Interesting Dated References: Hitchhiking, PCP referenced as an animal tranquilizer, reading underground newspapers.
Best Line: Frantic girl voice — “I think Jason Henry kills people … girl people!” Dignified cop voice — “I’m not too fond of underground newspapers.”
Social Context: It’s hard to call with this one. It could have been some type of allegory about war and its effect on individuals, but it’s way too fucking silly to be so. I don’t know, maybe some shit about cannibalism and how the wealthy are actually the enemy, since all the heroes in this movie are jive-talking young adults.
Summary: Welcome to Arrow Beach opens up like so many other betamax, which is with a girl hitchhiking. Now, this one immediately stood out because she is picked up by a guy in a souped-up yellow Model A, and as he opens the door to ask her where she is going, he pops out the 8-track of rock music and puts in some violin music. Obviously, this guy has his shit together. After some small talk with lots of hip words like “man,” “jive,” and “cats,” he proceeds to start driving the car at excessive speeds. When the girl requests to be let out, he tells her to relax and “have some snow” then motions toward the glove compartment. Again, obviously this guy has his shit together. Not so suddenly, the hopped-up young man crashes the car, and the girl walks away from the crash. Police interview her and send her on her way. Police work was so much easier back then. As the girl walks off we see her approach the “Welcome To Arrow Beach” sign as a Lou Rawls song that has no place in the film starts up.
Approximately 4 hours later, after the Lou Rawls song ends and the opening credits have finished, the movie begins. The girl wanders the beach, goes skinny dipping, and falls asleep. This whole time we see someone watching her through binoculars. This man approaches the girl, who we find out is named Robin, and invites her to eat with he and his sister. The man introduces himself as Jason Henry and is played by director and star, Laurence Harvey, who looks like he’s doing his best impression of Jim Jones. After some mild pre-dinner conversation, a bizarre eating segment begins in which director Laurence Harvey focuses in on close-ups of mouths, the cutting of steak, and a bunch of what was then considered “freak-out music,” but nowadays is just called “free jazz.”
I think it’s important here to mention a little bit about star and director Laurence Harvey. In the 50s and 60s he had been a pretty handsome and well-regarded actor appearing in films like Room At The Top, Butterfield 08, and The Manchurian Candidate. So, why in the 70s he decided to helm this B-movie is anybody’s guess. Harvey died of stomach cancer shortly before this film was released and as a result it became the last work he contributed to the world. Now it isn’t that this is a bad movie, it was tackling cannibalism and the after-effects of war well before it became really popular in the 80s. But the movie is marginally inspired. Pacing (see opening credit sequence), dialogue, and shots are all rather droll.
Let’s get back to the action. After dinner Robin chats with the sister, Grace. Then everyone goes to bed. Oh, I forgot to mention we see Jason going through some bizarre flashbacks from the Korean War. Through these flashbacks we see Jason resorted to cannibalism in Korea, and now has to satisfy the urge over and over. It is at this point we are supposed to feel slightly sympathetic for him. We also find out his sister is actually his wife, or maybe both. In the middle of the night, Robin wakes up and sees Jason hacking up a body. The only thing is, it takes her a good fucking 4 hours or so to get down to the basement. We see her turn every fucking corner in this house as she calls out for “Jason.” It’s fucking agonizing, and the whole goddamn time this free jazz screechy violin electronica shit is going on.
So hitchhiking hippy Robin escapes, but crafty old man Jason calls the cops first. Robin makes it to the wood-paneled police station and the cops assess she is on a “bummer.” In the meantime, the Sheriff gets to Jason’s, Jason plants drugs in her bag, gives it to the cop, and then at the hospital a janitor kid falls in love with Robin. Whatever. The janitor kid speaks equally as irritating hippie jive talk as the guy in the Model A. Fuck. So Jason spies an older drunk bar tramp on the beach, he picks her up, takes her down to his dungeon of photography and terror, and proceeds to kill her. This scene is usually what people talk about when this movie is brought up. The bar tramp is played by the over-the-top Gloria LeRoy and she does an excellent job portraying a depressed, aging, beauty, despite her limited screen time. The scene itself is shot really well, including a view through the photo camera lens, and plenty of blood-splattering, fast editing, and chopping action. Considering it was 1973 and this was a major studio picture, this entire scene is pretty graphic.
In the final stretch, Robin shacks up with the hospital janitor kid and they have a comfortably calm and romantic dinner together, despite it being during the last 20 minutes of the film. Also, heroin is referenced as “the works.” Robin and hospital guy decide to break into Jason’s house to solve the mystery. During the free jazz guitar solo and screeching electronic synthesizer annoyance extravaganza, Jason attacks the young hospital worker, Robin panics a lot, and Jason is then shot by his sister/lover as she says, “He couldn’t stop.” What’s odd about this is the whole sequence goes by rather quickly, whereas the opening credits, and the middle section with her waking up in the night and going down stairs, each last like 4 hours each. Then the Lou Rawls song comes back and the movie is over.
Poster and Box Art: The poster for this movie is great. Something about the beach, the woman, the binoculars, and the butcher knife all create a great image that tells you what’s going on and makes you curious. The box art for the Betamax is pretty much the same with some minor formatting changes. Interestingly enough, the DVD box maintains the same art. This is more than likely due to the fact the movie has entered public domain and therefore the DVD release is by a small company. Welcome To Arrow Beach was also released under the title Tender Flesh, which also had a good, albeit simple, poster:
This alternate title seems to only have been for an alternate theatre run and was never released on video under this title.
Availability: Welcome To Arrow Beach was available on dvd, but now seems to be out of print. If you find the dvd, it’s a full screen version and appears ripped from a shitty master, at least from what I’ve been told.