The Ghosts of Sodom a/k/a Sodoma’s Ghosts a/k/a Il fantasma di Sodoma

Remember your table manners.

Another one of the film that is clipped into CAT ON THE BRAIN. This is the nazi movie that Fulci is working on that causes the German press to burst into an all out orgy or something.

Basically, the plot of this one is that a ruined villa in France is haunted by a reel of film. The film was shot by a young Nazi during a horribly unsexy orgy. There are hints of all sorts of depravity, fetish play, and drug use. And terrible dancing. Oh, the dancing. The Villa is bombed shortly after the orgy. Maybe the same time it is going on, the next morning, something. It doesn’t matter.

When the compact European car full of twenty somethings buzzes on-screen, it is only a matter of time before these nitwits prove themselves to be honry dorks I could not wait to see killed by ghost Nazis or whatever.

Anyway, these jerks get lost. Find the abandoned villa. Break in. Only to find the place strangely set up for occupation. The candles burn, the dining room is filled with piping hot food, the records still play. Then one of these euro-dweebs plays a film. The film. Next thing you know everyone is drunk, one of the girls is a lesbian, and chaos ensues as a man emerges from a mirror.

He is the young Nazi filmmaker and he has come to make your deepest fanaties come true. Or something. The plot is stupid. But the dubbing is marvelous. And by that I mean it is badly done to humorous effect. The nudity lopsided and the gore non-existent – save for the sloppy chest effect which is so bad it hurts.

I don’t know about this one, folks. Mainly because the ending is sooooo lame.


Back in the early 1980s when I was a reading STARLOG each month, I was fascinated by the full page movie soundtrack advertisement. The ad featured low budget and foreign horror/science fiction movies that had some of the best posters and covers. I am not sure why anyone would want the soundtrack to MANIAC, but it was there in all its disturbing glory. The poster tells one everything one would need to know about the movie.

MANIAC captures the seedy, uncurbed dog doo glory of the late 70s New York City. The City seems to smell even on film. The stains and dim lighting hint at the filthy creatures that scurried around the night. Other than the low budget reality of filming in sweaty, cramped closets and other living room pits from overpriced realty hell, this movie is a strange nightmare character study.

The night side of Frank, interestingly portrayed by Joe Spinell with an ugly physicality, is a heavy breathing, sniveling mess of damp and crusted sheets and the hunting habits of  Son Of Sam. Frank’s apartment is a truly scary place. In fact, it is the best part of the movie. That set with its shrines, looming crowd of mannequins, and cockroach squirming, is an unmatched scene of physiological madness. That room is the real scary monster in this movie, forget Frank’s serial scalping of his prostitute victims, that he then nails to the mannequin’s heads.

The daytime world of Frank does not make sense. He is still super-creepy, but somehow lands the affection and attention of the fantastic looking Caroline Munro. This whole part of the movie is pretty awful. And that is really saying something, because this is NOT a good movie.

I can say that I was somewhat disappointed. Serial killers have been so mainstreamed these days, that today’s TV police procedurals  have more disturbing portrayals of MANIACS. Still, given the time period it was made, I can see how the seediness really added to the movie’s panache and reputation as a disturbing expose of madness and a filthy exploitation of violent gore.

American Splendor (2003)

I only saw the AMERICAN SPLENDOR movie once. And I didn’t like it.

I felt it was a jumble of meta-movie making, the confluence of self-aware nods to those slick Behind The Music rockumentaries and true crime shows like America’s Most Wanted which featured poor reenactments/dramatizations of real events. The whole movie felt hackneyed. It was meant to represent the style and substance of Harvey Pekar’s groundbreaking American Splendor comic book. You know that comic: the one that laid the foundation for a whole explosion of masturbatory asshole confessionals – the junk that clogs up zinefests with minicomics and other bubbly perzine self-indulgence.

Sure, the movie tried to capture that feel – the difference between the represented, scripted story versus the real strange grump who wrote them. It was an inevitable conceit for the movie. It does not take much imagination and little effort to see that structure.  But it suits Pekar fairly well, because, well let’s be honest, he was not very imaginative and was horribly predictable, himself.

I should tell you that I knew Harvey Pekar. He came into the library where I worked, a few times a day for over ten years. But in the last seven or eight years, he really came to rely upon us, the librarians, more and more. I knew him as a customer, a patron, as a staggering, sloppy, mumbling helpless old man who liked to flirt with the female librarians and was severely disappointed when he went unrecognized by the general public.

Harvey was an uncomfortable mix of arrogance, pride, helpless passivity, rudeness and shtick. He epitomized a certain aspect of Clevelandness. Anyone born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio will immediately understand the boringness of Harvey Pekar. He was a dime a dozen among the depressing characters that populate the failure and misery of a town on the verge of self-conscious collapse. The inherent pride in living in “a tough town” where nothing ever works out and the sky is always the color of domestic violence. A town, STUCK. And the sulfur cabbage farts belting out of the still-born industry smokestacks still hobbling along the Cuyahoga River no longer makes the residents gag.

Harvey represented the mixed lineage of Cleveland, eastern European, predominately Jewish, working class with a pretentious cosmopolitan inferiority.  His fame and achievement was local and permanently unrecognized, aside from his trips to the David Letterman show, more as a Midwestern freak  in line with Larry Bud Melman or stupid pet tricks than as an established writer.  His biggest claim to fame was that his stories had once been illustrated by R.Crumb – a true underground comics hero. All the while, his comics stared out from their local bookstore display, that same panicked scowl, sweaty and untouched by human hand or employee dust rag.

Once the movie came out and he had signed a new deal to produce more comic books, he started bothering us at the library every couple hours a day. He would limp up to the reference desk, asking us to look up specific things for him on the internet. Specifically, always things about him. “Hey willya put into that thing, Harvey Pekar and Comics Journal.” Then he would want print outs of what we found.

You see, he would hear from friends, his wife, or telephone calls about reviews or interviews or other website mentions about him and his new work. He could not wait to read it. And no one at his house would help him look it up. His wife refused to print out what she found nor would she read it to him, even when the site was right there on her home computer screen.  Nor could he wait for the weekly package of press clippings he got from his agent. His ego demanded urgency. Immediate gratification. Or at least that is what he told us as he plodded off with his print outs rolled into a tube.

He, also, thought that the grumpy, curmudgeon moniker was overused. He was constantly disappointed that people only latched on to that and did not see his larger purpose as an artist, as a prose stylist. For he really thought he was doing great work, designing literature, telling epic stories. But, in fact, all he was writing were cranky little episodes in the life of a grump. It was what he did best and the thing he most despised in his own work.

So in the end, it really was a movie that brought Harvey fame. Or at least closer to a status he felt he deserved. And once again it was R. Crumb that really made it all possible. Had CRUMB failed as a sideshow attraction of malformed oddities, then a movie like AMERICAN SPLENDOR would never have been green lit. The appeal of the movie is not a celebration of crankiness or curmudgeonly goodness, but rather a sort of gawking expose of kooky weirdoes. Horrible people, living horribly.  AMERICAN SPLENDOR, short on pathos, made Harvey famous, not for being a jerk, but for being a pathetic loser who’s life makes our own seem all the more tolerable. And maybe that was Harvey’s purpose all along.

Touch of Death a/k/a Quando Alice Ruppe lo Specchio

Kiss me you, serial killer, you!

What the hell? Serial killer cannibal gambler is undone by his own shadow? Stupid.

Lester likes to gamble. In order to fund his fun, he marries wealthy widows. Ends up poisoning them, or bonking them on their faces, or chainsawing them up into pieces. Lester, also, likes home cooked meals in front of the television. Lester has a tape recorder that tells him things. Stupid, meaningless things that make no sense for the plot. But these tape recorded discussions are necessary in order to make the idiotic ending not a complete nonsensical. Even if it ends up being completely unexplainable.

The movie starts out with a super gory premise that quickly becomes a double cross mystery? I guess. Halsey is pretty creepy though and his disgust is pretty over the top. The cadaver humor falls flat though. WEEKEND AT BERNIES pretty much proved that a corpse does not make for a great comedic prop, especially after it has been smashed and hammered and bashed in with bloody squirts and eye popping gore! Plus we need to forget that Lester has access to a pig farm and likes to eat his victims. Weird. But then it is Fulci, so I guess that explains it.

Other notables about this movie, other than it is horrible festering mess of unwatchability, is that this movie, itself, was cannibalized in CAT IN THE BRAIN. This stinker also stars Zora Kerova from CANNIBAL FEROX. Other than that, why watch it?