- Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965) movie review: Exuding charisma and sensuality, Sal Mineo is the best thing about Joseph Cates’ uneven yet intriguingly perverse psychological drama.
Who Killed Teddy Bear movie review: A charismatic, pathological Sal Mineo makes it all worthwhile
Starring two-time Oscar nominee Sal Mineo, Joseph Cates’ 1965 cult classic Who Killed Teddy Bear makes me want to run for my scissors.
No, not to kill Teddy Bear myself, but to edit out all the long, panning shots and the interminable disco dancing that prevent this psychological crime melodrama from flowing.
On the plus side, Who Killed Teddy Bear offers voyeurism, sadomasochism, incest, and murder … all those things that make a movie worth watching.
Back on the minus side, screenwriters Arnold Drake and Leon Tokatyan came up with a confusing storyline.
Play ‘Misty’ for him
From what I could figure out, Larry Sherman (Sal Mineo), has an obsessive relationship with his little sister, Edie (Margot Bennett), who, after catching him having sex (with their mother?), falls down the stairs in shock, losing her teddy bear and getting brain damage in the process.
When he’s not stalking nightclub disc jockey Norah Dain (Juliet Prowse) or masturbating while he makes obscene phone calls to her – wearing nothing but his tighty-whities – Larry spends his time taking care of his now mentally handicapped sister.
Larry’s salacious behavior in private is contrasted with his prudery at home, where he is adamant about protecting Edie from the evils of sex.
Pervy cop & lascivious lesbian
Notable Who Killed Teddy Bear supporting cast members include:
Jan Murray as police Lt. Dave Madden, whose wife was murdered by a sexual predator. As a result, the cop seems to enjoy listening to tape-recorded accounts of women who have been stalked.
The fact that Madden has a daughter the same mental age as Larry’s sister is either a coincidence or a symbolism of something I failed to understand.
In a rare film appearance, Broadway star Elaine Stritch (Bus Stop, Sail Away) plays the tough-talking, lascivious lesbian disco manager Marian Freeman, who takes an interest in Norah.
And that means the poor thing has to deal with both Marian and Larry the stalker. Unfortunately, Juliet Prowse delivers a mostly vapid performance; she’s believable in only a handful of scenes. Consequently, I was unable to sympathize with her plight.
All in with Sal Mineo
In all, Who Killed Teddy Bear has one truly charismatic star: Sal Mineo. It was great to see him looking deliciously sexy while tackling the role of a psychopath.
On the “prurient” side, the movie features several appealing shots of his well-defined body; thus we get to see Larry working out at the gym, wearing swimming trunks so tight you can tell the time by the front of them.
It’s too bad that the film’s ending – involving an attempted rape and an out-of-control chase – is such a disappointment, as it left this viewer with many more questions than answers.
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
Director: Joseph Cates.
Screenplay: Arnold Drake & Leon Tokatyan.
From a screen story by Arnold Drake.
Cast: Sal Mineo. Juliet Prowse. Jan Murray. Elaine Stritch. Margot Bennett. Daniel J. Travanti. Frank Campanella. Tom Aldredge.
“Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965): Charismatically Perverse Sal Mineo” review text © Danny Fortune; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes/endnotes © Alt Film Guide.
“Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965) Movie Review” endnotes
Who Killed Teddy Bear was the second of three features directed by Broadway/TV producer Joseph Cates (What Makes Sammy Run?, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg). His two other big-screen titles, both also modest efforts, were Girl of the Night (1960), with Anne Francis, and Fat Spy (1966), with Phyllis Diller.
Joseph Cates was the brother of director Gilbert Cates (I Never Sang for My Father; Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams) and father of actress Phoebe Cates (Fast Times at Ridgemont High).
Julie Prowse and Sal Mineo Who Killed Teddy Bear movie image: Magna Corporation.
“Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965): Charismatically Perverse Sal Mineo” last updated in October 2021.