Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Veronica Lake was a famous Hollywood actress in the early 20th Century, in the golden age of cinema, but by the late 40's, her career had started to dwindle. In her twilight years, after publishing her autobiography, she decided to use the profits to make a sleazy drive-in horror flick! A noble pursuit we can all aspire to!...
Dr. Elaine Fredricks is a though-to-be-mad scientist who was recently discharged from an asylum, and has been hired by a wanted fugitive, leading a paper to try to uncover what's going on with her studies, with the help of an undercover 'operative' working as the Doctor's assistant. She's developed a highly advanced rejuvenation process using flesh eating maggots, but for what purpose? Who are the strange people coming to her house, and why are they armed? And who is their mysterious 'leader'?...
Ok, right off the bat, Flesh Feast is terrible, BUT, I still really like that Lake wanted to make it, and respect her for it, even if her choices of talent, or lack thereof, weren't exactly the best. Well, unless she wanted to make a terrible 70's sleaze-fest. I'm really curious why she wanted to make it. A shame then that she did so AFTER writing her autobiography.
This isn't quite boring, but it's not exactly the quickest of movies, which is odd considering that it's only 72 minutes long. On the other end of the spectrum, some scenes are rushed WAY too quickly, including the final action scene, as well as two other characters, who die super quickly, and from what seem like minor bumps.
The dialogue in this movie is really 'special'! It includes such gems as "This is part of the first part of the process" (That's technically grammatically correct, I suppose), "I can't get Ted out of my mind, I can't believe what happened, I just can't get him out of my mind!", and "I don't understand...why you got mixed up in all these things*"-"It's all part of a big revolution in South America. It's very big.", among others.
*Bizarre pause from the bad actress included.
The direction, from Brad F. Grinter, is ok. Nothing special, and kinda bad at some points. On that note, you may recognize that name. That's because he's the man responsible for Blood Freak, wherein a blood-drinking drug addicted turkey-man finds God/religion. No, I'm not making that up...
Now, time to discuss the more interesting aspect to the movie. Those aforementioned rejuvenation-maggots? The doctor's ultimate goal is to use them to bring Hitler back from the dead*, just to kill him again, to get revenge for her parents' deaths. That sounds amazing! Unfortunately the movie doesn't really live up to that lunacy.
*I suppose you're wondering who in their right mind would resurrect Hitler just to kill him again, rather than leaving well enough alone As it turns out, that description, which is often used by those on the internet (including friggin' Wikipedia!) when describing the movie, is apocryphal, and in the world of Flesh Feast, he never died, and is instead an elderly man wanting rejuvenation. Still, though, it's more fun saying the former!
I have to wonder if the nazi stuff was even originally part of the plot. On one hand, there's the stuff with South America, as well as the German named characters, and I've no idea where the character of Dr. Fredricks would've gone without that plot element, but it could've easily been worked around. Perhaps she's just going to resurrect a random South American revolutionary leader. Or maybe in an earlier script, Fredricks actually was a villain, rather than a wronged person out for revenge. The nazi stuff only comes into play in the final 6 minutes of the film, without so much as a mention beforehand. Maybe they just wanted to save the reveal of the whacked-out twist to the last minute, but the movie's not good enough for that to work. It's generally not a good sign when you're unsure if a twist revelation is an eleventh-hour rewrite! By the way, I don't feel bad about spoiling any of this, as you're probably not gonna have any interest in this movie without me telling you of its sheer craziness, and those final moments are the only time during the movie when I was truly having fun.
The acting in Flesh Feast is pretty terrible all-round. Some performances are better than others, but not by much, and emotions are hilariously terrible, and reactions are facepalmingly poor and/or late. Veronica Lake is the best, but she's not exactly a standout here. She *almost* pulls of a maniacal laugh, which goes from being fantastic, to bad, sadly.
I don't really recommend Flesh Feast unless you really have a thing for awful drive-in schlock of the era, and/or are a fan of Veronica Lake, and relish the thought of seeing her play a mad scientist...
It's easy enough to see every inch of someone nude in crystal clarity nowadays, thanks to the internet, but back in the 60's, if you wanted to see a naked woman, you'd either have to get married, or watch a low-quality super softcore skin flick in a seedy theatre filled with Travis Bickle types, and religious nutjobs who decree what you're watching as sinful, yet are, without fail, always in these theatres watching these movies. Enter Larry Buchanan's The Naked Witch, bearer of a much more enticing title than it in any way deserves...
A college student is working on as essay about customs and superstitions in the German settlement of Luckenback, Texas, and comes across the story of a witch. He finds he grave, and disturbs it, bringing the vengeful witch back to life, and on a bloodthirsty rampage...
The Naked Witch starts off with almost 10 minutes of what's pretty much a history lecture, albeit extremely inaccurate, told over Heironymous Bosch paintings that he apparently misinterprets, too.
Once that narration ends, another begins, and the remaining 50 minutes (yes, really) are from the point-of-view of a college student, who's got to be one of the worst protagonists in an horror movie ever! To start with, his priorities are just messed up, like when he gets the book on the Luckenbach Witch from the likable innkeeper's daughter Kirska, who's in a black nightie and clearly coming onto him. Dude, an extremely horny hot chick wants to bang you-Forget about researching witches! Also, what kind of psycho digs up graves in the plight of college research? Jesus! Your midterm paper is not that important. Getting into the big stuff, he's a massive dick! He starts off pretty unlikeable already, clearly going to break the confidence of those who help him but then he goes ahead and digs up the grave of someone, and tampers with their corpse! This of course resurrects the witch, and she goes on a killing spree against the Schoennig family, killing them all besides Kirska. All through this, the lead's narrating about how he wanted to tell the townspeople of his involvement in this horror, but 'just couldn't' Eventually he goes to hunt down the witch, but upon finding her, he elects to watch her skinny dip, then they have sex. She proceeds to hunt down her last remaining victim, and three minutes before the end of the movie, the dude's still snoozing after banging the witch he was meant to kill! Only in the last few seconds does he save Kirska...Save her from the problem that he caused! The reason why her entire family is now dead. I bet she immediately buried him alive with a few water moccasins following the events of the film! To finish, I also kept yelling "Stop referring to women as creatures!" at the screen. Overall, this guy is so dreadful that it's actually quite amusing viewing him as an unreliable narrator, who's meant to be awful, and laughed/booed. That's of course not the case, and it's just bad writing to blame, but it does make the story more fun if you view it that way!
The Naked Witch is extremely guilty of breaking the 'Show, don't tell' rule. The majority of dialogue is narration, and it's really only when Kirska is talking that we get any proper conversations. It's clear the filmmakers were able to have dialogue and sound, yet they chose to do what Doris Wishman did with A Night to Dismember, even though that movie had a very good reason for it's constant narration and lack of much dialogue (that being soundtrack vandalism and destruction). The most egregious moment is when a character calls out "Kirska", then the lead's narration immediately says "Her name was Kirska". WE KNOW!
Now, this movie may be bad, but what about the good stuff, you ask? The nudity!...Sadly disappointing. When we first see the titular witch running around nude, she's strategically hidden by various objects, or camera shadows. Later on, in a skinny dipping scene, we see some boobs from afar, then a few closer shots, but that's it. And the quality's so low and lighting so poor that the actress might as well be wearing clothing for all we can tell.
The title is also a lie in more ways than one! The movie may open with a lecture on witches, but then the movie goes ahead and ignores all of that, instead making the so-called witch an innocent women who was persecuted and murdered by an evil cockhead. I suppose she must've become a witch in the interim of her death and resurrection? Assuming she even is a witch at all, but there's nothing to suggest that besides the title. Whatever the case, she certainly has every right to be pissed off at the town! And she's certainly more likable than the useless lead, that's for sure.
The effects are mostly lousy and unconvincing. The old corpse of the witch looks fake, like it's just a rubber mask placed in the dirt, but kinda neat. The effect when the student removes the stake from its body though, not so much. I've always found the folklore that say a vampire/witch/etc. can be brought back to life by removing the stake from its heart to be stupid-How the heck do you literally unkill something? It's DEAD. Finito! It's like resurrecting someone you shot by removing the bullet from their head! I could accept it for this movie though...What I can't accept is when the body's so rotted away, there's nothing the stake is even in anymore! The lead just picks the darn thing up! The staking at the end is pretty bad too, though the shot of the witch with the implement poking out of her is better handled.
Other little oddities about the movie are the set that's the same in an 1860's flashback as it is in the modern day, or how the townspeople are conspicuously absent throughout the film. The witch isn't even doing that great a job of hiding herself, what with skinny dipping, and running around the town in broad daylight, yet no-one notices her! And finally, the witch has a little motto when killing her victims, saying 'one by water' and 'one by fire' respectively, but she stabs both of them! And in the case of the latter, that's all she does! "One by fire!", she says as she stabs the guy with a stake, and leaves him to die where he sits, rather noticeably not alight.
The direction in The Naked Witch is bad! Full of simple, yet crippling mistakes, like holding on the silent person's face too long in a conversation before cutting back to the one speaking, for example. Asides from stuff like that, it's barely serviceable.
The score isn't terrible, but not exactly thrilling either. It's completely unremarkable.
The Naked Witch is not a good movie by any means, not even as a skin flick! It's so not worth watching, despite it's short 59 minute runtime!...