You may already be familiar with Arch Hall Jr., the crooning, baby-faced young star of such ultra-low budget teen films as Eegah and Wild Guitar. Fans of cult cinema relish his unpolished delivery, plaintive singing and Kookie-like blonde coif. But many are genuinely disturbed by one career detour Arch chose to take, 1963's The Sadist.

Over the span of roughly three years, Arch and his dad, Arch Sr., mounted an all-out -- if poorly bankrolled -- assault on the drive-in market. Producing the films under his own Fairway Productions banner, Hall Sr., a one-time B-movie cowboy, often wrote, directed or co-starred in his son's vehicles under various pseudonyms. (The Army-life exploits of Hall and a buddy were the topic of the film comedy The Last Time I Saw Archie, directed by Jack Webb. Robert Mitchum played Hall. Hall later sued). Evidently the objective was to mold Arch Jr. into a bankable singing heartthrob along the lines of Ricky Nelson, Frankie Avalon or Fabian. Hall and his combo were, in fact, gigging regularly around the L.A. area. But as Wild Guitar director Ray Dennis Steckler (aka Cash Flagg) speculated years later, Arch Jr.'s desire to become an airplane pilot eventually superseded his show biz career.

Wild Guitar (1962) is an exemplary Hall film. Arch Jr. plays humble, homespun Bud Eagle, a singer-guitarist from the Midwest who rumbles into L.A. on the back of a motorbike, hoping to take tinsel town by storm with his twangin' take on the twist beat that all the kids are crazy about. At a local diner, he hits it off with go-go dancer Nancy Czar who steers him onto a TV talent show. His passionate crooning and ingratiating shyness make him an overnight success.

In no time, Bud finds himself under contract to an unscrupulous handler played by Arch Sr. Though seduced by the rewards of heartthrobdom, Bud eventually sees his parasitic mentor for what he is and makes plans to extricate himself from the situation. This leads to a spirited fistfight with Sr.'s hechman played by director Steckler. The film finishes with a must-see, teen-party show stopper; Arch Jr., decked out in a white dinner jacket, strolling the beach, belting out Twist Fever for Nancy and their adoring fans.

Segue to The Sadist.

Dad stayed behind the scenes, and Steckler was supplanted by James Landis. No songs. No jokes. Our guitar-pickin' teen dream is transformed into a demented killer with absolutely no redeeming qualities. Turns out Arch Jr. is very good at being very bad.

It begins with three high school teachers traveling to L.A. for a Dodger game. Helen Hovey, cast as one of the educators, was Hall Sr.'s niece in real life (The script calls for Arch Jr. to become rather aggressive with his real-life cousin, ogling her and breathing heavily -- Yuck). Car trouble forces the trio to seek help in an apparently abandoned service station/junk yard where they're stalked by psycho-on-the-run Arch and his slow-witted gal pal, Marilyn Manning, the one-time object of Eegah's affections.

Hall is truly frightening, especially to purveyors of his earlier films who could never imagine the crooning, cuddly kid as a relentless killer. His performance may be one note, but it's a sustained, harrowing note. Restraint is entirely omitted from Hall's acting vocabulary. Imagine Jerry Mathers as Charlie Starkweather.

Unfortunately, Arch Jr. is probably remembered best for Eegah, an untenably protracted and threadbare fright film featuring Richard Kiel as Marilyn Mannings' prehistoric paramour. Its meager highlights include a handful of rockin' numbers by Arch and his Archers including a reprise of Vicky from Wild Guitar.

Hall Jr. curtailed his film and musical endeavors to pursue a career as a pilot. He only recently retired after 23 years as a commercial flier with Flying Tigers and Fed Ex. Fortunately, just prior to takeoff, he left us a modest trove of cult classics. A pair of them are cited below. Either of them, shown back-to-back with The Sadist, makes for a mind-blowing, schizophrenic double-bill.

The Choppers (1961)
Arch Jr. heads up a gang of canny car thieves supplying fresh metal to rotund tough guy Bruno Ve Sota's chop shop. While cruising the highways and byways in search of choppable rods, Arch makes time to croon his original compositions Konga Joe and Monkey In My Hat Band. Directed by Leigh Jason, the film was shot in 1959, but wasn't released until Hall had a second feature, Eeagh, to sell it with.

Acting: B-
Atmosphere: C
Fun: A

The Nasty Rabbit (1965)
Hall Sr. hams flagrantly as a boozy Russian officer in this very strained attempt to parody the spy movie craze. Junior appears as a U.S. government operative working undercover as a teen rock star gigging at a western ranch crawling with red spies. From the director of The Sadist!?

Acting: C-
Atmosphere: D-
Fun: C

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The Head

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A Bucket of Blood

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