B&W, 1965, 90 mins. 30 secs.
Directed by Joseph Cates
Starring Sal Mineo, Juliet Prowse, Jan Murray, Elaine Stritch, Margot Bennett, Daniel J. Travanti, Diane Moore, Frank Campanella, Bruce Glover
Network Relasing (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK R0 HD/PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9) (1.33:1)

Still never Who Killed Teddy Bearofficially released on video in any Who Killed Teddy Bearformat in the United States despite a limited theatrical reissue back in the '90s, Who Killed Teddy Bear is one of the most deliciously seedy "mainstream" films made before the new age of the MPAA. Shot in luminous black and white and loaded with amazing footage of New York City's grindhouse scene, this is a real keeper and worth tracking down at any cost.

Overflowing with twisted sexual subtext and urban nastiness, this cult item still awaiting rediscovery stars Sal Mineo as Lawrence, a nightclub busboy who becomes obsessed with female DJ Norah (Prowse)... so he spends his off hours making (mild) obscene phone calls to her while lounging around in his tighty whities. Oh, and he leaves decapitated stuffed teddy bears around for Norah to find, which understandably creeps her out. But Norah's butch boss (played by Broadway legend Elaine Stritch) doesn't make things any easier, and even having a cop (Murray) trying to help her out doesn't guarantee any safety. By the time Lawrence manages to talk her out on a date, things go from queasy to downright disturbing.

A swinging rock 'n' roll urban nightmare strewn with pulp novels, gyrating teens, random zoo visits, and gloriously huge hairdos, this film remains an incredible intersection of talents around the local performing arts scene. Who Killed Teddy BearThe whole thing was the brainchild of future Guardians of the Galaxy co-creator Arnold Drake, who had just penned The Flesh Eaters and would enjoy a lengthy and influential comic book career; Who Killed Teddy Bearon top of that it was directed by Joseph Cates, father of Phoebe and brother of Gil, who produced and directed about a billion TV specials as well as the oddball comedy The Fat Spy. Throw in a fantastic soundtrack (sadly never given an official release outside of the film itself) and a bizarre supporting cast including a young Daniel J. Travanti (way before Hill Street Blues), Frank Campanella, and even future 007 henchman Bruce Glover (father of Crispin), and you have a cracked curio for the ages.

Strand Releasing nabbed the video rights for the U.S. back in the '90s but failed to get it out on video, which made Network's 2009 region-free PAL release in the UK the first legitimate version out of the gate. (It's worth noting that a slightly extended version running 94 minutes can also be found floating around on the collector's market.) The open matte 1.33:1 transfer shows a few signs of damage here and there, but it's certainly better than the bootlegs that have been floating around. A handful of scenes appear to be sourced in from a softer master, but for the most part it's quite crisp and watchable (and mattes off nicely on widescreen TV sets, too). Two Mineo-related extras are added as well, namely an episode of the '60s World War II program Court Martial (48m3s) entitled "The House Where He Lived" Who Killed Teddy Bear(with Sal guest starring) and the amusing anti(?)-drug short, "LSD: Insight or Insanity?" (18m7s) with Sal narrating about the dangers of teens dropping acid. You Who Killed Teddy Bearalso get a newly created trailer (God knows if one ever circulated during the film's original brief run) and a pdf of the original pressbook.

In 2018, Network gave the film its worldwide Blu-ray debut with a significantly improved transfer. Properly matted and beautifully detailed, it's a great way to make the film's acquaintance if you've never seen it before and a real joy if you know it already. There's still some age-related debris here and there including some fine scratches and a bit of dirt here and there, but it doesn't detract at all. The English LPCM mono audio also sounds healthier, and optional English SDH subtitles have been provided. Everything from the prior DVD has been ported over apart from the pdf, which is replaced here with an image gallery of stills and promotional art. An insert booklet features a Laura Mayne essay, "Sexual Transgression in Sixties New York," an excellent and very thorough dissection of the film's fascinating sexual and psychological tensions at a crucial transition period in American filmmaking. Enjoy, and be warned, you'll be humming the theme song for a very long time.

Updated review on August 24, 2018