Johnny Mason (Spencer Teakle) is the owner of "Wow!", a pin up magazine for gentlemen. His girlfriend June (Felicity Young) works as a showgirl, and one of her colleagues has been found poisoned to death with her bikini-clad body left in the street. The victim is wearing the same bikini and is arranged in the same pose as she did on the latest cover of "Wow!", and a devious serial killer (Harry H. Corbett) is evidently at large. Although there is a good description of him, due to his thick glasses and ill-fitting wig, the police are unable to track him down...
If you were looking for a cheap, British second feature way back when, you could go to Butcher's, who made a host of them, of which Cover Girl Killer is the best known. Written by the director Terry Bishop, the film is remembered, if at all, because of the unlikely casting of comic actor Corbett as the murderer, but he plays it straight here, with a cold blooded obsession that comes to the surface when confronted by nubile young ladies. The killer - who is never named - adopts Coke-bottle spectacles and the obvious toupée because he is a criminal mastermind, so the film would have us believe, and no one recognises him without them.
It's a clever plan, and the villain is an early example of the movie serial killer who exhibits the fine line between madness and genius, outwitting the police at every turn (well, until the end, anyway). The low budget helps to manufacture a seedy atmosphere, with its dingy theatre and photographic studios where young ladies take their clothes off for money. But the killer seems to take the view that having your picture on the cover of a men's magazine is the equivalent of appearing in hardcore porn movie, which inflames sinful lust - he's quite the puritan, is this maniac.
The lower end of showbusiness attracts a sorry breed of person, according to this story. The supporting characters are all desperate for a break, from the showgirls who want to appear on telly, the shifty agent who will set up any work he can without checking its legitimacy, or the pathetic actor who hasn't worked in six months and is fooled into posing as the killer. The posh-sounding heroine, June, on the other hand, seems happy enough to appear on stage when there's the prospect of marrying the well off Johnny to keep her safe.
Cover Girl Killer is the film equivalent of the pulp paperbacks with the lurid covers that were popular at the time - the kind of covers that would attract the wrath of the murderer. June is often seen stripping down to her underwear (she's getting changed in her dressing room), but that's as racy as it gets, and at least the film doesn't take the all-consuming moralistic side of the maniac. It's only an hour long, so doesn't outstay its welcome, but it is kind of quaint in its attempt to be adult and thrilling. It's not exactly Seven. Music by William Davies.