THE DARK RIDE, aka KILLER’S DELIGHT (1978) Slow paced early slasher film loosely based on the exploits of Ted Bundy.

darkride_usposterTheme Song:


“Where Are We Going?,” possibly by Byron Olson. This song is sung by our detective’s mistress as she tries to seduce our killer. There are no music credits other than one at the beginning stating, “Music by Byron Olson,” so that’s all we have to go on.

Interesting Dated References: Kidnapping young women from the exact same location day after day without the general public ever changing their behavior or catching on; being able to continue to drive around said location in the same car, circling nonstop, unnoticed.

Best Line: Nothing of note.

Social Context: The description on the back of this box states that it’s loosely based on the early killings of Ted Bundy. Clearly this was a marketing ploy, since the only real thing they have in common is that young women are being abducted, murdered, and disposed of. That M.O. fits any number of killers from the 70s, from Bundy to the (never caught) Connecticut River Valley Killer. Since everyone hitchhiked by themselves in the 70s, it was really easy to be a murderer of young women. The attempt to tie the movie to Bundy was a good marketing ploy, and probably justifies the interest in a restored DVD.

Summary: Remember when movies didn’t have twists? That was the best. You could make a movie, have a bunch of girls get murdered, and the killer didn’t have to be tied to anything. He didn’t have to be the detective’s brother. He didn’t have to be the detective. He didn’t have to be a chick who was raped by a criminal the detective had let free years earlier. Nope, the killer could just be a killer. A random dude cutting up women. Back in the late 70s, this is how movies were and it was fine.

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The Dark Ride starts with a killer in a boogie van disposing of a girl’s body by launching it off a cliff by The Golden Gate bridge. In the very next scene we see a hitchhiking girl get picked-up in the same boogie van and she is then murdered. That body is immediately found by a young boy, who instead of exploring the nude female body, immediately tells his hick grandfather. What a wasted opportunity for this young boy.

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The grandfather is played by George “Buck” Flower, who has been appearing in every other Betamax I watch. So, Buck gives a report to Sergeant De Carlo (James Luisi), our main man.

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The next day, De Carlo and his assistant, Beardsley, figure out that all the murdered girls they have been finding are somehow related to the public swimming pool all the kids hang out at. As good sergeants do, he waits until later that night to go talk to the girl he knows at the front gate of the pool.

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While chit-chatting at the gate, the killer buys a ticket and follows another girl and kills her. De Carlo acts suspicious, but is too busy chatting and walking around to do anything about it. The next day, Beardsley and De Carlo play basketball. They get the call about the new dead girl and proceed to change in front of each other. Imagine changing in front of your coworkers! Imagine playing a sport with them where you have body contact! The seventies were wild. For some reason, there are very graphic and realistic pictures of the next dead body. This is totally awesome, but very awkward. Either they really put a lot of effort into making these things look real, or someone had a buddy down at the police station who slipped them some real photos.

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I wasn’t there, but it sure seems like the 70s were awesome.

Back at the pool, De Carlo shows up to again talk with the chick working the door. At closing time, he walks her to her car and then leaves. Her car doesn’t start and our killer offers her a ride. As expected, he takes her the wrong way and then gives a brief foot chase and a good neck snapping. For the record, and because you were going to ask, there are no torture scenes during these killings. You pretty much see the girl get in the van of boogie, then you see her the next day, dead in some bushes.

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Our killer, whom we see on a regular basis now, is played by John Karlen of Dark Shadows fame. That’s one of those shows that has really annoying fans, much like people who are into Doctor Who. The investigation goes on, more chicks are abducted, and De Carlo mugs at the sunset a bunch. It’s all fairly well done and well paced.

The next night at the pool, our killer dresses inconspicuous with a giant wig. De Carlo finds this outfit suspicious and gives chase on foot. He gets hit by the murderous boogie van as it comes out of a garage. And then there’s a random torture scene thrown in that has nudity. It’s done so weirdly I’m almost starting to think it was edited in later. Our detectives head to a hypnotherapist so De Carlo can remember the car that hit him. Really none of this is necessary. I think the writers were trying to give the script some relevance to the many murdered dead girl cases of the late 70s, which tried using things like psychics to crack the case.

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The Frisco Disco. Dance Your Ass Off, Inc. These people were so steadfast in their need for people to dance their asses off that they incorporated. At this point, things switch to pretty standard detective fare. De Carlo breaks into our killer’s house, steals his garage door opener, finds the garage and van (which has a new coat of paint), then a bunch of detective shit happens.

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De Carlo gets his mistress to seduce the killer by posing as a lounge singer. Talk about inconspicuous, look at the size of those covert detective C.B.s! It must have been really hard to be slick back in the day.

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After much more detecting and several awesome wall paper patterns, our killer wises up to the mistress and brags about all his exploits. He offers lots of justifications, and then we get this fairly good 70s ending that would never fly anymore these days:

This isn’t a bad movie (as is made obvious by the effort put into the DVD reissue), but overall it doesn’t offer much in the way of gore, which you are obsessed with, or intrigue. Super hardcore ending, though. Always nice to see. I should also highlight there are several great 70s interiors.

darkride_origposterPoster and Box Art: It’s 70s poster-making at it’s best and most basic: Sharp contrast photo of a young woman in distress, bold red type. Only I can’t seem to find a large image if it anywhere. I’m even willing to gamble this is some fake promo image that was never used and only unearthed for the DVD wich does have some other good advertising materials I didn’t bother to transfer. For the Betamax box pictured above, we get an updated 80s look: Airbrushed drawing of young woman in distress, bad bold font choice. Despite being released under the other titles, I cannot seem to find any advertising material for them.

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There’s also this alternate VHS box that gives the movie an even better airbrushed, updated, 80s slasher cover. Bonus points for using the other 80s cover as an image on the back, as if to show its inferiority. Look at all those axes! I don’t even think there was an axe in the entire movie. Let alone one that had a weird three shafted floppy thing going on.

Availability: The Dark Ride is available on DVD under the title Killer’s Delight. It’s a fully restored edition with audio commentary, alternate scenes, etc. The highlight is an interview with John Karlen. Super nice guy that tells several great anecdotes, including that the one nude scene was edited in a little later. The print looks great, as well. Even though the movie may be a little slow, I would recommend checking out the DVD.

3 comments

  • Good job on making me read an obscure, vintage, wikipedia article on a killer that most everyone has never heard of. I’ll wash it down with pizza that I can’t afford and rot gut whiskey that seems to be rapidly growing gin blossoms and swelling up my insides. A big hello from the future soup kitchen line.

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