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Film / The Sinister Urge

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The Sinister Urge is another Ed Wood exploitation piece from 1961. This time, the particular vice covered is pornography, and the attendant evils that come from it.

The Cold Open starts with a girl being chased in the park, and reaching a phone booth to call for the police before being murdered. The clues end up leading a couple of righteous police detectives to a pornography syndicate. Can the syndicate be busted before more girls are killed?

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

Not to be confused with the Rob Zombie album which took its name from this movie.


The Sinister Urge contains the following tropes:

  • All Crimes Are Equal: Making porn, murder, kidnapping, selling drugs, same thing!
  • Author Appeal: The police's plan to catch Dirk? Dress up a male cop in drag wearing angora; somehow, they feel a female cop would be in too much danger.
  • Author Avatar: Johnny Ryde is Ed Wood, with the Reality Subtext that right after The Sinister Urge, Wood's projects were all softcore porn. It makes Johnny's, "I look at this slush and remember a time when I made good movies," line hit a little hard for fans of Wood.
  • Brawn Hilda / Amazonian Beauty: Mary Smith, the girl Johnny coerces into doing porn (posing fully clothed in partly-diaphanous flowing robes).
  • Break the Cutie: The sequence where Johnny Ryde pretends to discover a would-be actress new to the city and tricks her into going so far into debt that he and Gloria can blackmail her into doing porn for them. Inevitably (by the film's logic), Dirk kills her after seeing her pictures, and she ends up as just the latest "Jane Doe" the police have to deal with.
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  • Break the Haughty: "That's not Dirk. Nuh-uh..."
  • Cold Open: The movie dumps us right into a chase scene.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: At the end of the film, Gloria shoots Johnny for asking to meet her backers — except that she actually shot Dirk, who had threatened Johnny earlier and shanked him while Gloria was getting her gun. Gloria then calls the police to report that Dirk had shot Johnny, and talks herself into a corner by the time they finally show her Dirk's body (and Johnny's body stuffed in the bushes).
  • Creator Cameo: Ed Wood is one of the, ahem, "teenagers" fighting at the pizza shop.
  • Dirty Coward: In the final act, Johnny tries to do and say anything that will save his skin. Both Dirk and Gloria see through it, but Dirk gets him first.
  • Easy Evangelism: The businessman who comes to complain about the vice squad going after porn instead of "real crimes" is convinced quickly of the evils of pornography with no real evidence and little more than the argument "How would you like it if YOUR daughters were porn stars?"
  • Fan Disservice: Gloria and Johnny's kiss.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Apparently, taking pictures of girls in bathing suits is an arrest-able offense.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: Mr. Romaine attempts to do this when lecturing Lt. Carson about police priorities. Because actor Harvey B. Dunn was missing an index finger, the gesture comes across as something else.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Used by Johnny and Gloria to recruit Mary. Gloria stomps in fuming and angry, yelling about how she is wrong for this project and stupid; reminding her of how much Mary is in debt to her and threatening to go after her parents for the money. Johnny, whom Mary already likes, because he has been kind and generous to her, and played to her aspirations, is reassuring that it is best if she cooperates because it will be easier and everyone will make more money this way.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Syndicate, which appears to put pressure on Gloria to get her operation, and Dirk, under control. The vice squad wants to take them on eventually, but right now their concern is Dirk, Johnny and Gloria.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Gloria kills who she thinks is Johnny when he demands unequivocally to meet her backers, who are The Mafia. She decides You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
  • Legacy Character: Kline the cop appeared in other Wood films, including Plan 9 from Outer Space.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Johnny tries to kill Dirk by having him drive out of state in a car with no brakes.
  • No Indoor Voice: Gloria, about 85% of the time.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Dirk (on foot) beating Johnny (driving) back to Gloria's place.note 
  • Pretty in Mink: After Gloria comes home from a fancy event, she's wearing a fox wrap with her evening gown.
  • Psycho for Hire: Dirk. He likes to kill, has uncontrollable urges to do so, and has a career as a serial killer. But he hires his services a mercenary, instead of killing for free.
  • Psycho Knife Nut: Dirk, and everyone knows it, as Johnny warns, "You know what he gets like with that knife of his!" He actually kisses his knife after looking at a nudie pic.
  • Stock Footage: The pizza shop was footage from Rock and Roll Hell, an unfinished Wood project. Wood spliced in Dirk listening in to an ADR, off-camera conversation between two characters.
  • Sweater Girl: Quite a few of the ladies working on the films are wearing curve-fitting sweaters.
  • Tempting Fate: Letting someone, that you know goes Ax-Crazy when he sees porn, work around a porn racket.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Gloria actually thinks this would be the best way of dealing with Dirk once his impulses make him a liability, but Johnny says there's too much of a risk of something tracing back to them, so instead he has Dirk go on a long road trip in a car with bad brakes, which would leave no evidence. Unfortunately, Dirk realizes the car has bad brakes and bails out before it crashes.