Axe (AKA Lisa Lisa) (1977)

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Directed by: Frederick R Friedel

First released in 1982

Current status: Available uncut in both the UK and US

(contains spoilers)

Known as Axe for its UK release, this film was also known as Lisa Lisa, or the much more exciting California Axe Massacre. California Axe Massacre was the title given to its x-rated cinema release in 1982, and later that year was released as Axe by the Video Releasing Organisation. The film was added to the Video Nasty list in September 1984 and removed from the shelves, and was finally released with 19 seconds of cuts in 1999 as California Axe Massacre. In 2005 ILC released the film as Axe and the film, rightfully so, was released uncut.

That’s not to say the film is tame, far from it in fact, but again the level of violence on offer is not bad by today’s standards. There was one almost look away moment, but I will get to that in due course. Axe firstly concentrates on three thugs, or I presume they are gangsters by the way they dress. Smartly, collar and tie, suited and booted (as the saying goes!). To be perfectly honest, I thought they were detectives to begin with as nothing is really explained, something this incredibly short film is lacking in all the way through, explanations. The three guys, Steele (Jack Canon), Lomax (Ray Green) and Billy (played by the director) are waiting in a hotel room, or block of flat I’m not sure, but they are watching out for a guy to return home. Steele is a great bad guy, with very dark eyes that hide in the shadows and with a constant need to clean out his nails with a nail file; he is the most sinister of the gang and clearly the leader. I forget which is which out of the other two, but one is always smoking “smelly” cigars and the other has what can only be described as a “perm face”, his hair is permed, and his beard looks permed too and to be truthful, he looks silly and nothing like a criminal. A strange bunch then, deceiving in their looks, although I doubt this was intentional, but as the guy they are waiting for arrives home, we soon see just what these guys are all about. In a build up that runs nearly a quarter of the films running time the camera pans from each thug to the door to the elevator in a way of creating a tense build up to the arrival of the man they are here to talk to. It doesn’t really work, and you end up saying to yourself “yeah, just get on with it already!” The man arrives and suddenly there is a burst of violence that is both vicious and actually rather fun to watch. Steele punches the man to death, and cleverly we see it from the point of view of the victim, all shaky camera and fist flying at you with Steele’s cold staring eyes, it’s a great scene and suddenly this film looks promising.

There are moments of brilliant jet black humour in the film too, as the man is beaten to death the thugs attention draws to the guy who entered the room aswell, stood sobbing like a baby for fear of also being beaten to death, he decides to jump through the window. This is met with a confused Steele looking out from the window and calmly and confused he asks “well, why’d he do that? It’s twelve floors”, which is met with a response of “nah, it’s only nine”. The humour continues as they head off away from the scene of the crime and terrorise a shop assistant by making her take off her top (by the way she is fat and unattractive so don’t get your hopes up!) and then putting an apple on her head for target practice. After a shot is fired, the woman is covered in what looks like fake blood and instead of being shocked, I was crying out “come on! That’s even faker that that REALLY fake blood stuff!” and the camera pans up to reveal a bottle of ketchup which has been smashed. Is this an intentional piss take of the way fake blood was jokingly called ketchup back in those days? Or am I reading too much into it? I’m probably reading too much into it as there is a real lack of any substance to this film. Nothing is explained about the criminals, who they are and why they were waiting for that man, but hey ho, it’s only 67 minutes long, and pretty soon we’ll be getting to the farm where Lisa lives with her paralysed Granddad.  This is where the thugs end up, on an isolated farm in the country, and they bully Lisa (coldly played by Leslie Lee) into letting them stay. Mr Perm Face is getting jittery and is upset by his two mates thuggery (no idea why as he’s a thug too and it’s a bit late to start wanting to behave now). He almost becomes baby-like, crying almost to Lisa in the woods and begging for help and a way out. It’s a minor plot move which only serves to make the ending more shocking. Mr Perm Face becomes irritating and pathetic and in one scene he throws a tantrum and runs off like a spoilt child, trying to kick over a rocking chair on his way off screen. He doesn’t pull it off, and the rocking chair barely moves and as he quite literally jumps through a door way, it’s clear he’s embarrassed by this and can’t get off screen soon enough!

Lisa is mental, there’s no question of that and the final 20 odd minutes see’s her take out the thugs one by one. The first to go is the fat cigar man who tries to rape her, and it’s his death that contains the scene that I almost had to look away from as Lisa cuts into the back of his neck with a razor blade. It’s a well executed scene that is dark, sinister and disturbing, and what follows is the tiny Lisa dragging this big, fat cigar stinking bastard to the toilet to chop him up with an axe! Much of the carnage is left off screen during these final moments, and a bit of trivia for you here: since there was such a lack of stock tape, the majority of this film is done with a single take. Maybe that will explain the bad acting then! Granddad does nothing more than sit and stare, although it is suggested that Lisa isn’t as caring for him, or should I say, has a strange way of caring for him as she feeds him this almighty red soup which is the blood of one of the thugs. My God this soup is red, really really almost beetroot red and it looks disgusting, so it’s a good job Granddad isn’t really all there. Mr Perm Face is also offered soup, and then the ring from his buddies finger appears in it, just in time for his dead buddy to fall down the chimney in all his cut up body glory. It’s more comical than shocking, and Mr Perm Face’s reaction makes you want to kill him too! Shaking uncontrollably he scream, wide eyed “NO!!!!” over and over again. For Christ’s sake man, standing there screaming and annoying everyone aint gonna help, run boy, run for your life!!

Ah, Axe, a silly little film then with silly, bizarre music that really adds to all the silliness going on. It sounds like a bunch of drunks have been handed tin drums and told to bang on the metal parts with sticks to create tension at certain points, and possibly a child has been given a set of bongo’s and the director has suggested they give them a good bang and see what happens. It does work, in a strange, old film sort of way. The main thing lacking here is any real plot or background on, well, anything. It’s hard to connect to any of the characters because you literally know nothing about them. Lisa is a dark and disturbed girl and it would have been nice to learn a bit of background to her, but sadly all we see are photos during one of her attacks and that’s it. Still, for it’s short running time, Axe never really gets boring and if you want a giggle you can laugh at the bad acting, bad editing, or even better just laugh at Mr Perm Face!

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Did this film deserve to be on the Video Nasty List: For a couple of standouts scenes, yes it did.

Matt Wavish
About Matt Wavish 10125 Articles
A keen enthusiast and collector of all horror and extreme films. I can be picky as i like quality in my horror. This doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a classic, but as long as it has something to impress me then i'm a fan. I watch films by the rule that if it doesn't bring out some kind of emotive response then it aint worth watching.


  1. Wonderful review. AXE is coming out on bluray in March of 2014 by Severin Films. Interviews are being filmed now for all new bonus features to be included on the special edition bluray. AXE also has a Facebook page for anyone who is a fan of this drive-in classic.

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