NIGHTKILL (1980) Reviews and overview of murder mystery


‘She’d die for him…he’d kill for her…’

Nightkill is a 1980 American thriller feature film in which a woman’s lover poisons her cruel rich husband in front of her. She becomes more terrified when she finds the lover dead as well. A police detective suddenly shows up at her door…

Directed by Ted Post (Magnum Force; The Baby; Beneath the Planet of the Apes) from a screenplay written by Joan Andre, based on a story by co-producer John Case. The movie stars Robert Mitchum, Jaclyn Smith, Mike Connors, James Franciscus (Great White; Killer Fish; The Cat o’ Nine Tails), Fritz Weaver (Jaws of Satan; Demon Seed) and Sybil Danning (Halloween, 2007; Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf; The Red Queen Kills Seven Times).

[May contain spoilers] Reviews:

“Plot twists are abundant and, what’s more, they’re effective. Wendell’s murder is only the first time the rug gets pulled out from under the narrative. Each time, the surprise both serves the story and deepens the intrigue. And, miraculously, everything makes sense by the time it’s all over.” Battleship Pretension

“Post didn’t believe in artsy camera shots or other gimmicks. He shot in a basic style that didn’t allow for distractions from the action on screen. He milks some suspense out of a sometimes cliched script that borrows too much from other sources. Nightkill may be middling in some aspects but it does take some unexpected turns concerning the motivations of the main characters.” Cinema Retro

“I had never seen Nightkill and it can satisfy a Neo-noir craving – especially with Mitchum’s presence. It veers around trying to establish itself but it’s not a bad storyline. Jaclyn Smith is solid as the damsel in distress. There are some positives and the dated feel can actually be nostalgic.” DVD Beaver

“The film does deserve some credit for a shocker of an ending. The downside is getting there is a bit of a slog but the reward is a nasty little denouement that is left somewhat ambiguous. But one of our characters is left in a painful place and it has a strong visceral impact.” DVD Compare

” …Nightkill isn’t very good. Aside from a not terribly exciting car chase, it consists of much talk and little action, which has the unfortunate side effect of asking Smith (Charlie’s Angels) to carry the film alone. She’s in nearly every scene but is unable to make us root too hard for her.” Johnny LaRue’s Crane Shot

“The movie has some light horror elements, but comes off more like a thriller, piling on twist after twist until we have a complicated mess to contend with. So if you want a sane, rational mystery, this is not the one to choose. But if you want a fun, over the top thriller with some colorful performances, Nightkill is recommended.” Marc Fusion

Nightkill is a perfect example of economical filmmaking, where the budget probably was invested in the cast and crew instead of making the movie look bigger and bolder. It’s violent and people die, but it’s never really graphic – even if that last scene actually feels quite painful and sports some fine make-up effects.” Schmollywood Babylon

“It clearly wants to update The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) by way of Les Diaboliques (1955) but the shapeless script by writers Joan Andre and John Case fumbles every twist, piling one after another till this winds up a convoluted mess. The conclusion seems obvious in hindsight but remains frustratingly vague.” The Spinning Image

“This rather strange mystery is cleverly constructed and well-acted (Smith is radiant and eternal bad boy Mitchum is always watchable). But it contains a decidedly downbeat and dark vibe. Would Hollywood today even attempt the nihilistic ending (or rewrite it altogether)?” The Terror Trap

“Though a warped tale from an uneasy time, don’t let the cover art fool you – this is no hard-R rated slasher horror picture. Tepid and kind of embarrassing the whole way through, Nightkill, though it prominently features a brutal shower attack at its apex, this is no Psycho. It’s a film that strains to be Hitchcockian without the hitch nor the cock.” Zekefilm

Blu-ray release:

Nightkill was released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber Classics on November 14th 2017. Buy via

Special features:
Interview with star Jaclyn Smith
Audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson

Main cast and characters:

Jaclyn Smith … Katherine Atwell
Robert Mitchum … Donner / Rodriguez
Mike Connors … Wendell Atwell
James Franciscus … Steve Fulton
Fritz Weaver … Herbert Childs
Sybil Danning … Monika Childs
Tina Menard … Consuela
Melanie MacQueen … Alice
Belinda Mayne … Christine – Alien 2 On Earth; Don’t Open Till Christmas
Michael Anderson Jr. … Lt. Donner
Ramona Bair … Social Worker
Nimmy Abiaka … Pregnant Teenager
Helen Hardin … Valda
Burke Rhind … McCarthy
James Rehfeld … Airline Clerk #1
Christopher Templeton … Airline Clerk #2
Jim Servis … Airline Clerk #3
Charles Keever … Policeman at Accident
Margot Swena … Injured Woman
Austin Judson … Night Watchman
Brenda Crim … Fashion Model #1
Bunny Olmsted … Fashion Model #2
Anna Strand … Fashion Model #3
Roxanna Reeves … Fashion Stylist #1
Karin Fitzgerald … Fashion Stylist #2
Sanford Gibbons … Desk Sergeant at Precinct
O.B. Lewis … Cop at Precinct
Paty Lombard … Avis Girl
Frank Soto … Consuela’s Husband
Bill Allen … Porter #1
Moe Mosley … Porter #2
Victor Wilmes … Man at Bar
Leo Battallia … Bartender
Valerie Fronstin-Akins … Barmaid
Meyer … Airport Security Guard

Filming locations:

Phoenix, Arizona – from 7th April 1980

Technical details:

102 minutes

Some images: DVD Beaver