March 25, 2006

BANNED ! ANTHROPOPHAGOUS – THE BEAST (1980) REVIEW 9


When I reviewed the Emanuelle/Emmanuelle craze that swept throughout ‘70’s Europe, I referred to Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massacchesi). D’Amato churned out some definitive examples of exploitation/genre cinema. I must mention one of my ‘ultimate’ favourites of his ‘Emanuelle in America’ (1977) that encompasses nearly everything of taboo it could possibly reflect! It was Massachessi that churned out the more ‘darker’ aspects of the character and spliced a healthy dose of hardcore action amongst the adventures in one of the journalist’s most extreme escapades.

We will pay further visits to Massacchesis’ work throughout the Teapot so to reveal an ‘all you need to know’ would be inappropriate at this stage.

One of Massacchesis’ notorieties was ‘Anthropophagous –The Beast, it caused an outcry when available pre-VRA (Video Recordings Act) and ultimately ended up prosecuted, being banned outright and still accomplishing unavailability in a fully uncut status today in England, 2006.

This was also Massacchesis first ‘straight’ as he had been churning out pornography by the vat load previous. Where’s there’s muck there’s brass I suppose as we can assume some of these were the backers of the exploitation flicks. We kick off with the plot and review but with additional comment referring to the video nasties witch hunts that happened in this country not that long ago.

THE PLOT

Julie (Tisa Farrow – Mias’ sister!) needs to meet her friends on a remote Greek island. To save on costs she hitch-hikes with a separate group of holiday makers on a boat trip to her destination. As the others’ have very little else option wise, they decide to go along for the taste of exploration.

En-route Carol (played by Zora Kerova – ‘The New York Ripper’ (1982) and ‘Cannibal Ferox’ (1981)) plays with her sixth sense and her Tarot cards. She reads them for pregnant Maggie (Serena Grandi) and foresees doom. In fact she sees the whole trip as ill fated but her travelling companions think she’s loony and put it down to tantrums of the highly strung.

In the prelude we witness a centre parting via cleaver and an underwater disembowelment of boyfriend and girlfriend so we know that the psychic lady is telling the truth.

This is further re-enforced when they arrive at the Greek Island and it is completely uninhabited. Mary decides to stay on board with the captain as she busts her ankle. The others take the dumb initiative and go exploring. They do this unaware that there every move is being witnessed by something unseen and foreboding.

They stumble across a badly decomposed corpse and come across one sight after another indicating something terrible has been happening there.

They take the sensible option of fleeing but just as they start out a savage storm flares up, the group seek refuge in Julies’ friends’ house which turns out to be empty also.

Julie and admirer Andy decide to do the time honoured traditional gothic thing of exploring with only candlelight for illumination. In the cellar a hysterical French girl brandishing a knife and very bushy armpits, leaps from a casket of wine. She gashes Andy’s arm. Pretty good going as she’s completely blind; she is identified as Henriette, one of Julies’ friend’s daughters.


Julie calms her down and she explains the current fate of the island; alarmingly the culprit is still roaming the place feasting on the inhabitants. It is soon apparent that the anthropophagous mutation has found its’ next source of food and breaks into the house to satisfy it’s appetite, Julie and co’s holiday soon turns into a living nightmare where they are battling the darkest force of the Grim Reaper head on - to survive…….

CRITIC

Despite being utterly spoiled by the pristine print and super audio quality of Media Blasters release I found this a bit of a plodding affair.

There are two gory set-pieces on offer , one offal special and the other a remarkably vicious little sequence of events showing how extreme a film can go in the gross stakes.


Some of Massacchesis direction namely the wood chase sequence involving Tisa Farrow and the ‘dreamlike’ delirium of the genocide/cannibalism flashback are glimpses of what fine cinematography can be achieved by a talented director which on the whole Massachessi was(he sadly died of a heart attack on 23 January 1999).


It is unfortunate that these scenes are few and far between and act as partial nod off preventatives some of the time.

Setting these gripes aside what can be championed is the claustrophobic decay emphasised on the island whether interior or exterior. D’Amato produces his nightmare world in dank, muted colours, it bathes in murk, this maximises a seemingly ever prevalent presence of death embodied in representation of the beast itself.

The crusty creature for all it’s bloodthirsty actions is a touch sympathetic too, stemming from the fact that he had to eat his son and inadvertently murdered his wife he carries an element of patheticness.


Not only is the beast embodiment of decay , it symbolises the anguish of death and tragedy. It this embittered suffering that acts as enough fuel to drive the beast (played by Luigi Montefiori (George Eastman)). There are many layers to this character and to a lesser extent, some of the other players, that just about sets this movie above your average gruel.

When this film was released in the U.K it became one of the most nefariously depraved nasties you could get. Along with it’s other ‘kindred’ they became as notorious as they could have been thanks to the stupidity of ridiculous Thatcherite policy that bordered on the facististic and the ignorance of the thought police that prosecuted them.


THE STORY BEHIND THE U.K NASTIES

From videos’ infancy in approximately 1978 to 1984 a loophole was exploited. Before video one could only view a film on the cinema screen passed by the strict censors. Video boomed rapidly and as no law of censorship had been passed for it and only applied to the cinematograph this resulted in a whole plethora of uncut and uncensored sleaze surfacing for the viewing publics delight.

In 1984 as part of the Tories ‘clean up & Victorian value’ ludicrousness certain films were prosecuted under the OPA (Obscene Publications Act) of 1959 by the DPP (Department of Public Prosecution) and the VRA (Video Recordings Act) was brought in so video could now finally be covered and butchered mercilessly in what was probably one of the grimmest periods in England’s censorship legacy.


What started to become quite ‘liberal’ and eventually resulted in complete deregulation was put back decades by hysteria and middle class moralist crusades. Hilariously the press got involved in what became more of a craze than an issue; Anthropophagous was cited as being a ‘snuff movie’ , the build up to the ‘foetus munching’ scene (in fact a skinned rabbit from the butchers) was even shown on News at Ten , as moral panic never seen the like of before, swept over the country.

James Ferman became the head of the censors and seemed at the time arrogantly content in empowering his staff to censor away based on the strictest of antiquated law with no flexibility what so ever.


Sex all but disappeared from the screen big and small, and was relegated back to being saucy postcard ‘safe’ naughtiness for the childish, oppressed society that could not be trusted to think for itself. Ridiculous decisioning reigned supreme ‘The Exorcist’ was banned as Ferman believed some of it could be taped and used in black mass. Such rationale beggars belief.

On whose say so these films are deemed bad for us we shall never know ,but at the time you honestly believed these had to be the most horrific things you could ever imagine. What a let down when you saw the much hyped movie, some were grim admittedly but the majority were not worth a raised eyebrow and could and have since been granted an 18 cert uncut, in some cases a 15 has been awarded to a few on the virtually obsolete ‘nasty list’.


The farce that become ‘video shop’ raids by the police were also shameful examples of denseness that resulted in Dolly Partons’ ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’, war film classic ‘The Big Red One’ and ‘Lassie Come Home’ being ‘withdrawn for obscenity’ in complete illogical error and moving image ignorance. ‘Emmanuelle 2’ a mainstream soft-core flick was confiscated for its’ hardcore sequence. Therefore it was replaced on the shelves in a version sans the ‘cartoon/strap-on’ sequence. Ferman said ‘hardcore is hardcore whether cartoon form or not’.


There is so much I could write about the differing tactics of those terrible times but that would be worthy of another blog I’m sure. Fortunately the censors have moved a little on since being so terribly merciless and have developed a much needed sense of humour.

Fortunately plastic sfx, animal offal stuffed t-shirts and rubber hand chopping does not constitute a prosecution or a banning. Their main ‘beef’ is violence against women but is also tending to predictably encompass religious ultra-sensitivity in current times as an excuse for alternative scissor snipping and intrusive changes.


Scientists from research institutes have proven that there is no correlation between sex and violence imagery and society’s ills. We must use common sense, history tells us Jack the Ripper didn’t own a VCR; neither did Hitler, Hitler was reputed to have said that his favourite film was ‘King Kong’ does that mean that we need to ban this for the potential catalyst of megalomania frenzy –I think not.

Come to think of it those purely twisted infamies Bradey and Hindley didn't own a copy of 'Last House on the Left' or 'Night of the Bloody Apes' but all three 'examples', in varying degrees, were capable of the ultimate atrocities, reminding us of what not too become and what a living thing is capable of doing to another human being.


As the pulp books of the 1930’s-1950’s and the more ‘liberated’ motion picture of the 1960’s-1970’s and finally the digital age and beyond these will always be humanities ‘scapegoats’ for immorality as well as yardsticks for technological development and sociological change.


These have all acted as shields for us to avoid understanding the real ugliness of human behaviour. Thes films and literature have been used as moral contraceptives that can be used as a ‘morning after pill’ . Used in effect to prevent a realisation or a seed germinating that conveniently tricks us into believing, that what is being blamed is caused by something that is easy to persecute. Whatever the form of entertainment it is held responsible for the darkest aspects of humanity, proving fundamentally that it is easy to 'blame' than to accept our own humanistic responsibility for such terrible actions towards each other.

In fact what the exact cause is is the human capacity to be inhuman, unfortunately their are some purely evil, immoral and throughly nasty people out there that displaying inhuman qualities caused more likely by the way they were brought up not what’s' in the corner of the living room .

These repellant individuals can get 'triggered' into such depraved behaviour by something just as simple as a leaf falling off a tree as well as they could be 'triggered' by the content of some poorly dubbed Italian exploitationer.

The censoring and I mean callous censoring of such artistic celluloid accomplishments (although not everyones cup of tea) ; really impaired the freedom of expression in the United Kingdom and it has taken over ten years to recover to where it’s at now.


Getting back to and to round things off nicely, foetus munching scene screensnapped below the only exception, I feel 'Anthropophagous' author George Eastman (Luigi Montefiori) deserves a special mention. I have been recently surprised at how much he had contributed to the exploitation genre. Luigi also played ‘The Beast’, twice in fact, as he also played the creature in the prequel (of sorts) ‘Absurd’ (1981).


All in all the film is an o.k. above average romp. Don’t expect too much from this as I guarantee you will find yourself nodding off in some bits but stick with it because there are plenty of worthwhile moments, atmospheric and well executed too it's just a bloody shame you have to wait so damned long for them.

For the true D’Amato experience I would advise Emanuelle in America.

MOST OUTSTANDING MOMENT

For me it had to be the well sequence. It was ‘unexpected’ and those horror claustrophobic scenarios still really gee me up even after all this time! Though nowhere near as good as Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974) and House by the Cemetery (1981) respectively.


THE MOVIE; Anthropophagous – The Beast.

THE YEAR; 1980.

I AM ALSO KNOWN AS; Antropophagous, Anthropophagous: The Beast,

Anthropophagous: The Grim Reaper, Man Beast,

The Grim Reaper, The Savage Island.

THE COUNTRY; Italy

RECOMMENDED VERSION; Shriek Show Region 1 (2 Disc Edition)

MY TAG-LINE; ‘It’s not fear that tears you apart – it’s him!!!’


March 19, 2006

ADULTS ONLY!! LET ME DIE A WOMAN (1978) – REVIEW 8



Doris Wishman was one of the most generative of female underground cinema directors. Sadly Wishman died of cancer on August 10, 2002 with a movie making legacy spanning over 40 years. Such was her passion for the celluloid image that she was reputed to have said, on many occasion ‘after I die, I will be making movies in hell’.

She made 30 films most fitting into the sexploitation slot of underground delicacies. Her movies would run in 42nd Street grind houses across the U.S.A, fleapit movie theatres and double, even triple bills for the drive-in circuit. Wishman made 26 feature films between 1959 – 1977 , where she pioneered the first ‘nudie-cutie’ motion picture ‘Nude on the Moon’ (1960).

Her 27th was a gory splatter movie called ‘A Night to Dismember’, the current DVD release of this features her only DVD commentary, it is released by Elite.


After a period of absence she bounced back with two more movies ‘Satan was a Lady’ (2001) and ‘Dildo Heaven’ (a.k.a Desperate Desires’ (2002), unfortunately her 30th movie ‘Each Time I Kill’ was never completed as the illness had taken a final hold.

One of her most startling essays into the mondo genre was 1978’s ‘Let Me Die a Woman’, this sleazy little beast focused on the ‘all real’ pre and post op transsexual. With its cod psychology and theology, real medical (or some little operating room in Morocco?) footage, sleazy vignettes and exploitational atmosphere it naturally deserves its rightful place here at The Celluloid Teapot…..

THE PLOT

This little oddity begins with ‘Leslie’ going about her daily routine, nattering away about nail polish and what she likes to wear etc, etc. Then she drops a bombshell ‘This time last year, I was a man!!!’ the music reaches a lamentable crescendo and the movie leaps into life.

We then greet Dr.Leo Walton a qualified physician and sex change surgeon who takes us through some of his ‘case studies’. The first features Anne Zordi, sauntering through the park.

There she catches the eye of a dirty old man. Both of them leave to Anne’s apartment for sex. After seeing the two writhe for a bit whilst inter-cut with erotic fellatio ink drawings, the chap seems to be up and out the door grinning.

The camera pans back to Anne who undresses for a shower she drops her knickers and lo and behold she has a diddler. Walton narrates ‘ there are 100,000 transsexuals like Anne in the United States today’ , this then gives the camera to watch Anne lathering her breasts, her buttocks and Penis in long lingering close up.



After some babble we then see case 2 where a carpenter was so frustrated in having to wait for the operation obliges sooner with chisel and hammer. This is hysterical as we are treated to lots of flaccid dick and ketchup - tasteless, cheap and worth a hundred giggles for its sheer silliness.

We then see ‘real life’ case studies from Dr.Waltons focus groups. What we witness here is hilarious, a group of the poorest representations of transsexuals ever seen. One looks like Bernard Bresslaw in drag or the sort of 50/60 something that is seen sipping Dubonnet in working men’s clubs.


Horrific and unintentionally riotous, it will have ones’ sides splitting. The poor people are milked exploitatively for every bit of bare flesh they can offer. In stark ‘clinical’ situations we see Dr Walton prod and poke, upstairs and downstairs showing what we are fully aware of.

This has now mutated into nothing more than good old fashioned Victorian freak show daringly done in the form of schools and colleges sex education.

The movie then enters into sheer Mondo style demonstrating actual sex change footage. Don’t believe the hype it’s not that bad at all, there has been similar on Channel 4 quite recently, it’s about the same as the worst (best) footage you could see on terrestrial channels in the U.K.

After watching the skin of the penis and scrotum being sliced and diced to make a vagina we then watch the price to pay for impatience. The Doctor moves on to Case 4 where a ‘new’ woman decided she couldn’t wait for her first fuck. In a cheesy (circa 1971) segment we see Harry Reems (sans moustache and prior to his ‘Deep Throat’ (1972) infamy) play a cab driver who drives the girl back to her apartment, after seducing him they both end up having sex. After another soft-core fumble the Cabbie leaves with a big sense of achievement right across his face.

The poor woman is in pain and notices blood dolloped on the sheets. We then learn she had split the stitches right open and has to spend two weeks in hospital for further operations to repair such damage.

At the Doctors’ surgery we meet Debbie Hartman a fully working post op transsexual. After hearing her ordeal at being a woman trapped in a mans body she strips and demonstrates dilator insertion which is used to prevent the vagina from healing together, this is also presented in loving close up and the odd ‘squelch’ on the soundtrack.

After this Debs pops onto the couch ; where the Doctor sharply observes she has a hairy ass (mmmmm, gathered that). The Doctor spreads Debbie’s legs and then runs through what a post op vagina looks like and folks it isn’t too pretty. The new ‘sex’ is in all the entire world like a baseball players glove wrapped in wire with mange.


The Doctor demonstrates the ‘piss-hole’ with a metal rod; and points out where areas have yet to heal. After advising us over the lack of vaginal mucus he lubes his figure with as much glop as possible and administers it gynaecologically for a longer than necessary period of time.

The movie ends up on a high note - a closet transsexual’s suicide because he can’t dress like the bride or something similar.

CRITIC

No selected screenshot or piece of text can possibly highlight the sheer wealth of shake your head stuff offered for the lapping up. The movie has Wishmans trademark style of directorial all over it.


Wishman edited, marketed, directed, produced and championed her movies so credit is where credit is due. Taking into consideration she was a woman director in predominantly a mans' world making such films as well; one can only admire the lady wholeheartedly. All self taught too, so the result is a frantic gush of images that never gives you a break from being absorbed, wondering what the hell is going to crop up next.

Frenzied cutaways can suddenly pop up mid-shot. When characters speak the hand held camera can on occasion focus on anything but the players’/participants’ mouths as they speak, this technique enabled Wishman to prevent lip synching at a later stage which was considered too time consuming.

Let Me Die a Woman is an odd little slice of cheese but highly entertaining in several other ways. It’s so different to anything ever seen before and seems ‘amateurish’ but this is what’s at the heart of the style not the essence of the directors' capability.

The film is a glare with bright light accentuating the boldness of pinks and reds which seem to make the genitals of the participants seem red, angry and sore. Thoroughly unwholesome to witness but adds so much force that drags the unsavoury sleaze factory down a further couple of notches.

Let Me Die a Womans’ history is also as disjointed as the direction. It’s difficult to date as no documents and very little of what the original movie ‘pilot’ of ‘Let Me Die…’ actually exists. From the fashions of the ‘sexy segments’ and actors histories we can go far back as ‘70/’71.

Anne Zordis’ ‘park’ conquest is none other than actor Richard Towers who played the vengeful father in Wes Cravens ‘video nasty’ darling ‘Last House on the Left’ (1972). Except in these sequences he is not as grey and displays bigger mutton chops than his 1972 incarnation.


To confuse matters more Wishman recollected she made something ‘similar’ in 1973 called Adam or Eve? , this is no longer viewable as is missing or destroyed but we do see a glimpse of its’ opening titles on the recent magnificent ‘Synapse’ release.

‘Let Me Die…’ was submitted to the MPAA (Motion Picture of America Association) and despite not venturing into the ‘hardcore’ territory received the dreaded ‘X’ certificate which could make or break a movie. In 1980 it made it to British shores where (as you will be grinning and nodding by now knowing whats around the corner) the film was banned outright by the British Board of Film Censors.

After 10 minutes of splicing the BBFC decided the public worthy of viewing the truncated ‘castrated’ mess. In the halcyon days of unregulated VHS a fully uncensored copy did pop up on the Derann label in the U.K in 1982.

’82 saw the film being theatrically released and it was superb to think than in the U.K the public could decide on whether they were for the uncut option on home video or the butchered presentation showing at the ABC down the road, in one of ‘those’ areas.

To film a ‘warts and all’ transgender documentary was already put out to tender in the early 1960’s as recommended by one of Wishmans’ nudist friends. It staid on the shelf for a good 18 years before finally evolving into the definitive shape it became in 1978.

Another special mention has to be for the main ‘star’ of the piece ‘Leslie’, her vivaciousness can be seen in the interview segments that fuse the ‘piece’ together and can still be experienced in her contemporary commentary for the recent DVD release.

One feels a little amused that Leslie had no idea what the interview was to be spliced with and her witty reactions are a must listen on the Synapse release.

Reviews have been written and have tended to be mixed but I thoroughly enjoyed this piece of trash and thought it was worth every penny spent. A total breed on its own and an important addition to the annals of grubby ‘sinema’ showing the ability to shock is still possible even though made on a shoestring.

MOST OUTSTANDING MOMENT

Two things were outstanding because they made me laugh so much, unintentionally so. The first has to be the ludicrous overdubs that seem all over the place when it comes to matching imagery.

The voice overs also, through no fault of the soundtrack, sound slow especially Debbie’ I feel a few valiums were popped or a few spliffs were smoked before her screen debut. The other moments were the dialogue content which is primarily based on stating the obvious and medi- nonsense compared to today.

A classic sequence is when during Debbie’s’ ‘interview’ she fondly mentions of her impending uterus and ovary transplant so she can have children and be a complete ‘Woman’. Oh dear………



The Film; Let Me Die A Woman (a.k.a ' Stranger in my Body' )

The year ; 1978

The Director;
Doris Wishman


The Country ; America