In 1995, this movie was released by Troma Team Video with the title changed from “Sweet Savior” to the more exploitative “The Love Thrill Murders.” Troma even inserted a new title into the opening sequence, which is oddly out of place. The company thrived on taking forgotten low-budget films and editing the credits to include Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, then adding their brand name to the product.
Before the edited picture starts, Toxie introduces some trailers for Troma releases that include “Tromeo and Juliet” and “Femme Fontaine Killer Babe for the C.I.A.” (which promised lice-infested lesbians). An introduction by Kaufman prior to the movie allows the true cult experience to begin. An interesting side note – Kaufman has a small appearance as one of the members of the cult in this film.
This flick marks the downfall of “A Summer Place” heartthrob Troy Donahue, whose portrayal of the leader, Moon, is eerily similar to Charles Manson. Donahue’s career was sidetracked by a nasty drug habit that allowed the once-promising actor to end up in exploitation. This is a sad part to watching movies of this nature, because even at their lowest, some actors would never take a role this low. Nonetheless, given what has been said, his performance actually provides some insight into what the acid-fueled Manson family went through.
The Manson Family’s atrocious crimes showed the world what could happen when weak-minded drug users listen to a figure that they believe to be Christ-like. With that as a premise, the picture had the potential to be highly thought-provoking, possibly shedding some light onto the real-life horror on which it’s based. Unfortunately, that is far from the direction “The Love Thrill of Donahue Murders” takes.
Its victims are portrayed as sex-crazed yuppies who constantly taunt the cult, lending little sympathy their way and almost forcing the viewer to excuse the horrific crimes committed against them. Nobody in this universe is a decent person, and that is a true insult to the real-life victims and their families.
The film suffers from tonal problems also because when the movie opens we are treated to Moon on a motorcycle riding around New York. An upbeat tune called “Sweet Savior,” sung by Jeff Barry (Whose biggest hit was “Sugar, Sugar”), and that same image is what we get at the end credits – except in the end credits, Moon is giving everybody and everything the finger. The last frame involves the middle digit being given to the American flag. None of this serves any purpose to the film, but comes off campy and oddly funny to watch. Maybe that was the director’s message to anyone that actually watches this movie.
Despite the tonal problems, the movie does teach you how to scam the pretzel man/drug dealer with the lure of sex if it lowers the price of the drugs (once again set to another upbeat Barry tune). As if that wasn’t enough, they also steal a few of his pretzels, which was either scripted or a case of Donahue being broke and hungry.
“The Love Thrill Murders” will teach you two things about director Bob L. Roberts. The first is that you can never trust a man with the same first and last name. The second, however, is a lot more important, and that is that Roberts simply cannot direct because he has created a disorientating mess with this movie. He allows scenes to drag on way past some of their camp value. Case in point would be when a drugged-out chubby cult member decides to do a naked snake dance that lasts well over three minutes. At first, the full frontal nudity is funny, but after a while you find yourself wondering why the scene is still on.
Bad music, terrible direction and acting that makes a mockery out of the truth are all combined in this campy, trashy movie that will leave you wondering who in their right mind could have possibly made it.
However, it should be seen by anyone curious to the exploitation era, because this film was exploiting true-life events to make a soft-core porno, effectively echoing the Nazi exploiter classic “Ilsa: She Wolf of the S.S.” – and the type of film that leaves one needing a shower after viewing.
But fans of the genre will probably stock up on Dial and watch it anyway.