Savage Weekend

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Savage Weekend
Savage Weekend poster.jpg
Original 1978 poster
Directed by David Paulsen
Produced by Alvin L. Fast
Written by David Paulsen
Starring Christopher Allport
David Gale
William Sanderson
Yancy Butler
Music by Dov Seltzer
Cinematography Zoltan Vidor (as Zoli Vidor)
Edited by Zion Avrahamian
Jonathan Day
The Cannon Group
Upstate Murder Co.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox;
Kino Lorber (2015 Blu-ray)
Release date
Running time
88 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget Unknown

Savage Weekend is a 1979 American slasher film directed by David Paulsen and starring Christopher Allport, David Gale, William Sanderson, and Caitlin O'Heaney. The film follows a woman who retreats to upstate New York with her wealthy boyfriend, her sister, and friend, only to be stalked by a killer in a disfigured mask.[2] Filmed in 1976 as The Killer Behind the Mask, the film was also titled The Upstate Murders[3] before being released in 1979 by Cannon Films. It has been cited as an early prototype for the slasher film, predating Halloween and Friday the 13th.[3]

Falling into public domain, Savage Weekend was released on VHS and DVD by various independent companies, often in low quality prints sourced from video transfers.[4] The film was released for the first time on Blu-ray in 2015 through joint licensing by Kino Lorber and 20th Century Fox,[5] featuring an HD transfer from the original source material.


Marie Pettis (Marilyn Hamlin) has recently divorced her politician husband named Greg, who had been involved in a scandal in New York City. To decompress, she leaves for a weekend trip in upstate New York with her new stockbroker boyfriend Robert (Jim Doerr), her sister Shirley (Caitlin O'Heaney), and their openly gay friend Nicky (Christopher Allport). They arrive to the country late in the evening, and stop in a small town. Robert, Marie, and Shirley pick up groceries at a market, where Shirley finds a sinister face mask that she decides to buy as a joke. Meanwhile, Nicky goes to the bar across the street for a drink, and is harassed by two homophobic men whom he beats up.

They arrive at the remote farmhouse Robert has recently purchased from Otis (William Sanderson), a local man whose father has died, and whom Robert has hired to build a large schooner, a project which is being housed in a barn on the property. Jay Alsop, an engineer and friend of Robert's, arrives to oversee the boat's progress. A lumberman providing the wood for the boat, Mac Macauley (David Gale), tells Marie of a local rumor involving a young woman who was assaulted by the unhinged Otis, and hints that he may have been responsible for a murder.

Jay develops a sexual interest in Shirley, while meanwhile Marie finds herself attracted to Mac. The following day, Jay goes down to the barn to check on Otis's progress on the boat; there, he is strangled by a killer donning the mask Shirley bought the day before, his body hung from the rafters so as to appear as a suicide. That night, the rest of the group dresses up for a formal dinner at the house. After dinner, Marie and Robert go for a walk on the property. Meanwhile, Shirley puts on a tango record and performs a striptease for Nicky. The two dance together on the house's second floor, and jokingly apply makeup to each other's faces. Marie and Robert discover Jay's body in the barn, and rush back to the house.

The killer attacks Nicky upstairs, stabbing him through the head with a large sewing needle. Shirley is chased into the basement, where the killer ties her to a table saw and attempts to kill her with it, but cannot get power to the tool. When they arrive at the house, Robert and Marie are confronted by the killer. Robert discovers Nicky's body upstairs, and is thrown to his death out of the second story window. The killer then returns to the ground floor, where he reveals himself to be Greg. He tells Marie that he plans on taking her out into the lake and committing a murder-suicide.

The next morning, Mac arrives at the house, and finds it empty. As he goes to investigate the basement, he turns on a light switch which activates the table saw, inadvertently killing Shirley, who has been tied to the table all night. Mac flees the house, where he encounters Greg attempting to bring Marie to the lake to kill her. Greg and Mac begin fighting and tackle one another to the ground. Otis arrives upon the scene, and kills Greg with a chainsaw. The film ends with Otis riding his bicycle to the local graveyard where he visits his father's grave.


  • Christopher Allport as Nicky
  • Jim Doerr as Robert Fathwood
  • David Gale as Mac Macauley
  • Devin Goldenberg as Jay Alsop
  • Marilyn Hamlin as Marie Sales Pettis
  • Caitlin O'Heaney as Shirley Sales
  • Jeff Pomerantz as Greg Pettis
  • William Sanderson as Otis
  • Yancy Butler as Little Girl
  • Adam Hirsch as Jeremy Pettis
  • Don Plumley as Pool Player
  • Ben Simon as Lumberman
  • Geraldine Chapin as Woman at Bar
  • Rae Chapin as Lumberman
  • Claude Dickison as Waitress at Bar
  • Robert T. Henderson as Bartender


Savage Weekend was shot in the Hudson River Valley on a remote lake location according to star Caitlin O'Heaney.[6] O'Heaney, then a recent graduate of Juilliard, had been a stage actress in New York, and had recently performed on Broadway with Katharine Hepburn.[6] O'Heaney auditioned for the part at the suggestion of her agent, and claimed she took the role in order to establish herself within the Screen Actors Guild.[6] She described the shoot as "low budget, but very professional," and cited the experience as essential at informing her film acting.[6]


Shot in 1976, the film received a minuscule theatrical release as The Killer Behind the Mask before being shelved.[7] The film was picked up for release by The Cannon Group, though are conflicting release dates for the film, with some citing 1979, and others 1978 (from one of the posters) and 1981.[8][9]

Critical reception[edit]

Few published reviews of the film exist.[10] TV Guide called it "A truly reprehensible exploitation film... Ultra-low-budget and shot on grainy color stock, the film is borderline pornography, and the gore effects are extremely gruesome."[9] In spite of this, the film has attained a cult following.[11]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS in the 1980s by various companies, including Paragon Video Productions. The film is available on DVD through various companies, but the legality of these releases in terms of proper licensing is in question. As of 2009, the film was in public domain.[12]

In July 2015, it was announced that the film was being released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.[13] It was released September 29, 2015, and features a restored print of the film from the original source material.[14]



  1. ^ Brennan, Sandra. "Savage-Weekend". The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2015. 
  2. ^ Muir 2007, p. 575.
  3. ^ a b Harper 2004, p. 149.
  4. ^ Staff (October 1, 2015). "Savage Weekend". Mondo Digital. Retrieved November 6, 2015. 
  5. ^ Painter, Ryan (September 28, 2015). "New DVD and Blu-ray releases for September 29, 2015". KUTV. Retrieved October 30, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d O'Heaney, Caitlyn. Interview on Savage Weekend Blu-ray. Kino Lorber/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. 2015.
  7. ^ Beaumont, Christopher (June 2, 2014). "Savage Weekend". Critical Outcast. Retrieved November 6, 2015. 
  8. ^ Brennan, Sandra. "Savage Weekend". The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Staff. "Savage Weekend". TV Guide. Retrieved November 6, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Savage Weekend (1976)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 6, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Kino Lorber Studio Classics Announces its September Releases". Kino Lorber. New York, New York. August 13, 2015. Retrieved November 6, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Savage Weekend". Retrieved July 9, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Savage Weekend Blu-ray". Retrieved July 9, 2015. 
  14. ^ Savage Weekend [Blu-ray]. Kino Lorber; 20th Century Fox Home Video. 2015.


  • Harper, Jim (2004). Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies. Critical Vision. ISBN 978-1900486392. 
  • Muir, John Kenneth (2007). Horror Films of the 1970s. McFarland. ISBN 978-0786431045. 

External links[edit]