Joseph Cates’ 1965 cult classic Who Killed Teddy Bear makes me want to run for my scissors. No, not to kill Teddy Bear, but to edit out all the long, panning shots and the interminable disco dancing that keep this crime melodrama from flowing. But on the other hand Who Killed Teddy Bear offers sexual perversion, sadomasochism, murder, voyeurism, incest…all the things that make a movie worth watching.
The story (written by Arnold Drake and Leon Tokatyan) is confusing. From what I could figure out, a young man who has an obsessive relationship with his little sister goes bonkers when she catches him having sex. She then she falls down the stairs in shock, losing her teddy bear and getting brain damage in the process. Wow!
The deliciously sexy Sal Mineo plays the cunning lunatic brother. When he’s not stalking Juliet Prowse and masturbating while he makes obscene phone calls to her – wearing nothing but his tighty-whities – he’s taking care of his now retarded sister. His salacious behavior in private is contrasted with his prudery at home, protecting his sister from the evils of sex.
The supporting cast of Who Killed Teddy Bear includes Jan Murray as the detective whose wife was murdered by a sexual predator. As a result, he seems to enjoy listening to tape-recorded accounts of women who have been stalked. The fact that he has a daughter the same mental age as Mineo’s sister is either a coincidence or a symbolism of something I didn’t understand.
Stage actress Elaine Stritch, in a rare film appearance, plays the tough-talking, lecherous lesbian disco manager. And poor Juliet Prowse is the innocent victim of both Stritch and the stalker. Her vapid performance has some moments of believability, but I never really sympathized with her.
The film’s real, charismatic star is Sal Mineo. It was great to see him tackle the role of a psychopath. And on the prurient side, there are some appealing shots of his well-defined body as he works out at the gym, wearing swimming trunks so tight you could tell the time by the front of them – it’s always “high noon.”
It’s too bad that the ending – involving an attempted rape and an out-of-control chase – was such a disappointment, leaving with many more questions than answers.
© Danny Fortune
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965).
Director: Joseph Cates.
Screenplay: Arnold Drake. Leon Tokatyan.
Cast: Sal Mineo. Juliet Prowse. Jan Murray. Elaine Stritch. Margot Bennett. Daniel J. Travanti. Frank Campanella.