By Solomon G
(Greetings, humanoids! It's your medical master of ceremonies Dr. Abner Mality on duty and here to introduce what I hope will be a regular feature conducted by our good fiend...er, friend, the illustrious Mr. SOLOMON G! Being a guy who knows a thing or two or three about the stranger fringes of the film world, Sol brings to us short and to the point reviews of overlooked gems from the world of psychotronic cinema, which is always a welcome sight here at Wormwood! For this first edition, Sol dives into four very different grindhouse classics and gives his analysis. I will say no more and let him get right to it!--Dr. M
[USA – 1982]
Director: David Nelson
Writer: Paul C. Elliott
Stars: Susan Kiger, Martin Tucker, William T. Hicks
Without much of a budget, David Nelson [son of Ozzie & Harriet - not David ‘The Rock’ Nelson], creates his singular vision of a slasher film. The [way too old] young people act flirty with each other, and attempt to smoke weed. Other than a fateful make-out session at the top of the film, that’s about as naughty as we get here - though the killings are unabashedly brutal. Elsewhere, one character affects a gay persona for laughs, not once, not twice, but a bunch of times. Why? Heck if I know.
The look of the film very much brings to mind David Friedman’s magnum opus, “She-Freak”, crossed with any number of dozens of the lowest-budget regional slashers from the 1980s. It seems like an obvious skeleton crew at work here, but one that is at least on the ball [Nelson, after all, literally grew up around film gear and work-crews].
Watch for one of the weirdest and corniest running gags in the history of film. Most folks won’t tolerate this film, but I found it charming. Regional horror at its finest - this particular region being Lake Lure, North Carolina. I don’t know why, exactly, but films like this relax me, even as my mind drifts to wondering what the Kraft services were like on production.
[1969 - Italy/West Germany]
Original title: A Doppia Faccia
Director: Riccardo Freda
Story: Romano Migliorini, Gianbattista Musette, Lucio Fulci
Stars: Klaus Kinski, Christiane Krüger, Günther Stoll
Is it a krimi disguised as a giallo, or a giallo disguised as a krimi - hey, waitaminnit!
While it’s not really beguiling as all that, it is a very notable late-period German krimi film [maybe the last one ever??], in that we can clearly see the crossover elements that define the krimi film as a direct precursor to the Italian giallo. We can sense the Italian stylistic influence of the general mise-en-scène, and in the screenwriting [in part] of Lucio Fulci - one of the biggest names in Italian horror and suspense.
The film itself is fine, but suffered for veering too close to the giallo format for it’s intended krimi fans [it was touted, falsely, as an Edgar Wallace adaptation], and flopped upon release. Klaus Kinski plays against type for one of the few times in his career, as a man falsely accused of murdering his wife. Is he innocent? Was it all a setup? Or is he going…MAD?!?
This one’s not gonna knock your socks off with heart-stopping action or goriness, but for fans of film from this weird, quirky little corner of the cinematic universe, it’s essential viewing.
[USA - 1974]
Director: Larry Yust
Screenplay: Howard Kaminsky, Bennett Sims, Larry Yust
Stars: Peter Brocco, Frances Fuller, William Hansen, The City Of Cincinnati
Hard not to love this film, unless one’s psychological well-being is entirely dependent upon quick cuts and CGI. I mean, there are adorable old folks here. Okay, some of these old folks are heinous serial killers - but they really mean well.
Adding mucho gravitas to the situation of elderly residents unwillingly forced out of their long-time homes, and their battles with indifferent authority, is the real-life quasi-documentary footage of 1974 Cincinnati, Ohio, urban blight demolished with cranes and explosives: literally watching history as it is erased - just as the residents of the area are shunted aside without a second thought.
The tone of the film subtly morphs from sympathy to…something else, over the course of the film, but no spoilers here. The acting is very authentic, though played for laughs - as well as shocks, as there are two or three segments of gruesome and unexpected violence.
Recommended for psychotronic cinema freaks with a tolerance for slower-moving features. Anyone familiar with 60’s and 70s US television will have fun spotting the familiar faces.
[USA – 1988]
Shot On Video
Director: Jim Whiteaker
Writers: Linnea Due, Shelley Singer
Stars: Kate Alexander, Jonathan Zeichner, Caleb Dreneaux
Unusual for a SOV feature, in that it’s shot within a major metropolitan area and seems to have an experienced crew…well, at least most of the time. Seeing as it was made in San Francisco, I’ll go out on a limb and guess it’s from Kuchar students, as it has some of the same elements one might find in a Kuchar brothers film [quirky adult themes, kitschy set-decoration, high melodrama, et al].
Honestly, it seems that they made this one piecemeal, judging by the shifting hairstyle of the lead character, and characters that seem to drift in and out of the narrative for no discernible reason. Anyway, there’s this new drug that effectively lobotomizes its users, turning them into living dead dopes. Then something is sucking the prefrontal cortex out of victims through their eye-socket, and there’s a mutant baby that…well - you’ll just have to see it to believe it.
This film also featured performances by Bay Area punk icons, THE NUNS [though way past their prime], and they play a pivotal part in the narrative as well, appearing as a band called ‘Disease’. My favorite scene has one of the lead characters practically nodding off mid-sentence. Wow!