“The Urge to Kill” (1989)

I read about today’s movie on Seven Doors of Cinema. She made it sound weird and obscure enough to bump up my watch list. Within a few minutes of turning it on, I knew it deserved an in-depth review. Join me as I take a look.

Directed By
Derek Ford

Version Reviewed

Total Runtime
1 hour, 21 minutes, 43 seconds

A catchy synth-pop song plays over the credits, warning us of a woman who’s “in control” and has “the urge to kill”. There’s a time code in the upper left corner and blurred-out watermark for RTV Video in the lower left. The camera pans over some instruments in a recording studio. A big-breasted blonde (Sally Anne Balaam) is tapping her foot to the beat. She bumps into a set of wind chimes and ducks behind a box. Sitting at the controls is playboy music producer Bono Zorro (Peter Gordeno), an older guy with a permed mullet and shiny white teeth that contrast his tan. Zorro pulls the levers down on his mixing board, silencing the song. He asks the blonde who she is and why she’s there. The blonde, named Melanie, says she’s been waiting around to show him her demo tape. Zorro tells her he only entertains singers who can dance and has her do so with a conveniently placed stripper pole. As Melanie gyrates, Zorro phones another woman named Jane and tells her to come check it out. Jane (Sarah Hope Walker), who at times sounds like she was voiced by a senior citizen, politely declines because she’s already in bed. Like a senior citizen.

Zorro brings Melanie back to his place under the impression that he’ll listen to her tape if she sleeps with him. Zorro is a hateable womanizer and odd choice for main character because of it. He’s easily my least favorite Zorro. I’d rank him below the Hispanic musclebound pimp in Frankenhooker. As we soon learn, however, Melanie is a bit of a golddigger. So, no one is perfect. Zorro’s modern bachelor pad is fitted with a state-of-the-art voice-controlled home automation system he calls “Sexy” — somehow short for “Central Environment Control System”. Sexy can play music, unlock doors, even turn on the shower. She’s an 80s version of Alexa. The setup includes video cameras in every room that are always recording and TVs replaying the footage on loop. None of Zorro’s guests have a problem with this.

While Zorro shows Melanie around, a naked woman in bronzey-green body paint watches them. She has right angles for eyebrows, a contoured nose, and football-shaped hair. I’ve gathered she’s Sexy. What’s not immediately apparent is whether she’s merely a visual representation or full-on physical manifestation capable of interacting with people and stuff. Sexy’s presence is further signaled by shots of a panel with blinking lights on it and spacey music full of chirps and echoey boops.

After Zorro bangs Melanie, he goes to see Jane, leaving Melanie alone at his house. Melanie calls her friend Julie and has her come over. This leads to Melanie giving Julie a naked massage. Julie asks Melanie if she wants her to stay for a threesome with Zorro. Melanie spanks her as if to say “Oh you.”, but what she really means is “He’s mine! Hands off, bitch!” Melanie goes for a shower while Julie gets in a tanning bed.

Julie starts moaning and saying “don’t stop” as a laser sight travels across her body to her face, then down to her nipple. Suddenly, bam! Blood spatters everywhere. She’s been shot. Ok, what happened here? Besides the obvious. Sexy killed Julie, but how? Are there guns on swivel mounts hanging from the ceilings? Did Sexy physically pick up a gun and go do this? Neither option is very believable. Also, why did she feel the need to, uh, stimulate Julie, and how did she do it?

Down the hall, in the shower, the water gets so hot it scalds Melanie’s skin off. Her body mysteriously vanishes. So far, it seems as though Sexy wants Zorro all to herself. This is just like The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” segment “House of Whacks” where they upgrade their home and it tries to kill Homer to get with Marge, as well as the 1977 movie Demon Seed, on which that segment was based. Difference being, Sexy’s powers exceed those of Ultrahouse and Proteus IV.

Zorro is now at Jane’s place. They have a weird arrangement. They talk like they’re dating, yet Zorro boasts about sleeping with Melanie, who her refers to as “a little groupie” and “that kid”. Are they swingers? FWBs? Platonic friends with a shared passion for sluts? Time will tell. Zorro brings Jane home to “meet” Melanie. The only signs they find of the girls are a weird ashy substance in the tanning bed, a skirt, and a pair of panties. Jane suggests Melanie left. Zorro is so deluded he genuinely can’t wrap his head around why a woman would do that.

Jane calls two hookers and has them come over instead. One of them sucks Zorro’s fingers. Lead hooker Tiga senses that Jane is secretly jealous of all the attention Zorro pays Sexy. Jealousy is a big theme here. Jane assures Tiga that her and Zorro’s relationship is like EPMD’s approach to rap — “strictly business”. Contrarily, they never discuss business dealings. Jane, Zorro, and the other hooker all jump in a bubble bath and playfully wrestle each other, laughing and splashing while Tiga heads to the sauna. Jane gets out and blow-drys her hair. Tiga showers off. There are lots of breasts in this movie. Every female character gets topless. I love how the names are a mixture of exotic and normal. Zorro. Melanie. Sexy. Jane. Tiga. Julie.

The next step in Sexy’s evil plan is superheating an electric toothbrush Tiga is using, causing her to spit up black gunk and die. Zorro faints on the other hooker, forcing her underwater. Jane walks in and pulls Zorro out. When she goes to pull out the hooker, the hooker’s hands break off. Jane falls to the floor screaming, clutching her eyes. Cut to: Jane, sitting, staring blankly ahead. Zorro brings her a drink. He dismisses her story. He tells her the two hookers left. The handless body has vanished, like Melanie’s. Without proof, Jane reluctantly agrees that she may have imagined it.

What’s real and what’s not? Who will survive?

[continued below]

Thoughts (Possible Spoilers)
A thought comes to Zorro. He realizes that Jane must have pushed him down into the water. He spins around and screams in her face “You stupid bitch! You nearly drowned me!” He commands her to leave. His acting becomes comically bad whenever he raises his voice.

Jane reaches for the front door. It shocks her. Zorro stops being angry. He offers to go check the system. He sits at the panel with the blinking lights on it, taps a key on a keyboard a few times, and says “Everything checks out normal.” Good job, inspector. Jane asks him to shut down the system long enough to let her escape. Zorro tries and gets zapped even harder than she did. The phone rings. It’s Sexy pretending to be Tiga. In a robotic voice, she explains how she used public transportation to arrive at her residence. Zorro sees through the odd choice of language. He asks Sexy to playback what happened in the bathroom. She doesn’t comply.

In response, Jane cuts the power to the whole building. Zorro says it will take six hours for Sexy’s battery backup to run out. Jane contemplates jumping out a window, then decides she’s not desperate enough to do that and will drain Zorro’s battery balls to pass time. Zorro offers to call the man who installed the equipment and have him come fix it. Jane tells him not to. That’ll come back to bite her in the ass. Actually, she might enjoy that. While the two humans kiss on a couch, Sexy somehow creates and plays for Zorro a video of Jane pushing him face-first into the water.

Credit: Frinkiac.com, Disney

Zorro flies into another rage. “You bitch! So, it was you!” He drags Jane around by her wrist looking for Melanie, Julie, Tiga, and the other hooker. He checks a drawer. A drawer! He gives up and finally calls the installation technician. Sexy tells him the number he dialed is temporarily out of order and creepily assures him everything is going to be alright.

Jane goes upstairs for a shower and steps on one of Melanie’s earrings. She already had Melanie’s panties and skirt, but for some reason acts like this earring is a key piece of evidence proving she never left. Jane lays out her theory that Sexy killed the four missing women to control Zorro’s life.

Zorro is skeptical. He grabs a meat cleaver and raises it menacingly.

“What are you going to do with that axe?” Jane inquires.

Credit: Wrong Side of the Art

“Kill the bitch” he responds. In a fake-out moment, Zorro charges past Jane to the panel where he’s shocked yet again. He then hallucinates that Jane is Sexy and grabs her throat. Jane knees him in his Bono and runs upstairs to a bathroom.

Zorro is right at her heels. Fortunately for her, he hallucinates that Jane snuck into his bed and figures now is an appropriate time to have intercourse. He soon faints a second time, probably because all his blood keeps rushing to his penis.

Someone please make a video of killers brandishing increasingly unconventional weapons and Jane asking each of them “What are you going to do with that axe?”

Jane heads downstairs and tries to lift the garage door. Sexy appears in a car and accelerates at her. Jane narrowly avoids disaster. She gets up and imagines a mannequin stashed on a pile of junk is a dead body. By this point, Zorro has stirred and followed her screams. They devise a plan for Zorro to climb up into the attic and smash his way out through the roof.

Sexy pushes Jane off a stepladder that’s never shown on camera. Zorro comes down to help and is hypnotized. Sexy rubs her hands on his temples and chants “Everything is going to be all right.” They teleport to his bedroom. Sexy then mentally replays for him alternate footage of all the nude scenes thus far.

Zorro awakes in a state of bliss and is greeted by two meowing women claiming to be from the “Cat Calls” escort agency. The women start wrestling for Zorro’s enjoyment while a mud wrestling VHS plays in the background. Zorro is totally transfixed by the impromptu performance. No alarm bells go off in his head. Jane comes to and tells him his mind has been fucked with. Zorro won’t hear it. Jane picks up the axe disguised as a meat cleaver and heads for Sexy's control panel herself. Cords shoot out like tentacles, wrapping around her, ending her life.

With Zorro alone, Sexy rams his head through a TV Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors-style, leading me to question her motives. I thought she was killing to gain Zorro’s affection. Now he’s dead. What’s her plan going forward? Does the breaking of the TV symbolize her escape from the system, or serve as some kind of commentary? I doubt it, just thought I’d ask.

Overall, The Urge to Kill is an unexpectedly strange cyber-horror with two to three good effects, a lot of hilariously bad acting, and more bare breasts than you can shake a dick at. Its basic premise is fun but flawed as Sexy’s powers extend well beyond what makes sense. She’s an AI program confined to a home automation system. Why can she physically manifest, dematerialize matter, induce hallucinations, etc.? There are no answers, only boobies. This mindless affair never gets too exciting and loses steam toward the end when Zorro repeatedly passes out, losing touch with reality. I wouldn’t call it “good” by a long shot, but if you’re like me, the allure is in the weirdness, the obscurity, and you’ve already made up your mind that The Urge to Kill warrants a look.

It was filmed entirely indoors in about a week in producer Dick Randall’s London, England home. It almost feels unfinished without exterior shots. Daring artistic decision or laziness? You be the judge. It surfaced online sometime around 2011, but wasn’t released to home video until 2014, a quarter-century late. US/international rights holder Vision Films, who doesn’t do anything with it, lists it as “Computer Strikes Back” with a production year of 1988 on visionfilms.net. It’s also often referred to as “Attack of the Killer Computer”, which some claim was the working title. That’s like referring to Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan as “Ashes to Ashes” — confusing and wholly unnecessary. To me, the movie’s theme song confirms it was always meant to be called what it’s called because I feel like original theme songs are usually commissioned early on in the production process.

However, blogger/author Gavin “GavCrimson” Whitaker claims Randall was already in possession of the song and named the movie after it just to make use of it. The song was then tweaked and re-recorded by Peter Gordeno’s son Peter Gordeno Jr., who went on to become a longtime member of Depeche Mode. If only The Urge to Kill were released sooner: “Featuring music by Depeche Mode!” would have been the perfect half-truth for a VHS cover.

The Urge to Kill wound up being director Derek Ford’s final film and Dick Randall’s third to last. They died nearly one year apart — Ford on May 19th, 1995. Randall on May 14th, 1996.

Ford mainly worked in the sexploitation genre. His movie Diversions was filmed in both softcore and hardcore versions. I watched it as part of my “research”. It’s about a woman being escorted to prison by train. The sex scenes are her daydreams. In the first one, a man pretends to prefer apples to poontang. He waxes poetic about them and builds effigies out of fruit in order to trick a woman into having sex with him in a barn. And somehow it works. Segment two is where things take a left turn to Crazy Town. The prisoner is getting boinked and has a flashback to when she was gang-raped by soldiers during a war. She stabs her lover twice with a dagger, rubs his blood all over her body, masturbates with the handle, cuts off his dick, puts it in her mouth, throws his dead ass on the back of a golf cart, drives to the middle of nowhere, and dumps him headfirst in a hole. It’s pretty horrific for 70s porn. But not something people have heard of. Horror fans will probably only recognize Ford’s name as screenwriter of Don’t Open Til Christmas, if at all.

Randall’s filmography is a mixture of low-rent sexploitation, action, kung fu, and horror filmed in at least twenty-six countries. Titles that pop out at me are Don’t Open Til Christmas, For Your Height Only, Pieces, and Slaughter High.

Peter Gordeno (Zorro) was a choreographer, dancer, & TV actor, whereas the women were models. Sally Anne Balaam (Melanie), for example, appeared in the pornographic magazines Bachelor, Cavalier, Cheri, Chicago, Chic, Chick, Contactarcon, Cover, Cronaca D’Italia, Dolly, Exclusiv, Express, Extase, Gent, Gente Libre, Highlife, High Society, Hustler, Kontakt, Libertin, Lingerie Defi, Majo Club, Molly, Nera Express, Oho!, Parade, Park Lane, Party Special, Praline, Pretty Woman, Pussy, Raider, Real Letters, Sex Mäx, S.O.Z., Super Girls, Superhasen, Super Möpse, St. Pauli Nachrichten, Sunday Sports, Ugens Rapport, Whip, and Yes Sir, among others, as Sally Anne Sheffield, Sally Anne Smith, Sally Anne Southend, Leslie Anne, Leslie, Anne, Claudia, Jamie, Nelly, Ninette, Patty, Penny, Serena, Sonja, Susi, and more. In 1998, she became a DJ and changed her name yet again to Sally Doolally. What a colorful résumé.

In 2012, Mondo Macabro founder “Mondo” Pete Tombs commented on The Bloody Pit of Horror’s review of The Urge to Kill saying he possessed “a great HD master taken off a 35mm print” and was planning to release the movie on DVD. A production assistant going by “G.C.” (there was only one crew member with those initials — photographer Gordon Cartwright) also commented claiming he had lots of stills. Mondo Macabro had previously distributed many of Dick Randall’s titles.

Two years later, the movie was put out, but not by Mondo Macabro, by French label Uncut Movies. It has a photo gallery as a special feature, so it looks like G.C. was involved. Why the project changed hands is anyone’s guess. In my younger days, I would have purchased the disc and used DVD Decrypter to make myself a region-free copy. Now, I just think that’s a hassle. The text on the back roughly translates as follows:

The famous music producer Bono Zorro uses his status to seduce young singers ready to do anything to break into show business. He lives in a luxurious apartment controlled by a computer nicknamed Sexy in which he brings back these young girls thirsty for success. Everything turns to horror when the computer materializes in the form of a bloodthirsty creature determined to suppress Bono’s sexual conquests. Murders then follow and nothing seems to be able to put an end to the bloodthirsty madness of the sadistic computer.

Take naked girls, add gore scenes… mix it all with a good dose of bad taste and you have The Urge to Kill, one of the most insane horror films of the 80s! Produced by Dick Randall (Pieces and Slaughter High), this film has never been distributed until now following the loss of the original negative… Today, we present it to you more than 20 years after its realization as an international premiere in a remastered version. An essential collector’s item for lovers of cult, gore and extravagant films!

The cover image of a blood-smeared goth woman licking an axe obviously has nothing to do with the movie. The picture of Sally Anne Balaam on the back is taken from the Japanese publication “Bachelor”. Here’s another:

Credit: Vintage Erotica Forums

The Urge to Kill is on YouTube if you’re curious and have the urge to kill time and brain cells. With how much nudity it shows, I’m surprised it’s lasted eight years and gotten over a million views without being taken down. God bless every single person who watched it and chose not to report it. Ironically, you can now tell your phone to play you this movie. Hopefully, it won’t shoot your nipples off.

Body Count

Bod Count
7 pairs of boobs plus at least 1 more on TV. Jane’s butt. Zorro’s soapy butt.

Overall Enjoyability
3 axes out of 5.

I Got My Copy From

these other cyber-horrors:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Demon Seed (1977)
Evilspeak (1981)
Lifepod (1981)
The Tower (1985)
Nightflyers (1987)
976-EVIL (1988) kinda
Homewrecker (1992)
The Lawnmower Man (1992)
Arcade (1993)
Ghost in the Machine (The X-Files episode, 1993)
Ghost in the Machine (1993)
The Tower (1993)