Tag Archives: Rape

246. BELLADONNA OF SADNESS (1973)

Kanashimi no Beradonna

“With all of this splendid weirdness—Michelet’s occult/feminist novel, Fukai’s ravishingly beautiful, X-rated illustrations, and Satoh’s brain-shredding score—what could possibly go wrong? Everything, according to director Yamomoto.”–Dennis Bartok, explaining Belladonna of Sadness‘s commercial failure at the time of its release in the liner notes to the Cinelicious Blu-ray release.

Recommended

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Eiichi Yamamoto

FEATURING: Voices of Chinatsu Nakayama, Aiko Nagayama, , Katsuyuki Itô, Masaya Takahashi

PLOT: In medieval Europe, peasants Jean and Jeanne go to their local Lord to bless their unconsummated marriage, but the royals gang-rape the bride instead because Jean cannot afford the outrageous matrimonial tax. Later, Jeanne is visited by a demon who promises to give her power to oppose the Lord’s might and get revenge. At first she resists, but as the Lord’s outrages mount, she finally gives herself to Satan fully and becomes a powerful witch.

Still from Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

BACKGROUND:

  • This film was the third part of a trilogy of adult animation features on Western themes commissioned by legendary anime pioneer Osama Tezuka (famous for the television manga adaptations “Astro Boy” and “Kimba the White Lion”) and his Mushi studio. The first in the series was 1969’s erotic version of “The Arabian Tales,” A Thousand & One Nights (also directed by Yamamoto). Nights was a commercial hit (although it remains unavailable on home video), so the studio went ahead with Cleopatra in 1970 (which Yamamoto co-directed with Tezuka). Cleopatra was a commercial and artistic flop, but the studio went ahead with Belladonna of Sadness anyway. Tezuka left Mushi before the final film was completed, and Belladonna bombed even more than Cleopatra. Mushi went bankrupt soon after. Belladonna was exhibited in only a handful of lower echelon theaters in Japan and only lightly released outside of that country until 2015’s rediscovery and reappraisal.
  • The unlikely source material for Belladonna of Sadness was Jules Michelet’s 1862 non-fiction book “Le sorciere” (AKA “Satanism and Witchcraft“), a sympathetic treatment which cast the practice of witchcraft as a protest against the feudal system and the power of the Church.
  • “Belladonna” literally means “beautiful woman” in Italian, but it is also the name of a toxic hallucinogenic plant thought to have been used in ancient witchcraft rituals.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Without a doubt, the initial rape scene. Although the movie contains shocking, unforgettable, wild and weird imagery throughout, the expressionistic violation of Jeanne, showing her being split in twain like a wishbone as her crotch emits a bloody geyser that morphs into crimson bats who fly away, was the only one that made me mutter out loud “wow”!

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Bloody rape bats; Satan is a dick; surrealist daisy chain orgy

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Belladonna of Sadness is like watching Saturday morning cartoons mixed with high art mixed with hentai, laced with acid. It’s some damned thing that you’ve never seen before.


U.S. release trailer for Belladonna of Sadness

COMMENTS: We a huge debt of gratitude to whoever’s idea it was Continue reading 246. BELLADONNA OF SADNESS (1973)

THE AMAZING TRANSPLANT (1970)

Of course, , the self-taught, innovative grand dame of sexploitation and grindhouse films, personally stamped everything she did. Wishman’s repeated focus on inanimate objects is her most infamous trademark. Hideous wallpaper, repeated shots of feet, and dirty floor tiles were favorite concentrations in some of the most outrageous compositions ever filtered through a lens. All of those abound in The Amazing Transplant (1970), but there is an additional focal point here: a giant moose head hanging on the wall. I have no idea what the hell it means, if anything. It is tempting to say that, perhaps, it’s a symbolic joke at the expense of male testosterone, except that this may also be Wishman’s most misogynistic film—which is saying quite a lot.

The Hands of Orlac (1924), Mad Love (1935), The Beast With Five Fingers (1946) and The Hand (1981), all dealt with with hand transplants resulting in murderous hands. Most of these films at least had an iota of style, and two of them starred the iconic character actor Peter Lorre. In this film, Doris Wishman gives us her take on a transplanted member. Naturally, no Wishman film would dare to tackle something so acceptable as a hand. No, Wishman’s raving lunatic has a newly-grafted penis. Lest one be tempted to conjure up the image of David Cronenberg’s vampire phallus growing from the armpit of the late porn star Marilyn Chmbers (Rabid-1977), I lament to report that The Amazing Transplant is nowhere near as anatomically outrageous. That is simply because we never see the Edward Hyde anaconda of poor Arthur (Juan Fernandez)—which is probably a good thing. Perhaps the hanging moose head is a sufficient avatar for all things phallic after all.

Still from The Amazing Transplant (1970)Wishman usually dubbed her films, which led her to focus the camera on anything but the actor speaking. Here, Wishman did her audience a commendable service, despite the fact that the dubbing is atrocious. The acting here is possibly the worst found in any Doris Wishman film, and not seeing her amateur thespians mouth their dialogue may actually make the film more bearable.

Arthur was never too adept with women, at least not until his late bosom bud Felix, a Casanova Continue reading THE AMAZING TRANSPLANT (1970)

CAPSULE: SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT THE DOOR (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Chad Ferrin

FEATURING: , Andrea Renda, Jon Budinoff, Ricardo Gray, Silvia Spross, Ezzra [sic] Buzzington, Elina Madison

PLOT: The spirits of two possessed serial killers who rape their victims to death stalk drug

Still from Someone's Knocking at the Door (2008)

abusing medical students.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  If you want unlikeable, unbelievable characters and prosthetic mutant penises, this is your movie; if you want something scary or meaningfully weird, however, look elsewhere.

COMMENTS: The strangest thing about Someone’s Knocking at the Door isn’t the variety of killer genitalia on display, but the bed-hopping, skin-popping residents of what has to rank as the Princeton Review’s number one medical party school.  Besides engaging in frequently fatal kinky sex, these medicos in training spend most of their time taking speed, booze, ecstasy, nicotine, Xanax, Oxycontin, nitrous oxide, and attending Halloween parties where the students egg each other on with cries of “chug! chug! chug!”  Fortunately for the kids, when one of their compatriots is killed via graphic demonic anal rape, the school’s hippie chancellor gives them the week off to grieve at the kegger of their choice.  The students also get high off of vials of experimental psychiatric drugs, while listening to snuff audiotapes so they can catch up on the back story.  (Only after shooting up do they think to look up the drug’s side effects, which include increased sexual appetite, hallucinations, and possible coma.  Oops!)  In a stroke of good luck for the audience, the kids are all perfectly detestable human beings, which means we don’t mind much when possessed serial killers from the 1970s somehow show up to rape them to death.  Jon Budinoff, in particular, never says a kind or sincere word and punches his dates when they don’t put out; he’s so loathsome it’s impossible to believe he could have any friends at all.  On the other hand we recognize as the film’s moral conscience when he objects after finding his socially inept buddy groping a half-nude, comatose female partier who may have stopped breathing (although he’s not so judgmental as to try to stop him).  Knocking is a movie that would love to be offensive, but it keeps tripping over its own silliness.  Ridiculous plot and lack of characterization aside, the movie is technically competent, and director Chad Ferris does put some interesting and occasionally very weird ideas up on the screen.  All of the backgrounds are earth tones or sickly avocados; the film has the color scheme of a 1977 kitchenette.  The genital prosthetics are genuinely nightmarish (the film focuses on the phallus, but the other sex gets its moment to, er, shine as well).  Psychotic episodes are effectively conveyed through stuttering editing that mixes alternate views of the present with brief hallucinations, scored to eerie electronic noises.  At one point, the sound effects even mimic a malfunctioning dial-up modem, a scarier effect than you might think.  And, look closely at the funeral procession for an unexpectedly bizarre surprise.  Other odd moments include a fleeing female who falls a modern record seven times (!) while covering a mere ten feet as she’s chased by a shambling but sure-footed killer.  (In her defense, she may have been thrown off by the fact that the soundtrack was blaring an upbeat indie rock tune instead of the expected shrieking violins).  Add a twist ending you’ve seen before and a strong moral against injecting experimental psychiatric medications for kicks, and you have a strange, if uneven, modern exploitation horror.  If grindhouses existed today, this is what would be playing there.  A mixture of time-tested horror clichés, careless scriptwriting, and mucho grotesquerie, Knocking features enough sex, violence and general outrageousness to save it from being boring, and enough stylistic innovation to (mostly) camouflage its derivative slasher story.  Fans of modern disgusto horror will open up gleefully for Someone’s Knocking at the Door, but others will want to turn off all the lights and pretend no one’s home.

A title credit sequence featuring a vintage shower of pharmaceuticals cut with grainy 1960s home movies announces that this is a movie aimed squarely at the horror/stoner crowd, the genre’s largest unacknowledged demographic.  In a clever exploitation-style marketing move, the poster and DVD cover features black censor bars not only over exposed naughty bits, but also over the actors’ and actresses’ eyes, giving the movie an extra aura of pornographic depravity.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…eschews the standards of the youth-horror genre, opting instead for something more hallucinatory.”–Michael Gingold, Fangoria (DVD)

CAPSULE: POOR PRETTY EDDIE (1975)

DIRECTED BY: Richard Robinson

FEATURING: Leslie Uggams, Michael Christian, , Ted Cassidy, Slim Pickens, Dub Taylor

PLOT: Traveling alone in the Deep South, a black singer’s car breaks down and she finds

Still from Poor Pretty Eddie (1975)

herself the “guest” of an obsessive wannabe country singer and a town full of redneck oddballs.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: This drive-in “hicksploitation” movie features eccentric characters, one or two moments of deliberate surrealism, and a few other scenes that may be unintentionally surreal, but ultimately it doesn’t rate as much more than a curiosity.  Those who like their 1970s exploitation movies on the sleazy and offbeat side will want to take a flyer on Poor Pretty Eddie, but it’s not quite the lost cult classic it’s being advertised as.

COMMENTS:   In its opinion of Southern hospitality, Poor Pretty Eddie falls somewhere between Deliverance and 2000 Maniacs.  The flick plays on urban prejudices about backwards bumpkins, and on fears of being a stranger in a strange land with inscrutable customs where tribal loyalties are more important than justice.  An interesting, colorful cast adds flavor to the sordid (but not graphic) scenario, which revolves around rape and racism.  As Liz Weatherly, future TV actress Leslie Uggams is, unfortunately, about as appealing as her last name.  In the beginning she projects the persona of an urban snob rather than a harried celebrity seeking privacy; by looking down her nose at the hicks, she threatens to move our sympathies towards her future tormentors.  When she turns victim she becomes unforgivably passive, becoming a symbol of oppression rather than someone we identify with.  Michael Christian, who also found steady work as a TV character actor, does a fine job as the deluded Eddie, dressing like Elvis in a powder-blue leisure suit with rhinestone spangles for an awkward “audition” for an unappreciative Uggams.  Acting as a foil to Eddie is hulking handyman and dog breeder Ted Cassidy (“Lurch” from the Addams Family); he’s smarter than he appears and, since he fights back, he becomes more Continue reading CAPSULE: POOR PRETTY EDDIE (1975)

30. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)

“The story functions, of course, on several levels, political, sociological, philosophical and, what’s most important, on a dreamlike psychological-symbolic level.”–Stanley Kubrick

Must See

DIRECTED BY: Stanley Kubrick

FEATURING: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee

PLOT:  Alex is the leader of a small gang of violent, thrill-seeking youths in England sometime in the indefinite near future.  After a home invasion goes bad, his “droogs” betray him and his victim dies, and he is sent to prison.  The government selects him to undergo experimental Pavlovian conditioning that makes him violently ill when he becomes aggressive, then releases him onto the streets as a “reformed” criminal, only to find he is helpless to defend himself when he encounters his vengeful former victims.

Still from A Clockwork Orange (1971)

BACKGROUND:

  • A Clockwork Orange is an adaptation of the critically acclaimed 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess.  Burgess was ultimately unhappy with this treatment of his novel, because in his intended ending for the story, Alex voluntarily reformed.  This final chapter of redemption had been excluded from American prints of the novel—the version Kubrick worked worked from—at the request of the American publisher.  Kubrick’s version ends with evil triumphant.  Although Kubrick had not read the final chapter of the novel before beginning the film, he later stated in interviews that he would not have included the happy ending anyway because he thought it rang false.
  • The title—which is not explained in the movie, only glimpsed briefly as a line of text on a typewritten page—comes from an expression Burgess overheard in a bar, “as queer as a clockwork orange.”
  • Burgess created the elaborate fictional jargon Alex uses by mixing elements of Russian and Slavic languages with Cockney slang.  Much of his original dialogue found its way into the movie.
  • A Clockwork Orange was Stanley Kubrick’s next project after his previous weird masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  It was also young star Malcolm McDowell’s first feature role after starring in a 1968 weird film, Lindsay Anderson’s If…
  • A Clockwork Orange was the first movie to use Dolby sound.
  • The movie was released in the United States with an “X” rating, and was later cut slightly and re-released in 1973 with an “R” rating.
  • The film was blamed for several copycat crimes in Britain and Europe, notably, a gang rape in which the rapists sang “Singin’ in the Rain” during the assualt.  Kubrick, an American who lived in the United Kingdom, was also reportedly stalked by some deranged fans of the film.  For these reasons, Kubrick withdrew A Clockwork Orange from distribution in Britain, both from live screenings and on video.  The self-imposed ban lasted until Kubrick’s death.

INDELIBLE IMAGEA Clockwork Orange filled with as many iconic images as any film of the last fifty years.  Scenes like the one where Alex and his costumed droogs walk cockily through a deserted city in slow motion have consciously or unconsciously been copied many times (compare the similar slo-mo shot of the uniformed gangsters emerging from their breakfast meeting in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs).  Probably the most instantly recognizable image is the opening closeup of Alex’s sneering face, wearing a huge false eyelash one one eye only.  I selected another memorable Malcolm McDowell closeup, the one of Alex as he’s undergoing the Ludovico technique, with wires and transistors attached to his head and metal clamps forcibly holding his eyes open so he cannot look away from the violent images on the screen, because it works as a perfect ironic metaphor for a film we cannot tear our eyes away from.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  Although the plot is simple, and realistic in its own speculative

Original trailer for A Clockwork Orange

way, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is so hyper-stylized with its bizarre poetic language, sets, costumes, music, broadly exaggerated performances, and the improbable karmic symmetry of the plot that it seems to take place in a dream world or a subconscious realm.  The action, which takes the form of an ambiguous moral fable, occurs in an urban landscape that’s familiar, but fabulously twisted just beyond our expectations.

COMMENTSA Clockwork Orange did not have to be weird.  The story could have been Continue reading 30. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)

CAPSULE: MAN BITES DOG [C’est arrivé près de chez vous] (1992)

AKA It Happened in Your Neighborhood

DIRECTED BY: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde

FEATURING: Benoît Poelvoorde, Rémy Belvaux

PLOT:  A documentary crew follows a serial killer around on his daily rounds, becoming more and more complicit in his crimes as he slowly charms them, and eventually finances completion of the film with the money he steals from his victims.

man_bites_dog

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTMan Bites Dog starts with an absurd premise, that a camera crew would follow a serial killer around nonjudgmentally documenting his crimes, and follows that bizarre idea to its illogical conclusion. Once the concept is established, however, the film goes about its business with a stark realism that only rarely strays into absurd territory. The movie’s black humor and ironic celebration of violence don’t set out to give us a weird feeling; they are an intellectual attempt to disturb us, morally.

COMMENTS: Even though Man Bites Dog ultimately misses its satirical target, there is a lot to admire in the craft behind this experimental expedition from three Belgian student filmmakers.  Chief among them is the performance of Benoît Poelvoorde as the killer (also named Benoît). Poelvoorde inhabits the role with a cocky, credible naturalism that suggests he is playing himself, if only he made his living by killing old ladies and postmen for a handful of francs at a time.  As the subject of the documentary, the character of Benoît is fascinating, even when he’s not pumping bullets into a body.  He has the soul of a bad poet; a would be philosopher, he takes time to notice and pontificate on the finer things in life.   He’s capable of pausing in the middle of stalking a victim to notice some amorous doves, and discourse to the camera in hushed but knowledgeable tones about avian mating habits before resuming his hunt.  He’s also casually racist and homophobic, kind to his parents and girlfriend, constantly aware of the camera’s location and visibly anxious to make sure that it is always pointed in his direction.  He’s shamelessly unafraid to be captured on film, either killing or vomiting up a mix of wine and bad mussels, so long as he’s the center of attention.  Without such a strong, guiltily charming characterization centering the film, the extreme violence and cruelty of  Benoît’s rape and killing sprees would be unpardonable.

The film, ostensibly a black comedy, also has some very funny moments: Benoît is ambushed by a rival killer, only to find, after he dispatches him in a shootout, that his latest victim also had a camera crew following him around.  The juxtaposition between Benoît’s amiable public personality, exemplified in a conversation with his grandpa about the time the old man sold a sucker a department store-bought pair of panties claiming they belonged to Brigitte Bardot, and scenes where he discourses in a drolly businesslike manner about the various ballast ratios needed to sink bodies of adults, children and midgets, also provides an undercurrent of fun.  But unfortunately, although there are a few gems, most of the way the gags fail badly to find the correct balance between darkness and comedy, leaning much too far towards the former.  Most people find the child snuffing and gang rape/murder scene particularly, and needlessly, vile, but the Continue reading CAPSULE: MAN BITES DOG [C’est arrivé près de chez vous] (1992)