Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Faster Pussycat
Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
Cul-de-Sac
Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966
the Naked kiss
Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964
Shock Corridor
Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963
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Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

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Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

Glen or Glenda
Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

The Killing of Sister George
Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

Davis & Crawford What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

WHAT DOES PSYCHOTRONIC MEAN?

psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia

In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!

FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…

THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!

I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

weird-noir
There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
Grayson Hall Satan in High Heels
Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962
mimi3
Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958
The Strangler 1964 Victor Buono
Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964
Repulsion
Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965

Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs, brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

A Very Ghoulish & Giffy Halloween from your ever lovin’ MonsterGirl!

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THANKS TO RETRO-FIEND FOR ALL THE SKIN-CRAWLING GIFS!!!!!

 BE SAFE AND HERE’S WISHING YOU A SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN FROM THE LAST DRIVE IN…!!!!!!

Quote of the Day! Lon Chaney Jr. as Bruno The Chauffeur: Spider Baby (1968)

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Lon Chaney Jr. Spider Baby

Lon Chaney Jr. is the sympathetic Bruno the chauffeur, who teaches the kids a little bit about ethics in Jack Hill’s sublime cult horror gem Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told (1968)

Spider Baby

“Just because something isn’t good doesn’t mean its bad.”

That’s right Bruno-MonsterGirl

MonsterGirl’s Sunday Nite Surreal: Spider Baby 1968-“This has gone well beyond the boundaries of prudence and good taste.”

Spider Baby or The Maddest Story Ever Told -1968

Virginia “I caught a big fat bug right in my spider web and now the spider gets to give the bug a big sting.Sting, Sting, Sting, Sting, Sting!”

One of the most original psychological horror gems that is as queerly frightening as it is endearing. It opens with Lon Chaney Jr. really singing a little nursery song about werewolves and vampires and it’s quite effectively eerie as the opening hymn. Chaney’s character delivers one of my favorite lines–it goes to the sense of all oddballs in the world who struggle to find their place. How often that quiet place is usurped by society’s gatekeepers and grabbers.

Bruno, The Chauffeur: “Just because something isn’t good doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

The film is special partly due to the presence of Lon Chaney Jr. as Bruno the chauffeur, who looks after the Merrye children with an undying devotion. Living in the decrepit and crumbling old family mansion, the last generation of surviving Merryes’ occupy the odd space like a whimsical little fun-house.

Because of inbreeding the family has been cursed with a type of mental regression, or arrested development. Bruno sort of cleans up any of the messes or fatalities that happen due to the Merryes being like wild unchecked gremlins,

Like the postman (Mantan Moreland busy actor in the 40s who often took off on black caricatures for the all white films he played all jittery or buffoonery in, you could either be reviled by his being cast to play the part, or for taking the part as an actor when the studio wasn’t making oodles of roles for black actors to be seen in– either way he made a brand out of his name and his ebullient personality and always seemed a likable guy)

Anyway he should have known better than to try and leave a package any further than the steps, instead of being trapped in Virginia’s web and sliced up with the gardening shears. He was a big bug caught in her net after all.

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Directed by Jack Hill  brilliantly populates this queer little world with the perfect character players, all on a budget of $65,000.

Lon Chaney was only paid a flat fee of $2,500 for his role and it was a little poignant to watch his performance with bits of his alcoholism seeping through the character, he had been drinking pretty heavily at that point.

The Merrye sisters Virginia (Jill Banner) and Elizabeth (Beverley Washburn) are suited as the demented girls, and then there’s Ralph, adorable feral little Ralph manifested by the quirky Sid Haig.

Now Carol Ohmart comes into the picture as Cousin Emily Howe who is after the family fortune not expecting to uncover the house of Merrye madness.

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Ronald Stein’s music is often lyrical & offbeat (Attack of the 50 Ft Woman (1958), Dementia 13 (1963), It Conquered the World & She Creature (1956) Not of this Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Undead, Dragstrip Girl (1957) The Girl in Lovers Lane (1960) The Haunted Palace (1963)

Alternative titles The Liver Eaters–be assured no livers are eaten, at least not on screen. Cannibal Orgy-I assure you there is no orgy, there isn’t even any cannibalism. While I say there is no cannibalism, there is a book that explains how exclusive Merrye Syndrome effects only that family, where the disease: causes its victims to regress mentally to pre-infantile state of savagery and cannibalism. The three surviving children of Titus Merrye is Elizabeth who dresses like a little girl (creepy) and Virginia who thinks she’s a giant spider.

The film has been compared to the work of Luis Buñuel. who was considered an iconoclast and a moralist who definitely populated his films with the sense that revolution was necessary to change the stagnant ways people conform to their lives.

I can see the dinner scene as, with his The Exterminating Angel etc, the table is set where everyone but the guests are vegetarians. Ralph has caught a Rabbit. Unfortunately it’s the neighborhood cat. When Ralph grabs the ‘rabbit’ and starts tearing into it, Cousin Peter (Quinn Redeker)  is confused because he thought he was a vegetarian. Bruno tells him “But Ralph is allowed to eat anything he catches!”

Spider Baby in that sense does create it’s own little universe of characters who are moving in their own orbit with a sense of unreal abstract unorthodoxy. Virginia with that large bow in her hair is ridiculous as it is uncomfortably repulsive, but the sharp knives in her anxious hands elevate her to a truly gruesome character and not just a childish simpleton. It’s this teetering from not looking serious to suddenly going for the jugular that creates the uneasy feeling surrounding the Merrye family.

It’s one of THE definitive Cult films for sure, that even defies one particular label. It’s witty, macabre, quirky, irreverent, a bit of noir in it’s use of shadows and tragic figures doomed from the beginning.

It’s an adult fairy tale with dark corners and speculative questions about madness and responsibility and who gets to make those decisions. And Carol Ohmart just looks damn sexy in her black lingerie. Sorry for reverting to objectifying Carol Ohmart, even for a moment, but I truly do find her a very sexy lady as well as a good actress.

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Savage hunger of a BLACK WIDOW

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IMDb Fun Fact:

The film was shot in August and September of 1964 with the title “Cannibal Orgy, or The Maddest Story Ever Told”, but its release was held up for years because the producers went bankrupt, which tied up the film in legal limbo. Independent producer David L. Hewitt acquired it for distribution in 1968 and changed the title to “Spider Baby” and “The Liver Eaters.”