Hammer Man

Having kidnapped and imprisoned a girl he believes to be his dead daughter, Vance Kingsley (Cameron Mitchell) explains why he murdered multiple women. Toolbox Murders’ goal is to demonize the conservative, puritan right who might – or did, actually – speak out against the film. They take away “fun” like blood, nudity, and graphic murder. That’s why Kingsley is the villain, not necessarily his kills.

Toolbox Murders wants to feel superior, even liberating. It’s not though; it’s trash among trash. The argument goes that movies like Toolbox Murders exist to denigrate the abusers, not women. Yet, here’s a movie that plants a camera pointed toward the bathroom as a woman undresses, slowly. Another masturbates in the tub, then runs around nude as an attack takes place. A bathtub is a private retreat; a movie like this uses it for voyeuristic value, nothing else.

Toolbox Murders exists to appease misogynists with context-less slaughter

Movies reflect society’s values, and Toolbox Murders exists on absurd fringes. It hates Kingsley for his Bible-infused worldview, and despises the idea that censorship should ever interfere with artistic creation. At issue is what value scuzzy exploitation like Toolbox Murders even offers. Toolbox Murders opens with 20-minutes of mindless splatter, detours into a police investigation that’s never mentioned again, lays out Kingsley’s reasoning, then presents a nonsense twist to finish off. The only logical conclusion is that Toolbox Murders exists to appease misogynists with context-less slaughter, and mock hardcore Christians.

There’s no genuine skill involved. Toolbox Murders’ budget runs so low, there’s no time for talent, just shot after shot to keep the finances in check. If women feared (and still fear) being assaulted and killed, it’s because movies like this instill an idea that’s outright ghastly – somehow, this is fine, because it’s only entertainment. In that case, it’s fair to ask why this is appealing, whether back in 1977 or now. Simple answer? Because those fringes never disappeared.

The slasher movie itself isn’t inherently despicable. Again, they reflect something in contemporary society. The ‘80s gave the genre a home because murder and crime rates allowed for it. Toolbox Murders suggests a form of societal oppression on those wanting to see nude victims run from a screwdriver stabbing or nail gun shot. That’s a bizarre stance, and a tonally deaf production.

The Toolbox Murders 4K UHD screen shot

Video

It’s another generous effort from Blue Underground, bringing this slasher into the modern era with an impeccable 4K scan. Grain reproduction is marvelous, the first stand-out in a transfer with many such positives. Encoding doesn’t add any digital anomalies, leaving the film print wholly intact and precise. This allows detail through in gobs. Definition excels, sharpness is spectacular, and texture finds a consistent home.

Excellent black levels provide solid shadows, and give Toolbox Murders a superb dimensionality. Imagery looks so dense, it’s better than most modern films. Dolby Vision adds a spark to the contrast too, giving light sources life, furthering the 3D-esque aesthetic. It’s that potent.

Color brings yet another striking element. Beyond the precisely red blood, other primaries around the apartment complex jump out via dazzling intensity. Unlike other Blue Underground efforts on this format, Toolbox Murders doesn’t appear graded with digital tools, at least not in any significant way. The film stock carries its natural density.

Audio

Atmos is beyond excessive, but that’s the Blue Underground way (there’s also a choice for 5.1 and mono in DTS-HD). Fidelity is dismal, but that’s an issue at the source. Low budget recordings pick up background noise like cars in the distance, muffling dialog. A bit of volume imbalance causes some lines to lose focus. Use the included subtitles as needed.

Surrounds pan ambient effects, offering directionality, although Toolbox Murders stays primarily locked to the center channel. A nail gun shoots front-to-back, and inside a bar, the jukebox blares music into the heights effectively. That’s something.

Extras

On the UHD, Blue Underground brings over an older commentary with star Pamelyn Ferdin, producer Tony DiDio, and director or photography Gary Graver. This is in addition to a new commentary shared by historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson.

Over on the Blu-ray, a slew of new interview segments include director Dennis Donnelly, actor Wesley Eure, and actress Kelly Nichols. There’s an older interview with actress Marianne Walter too. A fresh video essay includes historian Amanda Reyes and filmmaker Chris O’Neil. Afterward, there’s a memorial piece on Cameron Mitchell, then a flurry of promo items, many of them new.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Toolbox Murders
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Movie

Late ’70s era slasher crud, The Toolbox Murders struggles to make any point as it exploits women for its cause.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 31 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: