also known as California Axe Massacre and The Virgin Slaughter – is a 1974 American exploitation horror film written and directed by Frederick R. Friedel.

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The film, which was released in 1977, stars Leslie Lee. It had been suggested that Lee had committed suicide in the 1980’s, however, these rumours were later revealed to be unfounded (see comments below).

Cinematographer Austin McKinney had previously worked with David L. Hewitt (Gallery of Horror) and later served as a visual effects cinematographer on Galaxy of Terror, Jaws 3-D, The Terminator and Night of the Comet.

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On December 8, 2015, Severin Films released Axe in the US on a triple-film Blu-ray edition with the following extras:

  • Axe + Kidnapped Co-Ed – Audio Commentaries with Writer/Director Frederick R. Friedel, Production Manager Philip Smoot, Makeup Artist Worth Keeter (director of Rottweiler: The Dogs of Hell)
  • Blood Brothers Feature – Friedel’s recut of the two features as one twisted crime epic!
  • Audio Commentary with Nightmare USA Author Stephen Thrower
  • At Last… Total Terror! – The Amazing True Story of the Making of Axe + Kidnapped Co-Ed (61 minutes)
  • Moose Magic – The George Newman Shaw & John Willhelm Story (33 minutes)
  • Stephen Thrower on Axe + Kidnapped Co-Ed
  • Trailers, TV Spots & Radio Spots
  • Bonus CD: Axe + Kidnapped Co-Ed Original Motion Picture Soundtracks Plus Bonus Tracks By George Newman Shaw & John Willhelm

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A group of three psychopaths on the run from the law go about terrorising the local townsfolk of a small community before descending on an isolated farm which is home to a young girl named Lisa and her paralysed grandfather. After suffering much humiliation at the hands of the gang, Lisa takes a ghastly, murderous revenge…

The film gained notoriety in 1984 when it was designated a video nasty in the UK, having been released on the obscure VRO label, and appeared on the director of public prosecution’s list of banned films. Fans of the more extreme nasties were bemused by its newfound notoriety and it certainly is one of the “tamer” titles on the list, containing little bloodshed and just a fairly unpleasant scene of humiliation featuring the eating of a lit cigar. Sadly, the lurid artwork and the presence of a young protagonist were probably enough to secure its nasty status.

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What Axe does have is a dreamy off-kilter feel mixed with misanthropy and malaise. Director Friedel would somehow repeat this odd ambience in 1976’s The Kidnapped Coed aka Date with a Kidnapper.

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“Friedel’s open-ended, tantalising storytelling is a mark of artistry and an imprimatur for audience interpretation. Axe is a small film, modest even, but it’s beautiful, bordering on poetic, and it invites you to play an active part in making sense of what you are seeing.” Stephen Thrower, Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents (FAB Press)

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Theatrical trailer
Interview with producer Harry Novak
“Harry Novak show reel” featurette

Buy Axe Special Edition DVD from Amazon.co.uk

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US Extras:

“Mental Health (Keeping Mentally Fit)” short
“We Still Don’t Believe It” short
“Gallery of Horror” art gallery
Theatrical trailer
Bonus trailers for “Lisa, Lisa”, “The Virgin Slaughter”, “Behind Closed Doors”, “Booby Trap”, ” The Child”, “Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks”, “Kidnapped Coed”, “The Mad Butcher”, “The Toy Box” and “Toys Are Not For Children”

Buy Axe Something Weird DVD from Amazon.com

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“… the antithesis of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – murder itself is woven into the fabric of ennui and desolation, and the fact that the Lisa character has no backstory contributes to the confused and isolated atmosphere.” Screen Damage

“It’s hard to say whether Axe was intended to be a commentary on chauvinistic and possessive behaviour; it’s message being along the lines of ‘thinking with your penis will get you violently axe-murdered’ and as such, some kind of feminist revenge flick, or whether it was simply supposed to terrify its audience. Either way, it falls very short of the mark.” Sarah Law, Gorepress

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“It’s not as strong or as graphic as other films in the sub-genre, spare a few bloodied close-ups. Acting is all over the place, the soundtrack feels like it has been lifted from an H.G. Lewis picture and the abrupt ending is just plain silly.” 42nd Street Cinema

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“Yet for all the violence and startling grotesquerie, Lisa, Lisa is an often quiet, suspenseful (dig that jarring, atonal score!), even thoughtful meditation on mental illness and family, in the form of a horror/exploitation film. A wonderful remnant of a cheap, fly by night & the seat of the pants era of regional filmmaking, don’t miss this slice of Americana.” Sara Fist, Peanut Butter & Gialli

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5 Comments on “Axe – USA, 1974”

    1. When I saw California Axe Massacre (as it was titled) in the early 1980s in my home city (Oxford Road, Manchester), I felt ripped off by its short running time, dour atmosphere and low budget. Now I often see these aspects as a positive!

  1. Echoing Phil. The rumor of Leslie Lee’s suicide may have started with me. I worked on the film in January of 1974 when it filmed in the Charlotte (NC) area. Later, probably in the 1980s, I ran across another former crew member who told me that Leslie was dead by her own hand. I later posted this on the IMDB message board, sometime around 2008. Around 2010, I was asked to verify this, and my investigation resulted in the same information Phil posted, that Leslie’s mother had committed suicide, not Leslie herself. I subsequently corrected the post on IMDB. Leslie is very much alive, and living alternately in California and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Beyond that, I’m not really interested in providing much detail, in order to protect her privacy.

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