Plot: Mescal is a small town in the Southwest, named for the family for that founded it and that family has remained prominent there. So when the family’s only son Travis is killed, it is quite the shock. But his death was just the start, as soon two prostitutes are murdered in violent fashion. The owner of the town bank knows that if the killer isn’t captured, the town, already on a steep decline, will surely become deserted. So he hires an out of town detective named Burns (Jeff Cooper) to come in and solve the murders, hoping it will also save the town. Burns agrees to take the case, but he meets resistance from the local sheriff, a cantankerous old man named Jarrod (Jack Elam). Jarrod is worried if Burns solves the case that he couldn’t, he will lose the position of sheriff. Soon after Burns arrives, even more bodies start to turn up and while some in the town act in haste, Burns is careful and wants to make sure he has the right suspect. Who is killing the beautiful women of Mescal and will Burns be able to uncover the truth, or will the streets continue to run red with blood?
Entertainment Value: Knife for the Ladies is a murder mystery wrapped in a western package. You don’t need to be a fan of cowboy cinema to appreciate it however, as the Old West just provides the setting and atmosphere. I was drawn to the film because of Jack Elam and he has a good role here, plenty of screen time and a solid performance. He is as gruff and temperamental as ever, with his trademark wild eyebrows. He doesn’t phone it in either, as his work here is quite good and really elevates the material. The other cast members are good as well, with Ruth Roman especially fun to watch as the matriarch of the Mescal family. The main narrative is pretty standard murder mystery stuff, but the characters are well developed and their personal arcs add a lot to Knife for the Ladies. I also loved the finale, which was satisfying and a proper conclusion. This is a well made and entertaining movie that sadly doesn’t have much of a profile. I hope it is able to get some new fans, as Knife for the Ladies deserves to be seen.
There’s some bare chested Jeff Cooper on display and some “almost boob,” but otherwise no nudity in this one. This is a murder mystery and as such, we do have some dead bodies and some blood. The film isn’t graphic with the killings, but some nice spurts of red stuff are seen. A few gun shots ring out as well and those instances give us some fun squib pops, which are always fun. The finale also has some memorable content in this regard, but I don’t want to spoil that for you. A fun fist fight breaks out as well, for some added good times. The writing here is solid and we don’t have many goofy lines, though Elam and Roman are so colorful a good deal of their dialogue stands out in some way. This is a straight up murder mystery that never veers into crazy parameters, though the finale is likely a shock to most viewers. I do want to note that most versions of Knife for the Ladies are cut to under an hour, which butchers the experience. Try to seek out the longer version, which runs just under ninety minutes.
Overall Insanity: 3/10