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SUE LYON TAKES A LOW-BUDGET BATH IN 'THE ASTRAL FACTOR'

Frank Ashmore kills Sue Lyon in THE ASTRAL FACTOR Year: 1977
One of those bad movies that isn't so bad since it tries to be so many things at once. When you think a good deal of time's gone by given all the eclectic content — in this case from primal slayings to boat chases — there's still a lot to go... despite the overall run-time being just over 90-minutes...

And yet everything here is, for the most part, scattered in a brisk, even pace throughout a partial investigative Neo Noir, with cop Robert Foxworth on the trail of an escaped psychopath who, through that decade's popular exercises like Transcendental Meditation, learned the art of disappearing and reappearing at will aka THE ASTRAL FACTOR... This followed by the usual "police procedure" jazz of gathering crime-scene clues after the murder — only here dealing with stuff that isn't entirely... visible...

The molecular TV-static changing of Frank Ashmore
Enveloped by special effects resembling a cheaper version of the original STAR TREK "beaming" which was ten years earlier, and is in itself considered dated by today's standards...

A lot like the static that devoured television sets during American's post National Anthem bedtime era before all-night cable television, as learned by later generations from the classic POLTERGEIST...

Science-fiction is the film's genre and paranormal the sub-genre that envelops this "cat/mouse thriller" that genuinely relies on the cinematic payoff of a body count horror flick with an eerily foreboding, stalking camera and grainy film-stock like a last known photo: Meanwhile the victims, like so many slasher films ala FRIDAY THE 13TH and HALLOWEEN that were soon to follow (and dating back to when horror movies began), are mostly beautiful woman: either current or former Hollywood ingenues...

Frank Ashmore in Astral Factor Score: ***
And of all influences, PSYCHO is the most important FACTOR since the antagonist, played by blond-haired, usually nice guy Frank Ashmore... best remembered as the smiling/handsome navigator in the AIRPLANE films and the nice alien Martin on the V miniseries... is constantly getting back at his mom, who was a famous model.. And that's where we get but a mere glimpse of LOLITA herself, Sue Lyon, and, like Leslie Parrish, as a doomed painter, both would star in Charles Band's CRASH! two years later...

Sue Lyon during the opening credits
Lyon's rudimentary death is probably the most intense, and while the entire exploitation experience is suited intentionally to a drive-in audience, she almost seems as if the movie could have belonged to her a little while longer: like Janet Leigh's famous shower scene, it's a last bath for Lyon...

A sexy Stefanie Powers in fur
But the co-star spot goes to Stefanie Powers, more sexy than ever... between her freckled natural beauty of the 1960's and hot middle-aged wife of the 1980's, she's never looked better nor acted with more energetic, charismatic, overboard gusto as our leading man's hyperactive dream-wife... Unfortunately, too much time's spent on random scientists spouting explanations to Foxworthy's detective, taking away from more time spent on the killer's random flashbacks and the grizzly deaths thrust upon his victims: stuff that makes exploitation movies work...

Diabolically targeting super-fine ladies that also includes a vulnerable Elke Sommer, who winds up the 11th hour distressed damsel, it would have made much more sense (albeit predictably) being the ultimately underused Stefanie Powers. And not to forget a cameo by Marianna Hill from THE GODFATHER PART II and more befitting, MESSIAH OF EVIL — another psychedelic horror that ASTRAL FACTOR could have learned from: less chatter, more splatter.
Sue Lyon prepares for her bathtub PSYCHO death in THE ASTRAL FACTOR
Projectionists will know why this subliminal B appears with the static on the screen...
Followed by an X... Which might not mean a letter, but just an... X...
But this is definetely another letter, so far spelling BAX in the subliminal ASTRAL FACTOR moment...
Might as well show the main character, Robert Foxworth, here a close shave in THE ASTRAL FACTOR
Leading to that bizarre BAX is a completely wasted (unused) Stefanie Powers looking hot as usual...
A leggy Stefanie Powers looking cute as a button at the tail-end of THE ASTRAL FACTOR...
Marianna Hill's starlet dates an abusive, insecure Italian millionaire like she did in Godfather Part 2...
Over a decade after Shot in the Dark and Elke Sommer still looks good in Summer Clothes
Leslie Parrish in THE ASTRAL FACTOR
Leslie Parrish in THE ASTRAL FACTOR
Following another Sue Lyon vehicle, Crash, Leslie Parrish parishes here and in Film and TV in general
Elke Sommer sings the blues in THE ASTRAL FACTOR
Frank Ashmore transcends in THE ASTRAL FACTOR reviewed by James M. Tate at Cult Film Freak
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