Tuesday, March 22, 2011

La Dolce Muerta

Roger Vadim’s Blood and Roses for the latest Final Girl Film Club--

I am glad I watched Blood and Roses—just to get more of another aspect of the vampire sub-genres, and
if you’re a tad more Goth or romantic than The National Film Board, you will probably love it.

Heh-heh-heh… At first, I kept confusing Blood and Roses with Blood & Lace, the Vic Tayback cheap-o horror masterpiece,
but Roger Vadim’s Blood and Roses is an el cheap-o almost tribute to Mario Bava.
(Waitaminnit! Didn’t Bava direct Blood and Black Lace? Uh-oh: My brain is going to explode…)

I’ve always been a fan of Vadim’s Barbarella, since I first saw it—
Vadim’s definitely got a sense of style.
(Maybe it’s that Euro-sensibility. I like it.)

The first thirty and last twenty minutes of Blood and Roses are great!
Well-paced, yet mysterious, moody—a top-notch dream sequence, and unique narration kept it a cut above the rest.
But I just couldn’t get into the film’s middle section.

Blood and Roses is a sexy incestuous body-switching vampiric possession flick, the spiritual-cinematic forefather of The Hunger, and other sexy-sad vampos, like Interview With a Vampire and, maybe, the Twilight flicks.

But these more romantic horror flicks really don’t grab me so much.
They strike me as mopey—and encouraging of that sort of behavior, as well (“Hey you Goths, get those coffins off my lawn!”)
So perhaps I couldn’t get into the more “emo” aspects of Blood & Roses—eh, such is life!

Acidemic Love Guru Erich Kurstein on Blood & Roses—a very recommended read HERE

But after watching B&R, I figured I should watch some other Vadim flicks:

And whaddya know! I had one waiting for me:
As a 2010 Xmas gift to myself, I bought some DVDs including the Roger Vadim-directed,
but Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek—as if you didn’t know!) produced and written Pretty Maids All in a Row, and I’ll tell ya:
I loved this twisted and Americanized French sex farce—it’s sexy, smart and has aged very well, in my opinion—and I know I’m in the minority—
Not that the fashions aren’t still from way back when, it’s that the film’s often documentary style—especially in crowd scenes—keeps the movie lively.

And the plot is insane—every female student seems to be sleeping with “Tiger” McGraw, the guidance counselor—who’s married to the most beautiful woman in town—when hot students start showing up murdered—and in the midst is a very horny teen that Tiger takes under his wing…

Honestly, this movie may have been made “before its time,” and it’s too bad that it has been out of print and unavailable for so long.
(And it sure as heck wouldn’t/couldn’t be made these days!)

But it’s available via the Warner Brothers Shop, which is how I got it.

Quirky, a tad kinky and tres risqué, Pretty Maids All in a Row would be great on a double bill with Lord Love a Duck, Pretty Poison or Brewster McCloud—just to give the reader a frame of reference.

Star Rock Hudson’s Don Juan/football coach/guidance counselor often seems like a grown-up version of the character Skipper Todd from The Todd Killings, but perhaps with slightly more drive. And insanity.

Pretty Maids All in a Row has a darn good script—well paced, and witty, with some corkers:
“We never have football practice on the day of a murder.”

Rock Hudson’s secret homosexual life may add a few inadvertent gags to the flick, but the movie was already campy (French sex farce, people!), so that aspect of the actor’s personal life neither adds nor detracts.

Hudson’s good in his part, but perhaps because I’m only familiar with him via Seconds, Ice Station Zebra and Giant, I’m more forgiving than the moviegoers who were his fan base back then who seemed to have preferred his lighter fare—and who stayed away from Pretty Maids All in a Row in droves, leading to the flick’s financial failure and subsequent disappearance from the public eye.

As for the rest of the cast:
Angie Dickinson (I’m embarrassed to say her name aloud) is perfect as the hot, cougariffic fantasy substitute teacher who helps virginal John David Carson with his Excess Boner Syndrome.

Meanwhile, Telly Savalas is awesome as usual, Keenan Wynn and Roddy McDowell shouldn’t be ashamed of cashing their checks,
and the chicks? Ay-yi-yi! Smokin’!

Yep, Pretty Maids All in a Row is a dirty old man movie often, but it’s a dirty old man who genuinely loves to look at (and film) pretty woman, and knows how to do it well.

The plethora of sexy, healthy genuine women in this movie is refreshing. I’m sure back in 1971, all this chicks were the supermodels of their day, and that was then.
Compared to now, we’re talkin’ Earth-Mamas.
And they’re all so fiiiiiiine!

I’ve never been the biggest fan of vampires—
They get zero sympathy from me, the way they’re always brooding. So self-pitying. Ugh.

I think that is why I like Christopher Lee’s Count Dracula, though—he doesn’t speak much, and often is a feral beast.

Of course
I dig Kate Beckinsdalek’s latex-clad vampira in Underworld—what’s not to like?
But what’s that nonsense about drinking synthetic blood?

And I’m a fan of Coppola’s Dracula
Its Anti-Naturalism and style-overload really worked for me—
and it was a love story that clicked as far as I was concerned:
like many others,
I had a crush on Winona Ryder,
and Gary Oldman—SID VICIOUS, dude!—
sold me on his centuries-long pining.

Ivanlandia much prefers werewolves—and we much prefer The Howling to An American Werewolf in London, actually.
I like that The Howling, despite the horror movie references, plays it straightforward essentially.

Honestly, I do not like John Landis’ film. (And I am a big admirer of most of his other films.)
The lead, David McNaughton, Mr. Dr. Pepper, bugged the heck out of me.
Something about him really rubbed me the wrong way—he never sold me on the tragic side of his tale.

I do think the makeup is superb—Rick Baker rules—and the scenes with Griffin Dunne’s ghoul, as well as the nightmares were all good.

Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolfman and Universal Studios’ other—and underutilized—Werewolf of London, as well as Ollie Reed’s white-furred beast from Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf (based on the excellent novel The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore—very recommended!)
are also faves, and I highly recommend Big Bad Wolf—I saw it on Netflix instant and it’s still there, and while it’s not a perfect film, it’s a damn decent B-movie, with some tasty gore and several nasty scenes, including the first on-screen werewolf rape (as far as I know, and no, I’m not looking it up).
It’s a six-pack flick, just keep that in mind.
(Meanwhile, the Benicio del Toro werewolf was a good design, with well-executed effects and decent gore—Rick Baker rules!—but the script was from hunger.)

COMING SOON: The Todd Killings!


  1. Just stumbled onto your fun blog & believe it or not I took that picture up top ("Chained Heat") about 10 years ago. That's my kitchen floor & that's my ex! No joke.

  2. Anon: LOVE the photo, and thanks for letting me use it. I have no memory of where I snagged that jpg--are you willing to give us a little backkground info of how this particular photo session occurred? (And is there anyplace to see more examples from this set?)

  3. Model's name is Isabelle Stephen. She works (or used to work) part time as a scream queen in lotsa DIY horror films. I think now she's photographing other models. Maybe she posted that pic on one of her sites in the past. Don't think there are anymore from that set online. We were just killing time one afternoon with my crappy state-of-the-art 1998 digi-cam.