The Astral Factor (Reviewed by Lisa Marie Bowman)

Filmed in 1978 but not released until 1984, The Astral Factor tells the story of Roger Sands (Frank Ashmore).

Known as the Celebrity Killer, Roger is a serial killer who murdered women who reminded him of his famous mother.  It may seem like Roger is destined to spend the rest of his life in prison but what the legal system didn’t consider is that Roger has the ability to not only move things with his mind but to also turn himself invisible.  How did Roger get those powers?  Who knows?  At one point, Roger’s psychiatrist mentions that Roger was a student of the paranormal.  Later, it’s revealed that he had several books about the supernatural in his bedroom.  Apparently, Roger figured out how to do it himself.

Anyway, Roger is now invisible and soon, he has escaped from prison.  He is determined to kill the five women who testified against him at his trial, both because they remind him of his mother and also because he blames them for sending him to prison.  Roger strangles his victims, which in this case means that the actresses playing them have to pretend like they’re struggling with someone who can’t be seen.  In fact, Roger spends almost the entire film in a state of invisibility.

How do you catch a killer who can’t be seen?  It’s a fair question but police Lt. Charles Barnett (Robert Foxworth) might have the answer.  Barnett’s solution involves grabbing a gun and keep firing it until you hit something.  That’s a straight-forward solution but The Astral Factor is a pretty straight forward film.  The film begins with Roger turning invisible and, to its credit, it doesn’t spend too much time trying to justify or explain Roger’s magical powers.  The film understands that all the audience really needs to know is that Roger can’t be seen and that it’s up to Lt. Burnett to find a way to stop his killing spree.

The Astral Factor is a low-budget film, one that is full of formerly prominent performers who obviously showed up to get a quick paycheck.  Sue Lyon, Marianne Hill, Leslie Parrish, and Elke Sommer all play potential victims and all of them look like they would rather be doing anything other than appearing in The Astral Factor.  Robert Foxworth, to his credit, does his best to give a convincing performance as a level-headed cop who is forced to accept the reality of the paranormal.  Not only is he having to investigate a series of murders but he’s having to do it on his birthday.  Stefanie Powers plays his girlfriend, Candy.  Candy often refers to herself in the third person whenever she’s having a conversation with her boyfriend.  I tend to do the same thing so at least there was a character in this movie to whom I could relate.  Knowing the rules of the genre, I spent the entire movie expecting Candy to be put in danger and I was actually impressed when my expectations were subverted and that didn’t happen.

With the exception of a few atmospheric scenes and an entertainingly garish and tacky dance number, the film itself has the rather flat look of a made-for-TV movie, though the occasional hint of nudity indicates that it was meant to be a theatrical release.  As I mentioned at the start of this review, The Astral Factor was originally filmed in 1978 but it sat on the shelf until 1984.  That’s when a slightly shortened version was released under the title The Invisible Strangler.  Today, the film is available in countless Mill Creek Box Sets, under its original title and with its original run time restored.

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