The film is loosely based on the killing spree of Charles Starkweather, upon which the later films Badlands (1973) and Natural Born Killers (1994) were also based. It was shot by famed cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond over a period of 2 weeks for $33,000 with a cast of five, one of whom doubled as the film’s production manager. It was Zsigmond’s first full-length film as a director of photography, and he is credited as “William Zsigmond.”
The film is a favorite of director Joe Dante, who owns the 35mm print that has been the source for many of the DVD releases of this film.
Three high school teachers, Ed, Doris, and Carl, are driving through California’s Antelope Valley on their way to a Dodgers game in Los Angeles. The group’s Chevrolet Bel Air has some trouble and they are forced to pull off to a gas station/junkyard on the side of the road. After examining the vehicle Ed concludes that the fuel pump will need to be replaced. Doris and Carl search the junkyard looking for the owner, but they cannot find him.
In the residence Carl finds a warm meal with a table set for four, but oddly enough nobody is in the house. The three realize this is very peculiar and start to seriously worry about their situation. At this point Charlie Tibbs, a rather large man wielding a Colt .45, and his girlfriend Judy show up. Charlie and Judy have spent the past several days heading west from Arizona, leaving a trail of corpses behind them. Law enforcement is on the hunt for them, but Charlie has managed to stay a step ahead by changing vehicles frequently and then killing the people who offer their help.
Charlie demands that Ed finish repairing the car and informs him that he and Judy will be stealing the Belair and taking off when Ed is done. Charlie threatens that if the three don’t cooperate “it’ll be the end of them.” During the next several hours Charlie and his girlfriend torment Ed, Doris, and Carl.
By en:James Landis (https://archive.org/details/The_Sadist) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons