A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! Deep End (1970)

“DEEP END” (1970)

If you can’t have the real thing– you do all kinds of unreal things.

I LOVE creepy British psycho-sexual thrillers of the 1970s – Goodbye Gemini (1971) with Judy Geeson and Martin Potter, Twisted Nerve (1968) with Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett, Beware My Brethren (1972) with Ann Todd, and The Night Digger (1971) with Patricia Neal and Nicholas Clay. And then there’s the non-conformist Polish auteur Jerzy Skolimowski with his portrayal of the seamy underbelly of a tawdry swinging London’s Soho at the end of the 1960s — Deep End (1970) similar to his other works – Le Départ (The Departure 1967) and Walkover (1965) all representative of a character disadvantaged by his social class inhabiting a bourgeois realm and in Deep End the story is about young Mike (John Moulder-Brown) set against a classist system that crowds him into a strange world that brings out his unstable burgeoning sexuality.

Like his colleague Roman Polanski, Skolimowski uses water in his films and here in Deep End especially- it is used as a liminal space where the characters may move in and out of reality. It’s significance here is a passage between childhood and maturity and life and death. All of the narrative is geared toward flow and not necessarily structured.

Actor, writer, producer and director Jerzy Skolimowski (King, Queen, Knave 1972, The Shout 1978-actor in Mars Attacks! 1996, Before Night Falls 2000) Here he directs and has written the screenplay with Jerzy Gruza and Boleslaw Sulik for Deep End 1970.

Cinematography by Charly Steinberger who creates a surreal and dreamlike landscape that lends itself to metaphorical interpretations of pubescent angst and awakening, set against a squalid London at the end of the 1960s. With a soundtrack by Cat Stevens using his song under the opening titles ‘But I Might Die Tonight’ and German band The Can with their song ‘Mother Sky.’

Skolimowski uses the recurring theme of the color red in much the way – red was used as symbolism as illustrated in the poster of the blood trailing downward, it reminds me of the same motif used by Nicholas Roeg’s adaption of Daphne du Maurier’s incredibly haunting  Don’t Look Now (1973) a particular favorite 70s horror of mine.

Deep End stars cherubic faced John Moulder-Brown (The House that Screamed 1970, Forbidden Love Game 1975) as Mike, Jane Asher as Susan, Karl Michael Vogler as the swimming instructor, Christopher Sanford as Susan’s fiancée Chris, Diana Dors as Mike’s 1st lady client- a ‘withered rose’, Louise Martini as Beata the prostitute, Erica Beer as the Bath’s cashier, Anita Lochner as Kathy.

The grotesque and creepily moving tableau- a seedy Bath house where Mike (John Moulder-Brown) a 15 year old towel boy who’s awakening sexuality is aroused by Susan (Jane Asher-Masque of the Red Death 1964, Alfie 1966) a beautiful red head who provokes and baits his distorted hormonal urges to the verge of madness. Mike is sexually inexperienced and obsessed with Susan until he transforms into a voyeuristic stalker.

Skolimowski’s film is uncomfortable, disorienting, oddly dark, curiously droll and off-kilter in the same way, Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) is with it’s similar eye for detail as cinematographer Steinberger focuses the camera on each particle and trace of the bath house which creates a nightmare world that this disturbed young man inhabits among the other weirdos. In a similar vein as Polanski’s The Tenant (1976) and Cul-De-Sac (1966). Skolimowski was a co-writer with Polanski on Knife in the Water (1962). The film is littered with subconscious outré and offbeat imagery and weird and unsavory characters and we can see a bit of influence from Polanski at work.

Skolimowski (left) and Polanski (right)

Jane Asher’s character of Susan, a slightly older co-worker turns Mike onto the secret world that goes on in the private rooms of the bath house where certain of the clientèle indulge in their deviant proclivities and are willing to pay for it. Among them is the blonde Rubenesque British actress Diana Dors who taunts Mike in a libidinous bizarre scene.

Skolimowski refers to Dors type of character as a “withered rose’ the presence of an older woman who once was famous for her sex appeal but is now pathetic as she tries to seduce much younger men or comparing herself to favorite male past times as seen with the Physical Ed teacher (Karl Michael Vogler) who was in reality older that Dors. And with Mike whom she taunts unmercifully.

Susan is not serious about her fiancée Chris, she participates in various private sexual encounters with clients at the baths, and gets perverse gratification out of turning on Mike, until he realizes that she is having a deeper affair with his former teacher.

“Mother’s Sky” is utilized in a great scene where Mike stalks Susan ‘the object of his fixation’ to a London Club, and then moves onto a seedy strip joint where his dreams become even more subverted when he sees the large cardboard cut out of Susan, then he meets an old prostitute, and finally we follow them to the London Underground where he confronts her. When Mike’s obsession devolves it ends with tragic consequences as the story plays out with the quivers of young sexual innocence that quickly turns from disturbing pervy fixation to the kinky shivers of death. John Moulder-Brown is so perfect at playing at radiating a damaged boyish psyche.

If you love to luxuriate in odd British psycho-thrillers like I do, then Deep End will certainly fulfill that fancy mate!

Your EverLovin’ Joey saying, stay out of the deep end, and bring your own towel!

Sunday Nite Surreal: Serrador’s The House That Screamed: Elegant Taboos in the Gothic Horror Film-The Fragmentation of Motherhood, castration and the enigma of body horror

THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED (1969)

“TEACH HER TO TAKE CARE OF ME LIKE YOU DO” — Luis talking to his mother ‘Madame Fourneau

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Before there were shows like Criminal Minds, CSI or Dexter where I learned about dis-articulation, the graphic motif used in the human marionette themed Season 8 episode 10  of Criminal Minds ‘The Lesson’ directed by Matthew Gray Gubler (Meow!) not only for me, the most adorable, desirable nice guy, and brilliant quirky actor but outstanding director as well. Just watch Mosely Lane or the afore mentioned episode starring the equally brilliant….Brad Dourif as Adam Rain the Marionette Master who creates living puppets to re-enact a childhood trauma. I never heard of ‘Enucleation’- or removing the eyes with a highly sharpened melon baller until Criminal Minds.

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“The Lesson” episode of Criminal Minds directed by Matthew Gray Gubler. Starring Brad Dourif one of THE most underrated actors… It doesn’t get more jaw tightening than this-!

This is all the stuff that gives me… yes me!!!!, MonsterGirl the heebies, the pip and the whim whams and perpetually horrific nightmares for days, months even. BUT!!!

Before there was such contemporary graphic violence pouring forth from the television screen, or feature scare films deemed ‘torture porn’... that it could almost wear your psyche down to it’s raw unsheathed fibers… there was a beautiful elegant, and mind bending kind of psychological horror.

With The House That Screamed, the fear and anguish mixed with the exquisitely restrained performances by the ensemble of actors is more powerful than movies like Wolf Creek and Hostel which merely brings you excruciatingly close to realism and as violent as a trip to the slaughterhouse.

There ARE certain films that remain a haunting experience… but in a way that serves as an emotional release not a shock to your sympathetic nervous system.

The House that Screamed

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One film in particular will always be one of my favorite classical horror films of all time. The House that Screamed (1969) directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador  starring IMHO one of the finest actresses Lilli Palmer is rife with so many social taboos yet still maintains its elegance. Filled with images of Sado-Masochism -the archetypal Devouring Motherhood, the effects of repression, and young nubile beauties’ whose libidos are firing off sparks all over the boarding school. The untenable gap between adults and children, a brutal secret society of Sapphic sadists, an Oedipal complex brought to an eventual disturbing climax fit for modern screening.

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“This is a boarding school not a prison…” Madame Fourneau ” If it isn’t one, we’ll make it one.”

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Lilli Palmer is wearing Revlon’s “repressive salmon’ lipstick–that special color that just says–Yes I’m a ball buster and a closet lesbian to boot!

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“Don’t you understand that none of these girls are any good. By the time they bring them to me they’re already marked… Or they’ve done worse things and then they hand them over to me…{…} In time Luis, in time you’ll find the right girl, you’ll marry her. You’ll have your own home. These girls are poison… You need a woman like me who will love you, take care of you, protect you. We’ll find her… you’ll see… you’ll see.”

Lilli Palmer’s (Body and Soul 1947, Mädchen in Uniform (1958), The Boys from Brazil 1978) is Madame Fourneau, the headmistress of an all female school for ‘troubled’ or ‘unwanted girls’.

Lilli Palmer as teacher Maria Rohmer in Mädchen in Uniform, had a heady lesbian theme running through it’s narrative which here is reprised in a spanish horror film that reaches back to Grand Guignol. 

The rigid and stale institutionalized environment of The House that Screamed molds ‘good girls’. In this repressive sexual confinement it bursts wide open into a sensationalist breeding ground for the lesbian as predator trope. The repressed older woman being taken in by the beautiful innocence of a wild girl who defies her rules, pushing back against Palmer’s obvious infatuation, she makes Palmer’s character suffer as a voyeur as she awakens out of the nubile young adolescent into her sexual primacy as a seductive maiden. Palmer’s pain is exquisite. 

Her son Luis is played by the eternally cherubic looking, if not eerily handsome John Moulder-Brown. (known for his stint in a few 70s psycho-sexual thrillers like, Deep End 1970 & Forbidden Love Game 1975 directed by another underrated Spanish director Eloy de la Iglesia.

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John Moulder-Brown
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The film also co-stars Mary Maude who’s natural earthy beauty reminds me of Barbara Hershey as Irene ( Crucible of Terror 1971, Scorpio 1973)
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The lovely Maribel Martin... will she escape the finishing school? Here is Martin as Isabelle she also starred in (The Blood Spattered Bride 1972
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Ironically, it is Madame Forneau’s rigid obsession with controlling everything around her (as she glides through the school in her starched white blouses-a facade to her self-constraint) that creates the grisly puzzle to the plot, which I will not divulge here.

The House that Screamed is epiphanic of the thing that dreams and beautiful nightmares are made of… not these latest hellish journeys through graphic violations of the mind, body and soul, obliterating, annihilating any patch of humanity left to detect, without a purpose, a meaning nor cathartic release…

If I see one more woman’s mouth slashed from ear to ear like Gwynplaine (Conrad Veidt’s character in The Man Who Laughs (1928) A story filled with poignant heartache with layers of gut reaction not a story with a sense of regurgitation. But I digress….

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This film is an elegant horrifying waltz, textural, voyeuristic Spanish thriller and timeless late 60s horror film… an absolute master-work of art. From the acting, cinematography, Neo-Gothic art & set direction, the incredible use of lighting, music, sound design (each frame exists with it’s own individual cue that mark the scenes with a spine-chilling ambiance, a chorus of whimperings & glossolalia) and the fabulous period wardrobe designed by Víctor María Cortezo.

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Cristina Galbó as Teresa arrives at the finishing school and greeted by Madame Fourneau

The film begins with Teresa (Cristina Galbó What Have You Done To Solange? 1972) being dropped off at a remote, finishing school for said “problem” girls run by the severely domineering Madame Fourneau (Lilli Palmer), whose impish son, Luis (John Moulder-Brown) is held captive himself, by his mother’s doting maternal iron hand. (Moulder’s outre boyish expression is creepy in and of itself.) Yet it bares out the ironic theme of pure evil laying in wait behind the mask of purity. Luis is left to scour the perimeters of the school, voyeuristically gazing through small peep holes observing and befriending certain girls, like a rat who scurries behind the walls, he manages to arrange clandestine rendezvous with certain of the nymphs he chooses, while watching them during their weekly shower ritual–nightgown on–nudity is NOT an option unless you beg the wrath from the headmistress! (It throws her into a hypnotic-homophobic/homoerotic fugue)

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There are several disappearances assumed to be a case of the girls being runaways as they are known for their sexual liaisons with delivery men, but there is something much more sinister lurking at ‘Le Residencia’- The Finishing School the alternate title to The House that Screamed 1969.

The narrative, the film’s oxygen is apprehensive. As tautly wound as one of Teresa’s mother’s (the prostitute) corsets. Driven by the beauty of a frightening impressionist painting, the cinematography, (Godofredo Pacheco & Manuel Berenguer ) and the applied use of color, conjuring the film’s atmosphere like a Gothic masterpiece of terror. Colors which are also very emblematic of the works of Mario Bava having given his films a lush surreal dream like quality to them, making work like Black Sabbath 1963 a memorable walk through a lush nightmare. The House That Screamed evokes a world of repression, decay and an unseen menacing eye that is brushed with vibrant liquid like colors.
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The rigid yet pulsing tempo of the pace that is leading us to the horrifying conclusion, the haunting exquisiteness of the score by Waldo de los Ríos , its beautiful simplicity which leaves me humming for days… the visual perspective that allows us to participate in the claustrophobic, repressive quality of tristesse about the school. The eroticism is so very self contained. It’s this type of eroticism that I find more compelling than any literal sexual exploitation and B nudie flick unless the point is ‘exploitation’ (which I’m a complete fan of )and beauty is not the operative function. The psycho-sexual elements and the horror story are not overstated, they are trembling below the surface waiting to hyperventilate from all the tension. This is one gorgeous horror film that never gets old for me.

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Guillermo Del Toro who is probably the only auteur I think could attempt a re-make having used a similar eye with Pan’s Labyrinth 2006 and The Devil’s Backbone 2001 which had that sensibility that allows horror to appear beautiful. As of late I’ve become a fan of Eloy de la Iglesia and his style of storytelling. I’ve given these kinds of films the more powerful title of “Fable horror” The stunning and quiet sensuality which bring you just to the edge but does not indulge your fight or flight response.

If you haven’t seen The House that Screamed, and are curious about a film that led the 60s out with an elegant scream, and if you’re a fan of Lilli Palmer then take a stab at this one. Oops sorry for the ironic cliche there. I think you’ll be able to watch it without one hand over your face and no threat of nigh terrors either… If you want nightmares, just watch Criminal Minds  while eating a large bowl of pasta at 10pm then go straight to bed… I promise it’ll be far worse than anything you’ll experience from Serrador’s incredible The House that Screamed!

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It’s been Sunday Nite Surreal… Have a light hearted Sunday Nite from your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl

The House That Screamed Part One (1969) Ibanez-Serrador

This little monster girl plans on writing a more in depth essay on this elegant and voyeuristic spanish thriller. It happens to be one of my all time favorite and timeless horror films. To me it’s a work of art.

The film begins with Therese being dropped off at a remote, finishing school for “problem” girls run by the severe Madame Fourneau (Lilli Palmer),  whose  impish son, Luis (John Moulder-Brown) is held captive himself by his mother’s doting maternal iron hand. (Moulder’s outre boyish expression is creepy in and of itself.) It’s like that theme of pure evil behind the mask of purity. He’s left to scour the perimeters of the school, voyeuristically observing and befriending certain girls, like a rat who scurries behind the walls.

Somehow, there are several disappearances assumed to be the case of the girls being runaways, but there is something more more sinister lurking at The Finishing School.

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The narrative is driven by the cinematography, the colors which paint the film’s atmosphere like a gothic masterpiece, colors which are also very emblematic of the works of Mario Bava and why his films had a lush surreal dream like quality to them as well.

The pacing, the score, the visual perspective that allows us to participate in the claustrophobic, repression of the school. The eroticism so very self contained. It’s this type of eroticism that is much more compelling for me than literal sexual exploitation and nudity.

Guallermo Del Toro and Lucky McVee use this same technique which is why their work is so much more powerfully fable like. “Fable horror” (my characterization) not Violent horror. The stunning and quiet sensuality bring you just to the edge but does not indulge you. The sexuality and the horror aspect is not overstated at all. Which makes this film a profoundly more intriguing study in horror.

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The extreme violence in most contemporary Horror films are like a trip to the slaughter house. There is no theme. But brutality with body violation as a means to the end. There is no substantive context with which the narrative springs from. Even Saw which has a quirky plot, is quite more about the artifices that the killer employs the contraptions and various creative ways to die rather than a driving narrative based on mythology or psychology. Which is an interesting theme in itself and why Saw works, but by doing too many sequels I feel that it bastardizes the novelty of it’s originality and somehow loses it’s character. At least for me it does.

With The House That Screamed, the fear and anguish mixed with the exquisitely restrained performances by the actors is more powerful than movies like Wolf Creek and Saw which merely brings us excruciatingly close to realism and violence in real life. I would tag these films with a V for violence films and leave the traditional horror genre to have it’s own authentic label.

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