Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dante's Inferno (1911)

My attempts to teach youngsters about the silent days of horror will continue.  Dante's Inferno is #dank af.

By lots of accounts, this is the first feature-length film that could liberally be labelled "horror".  So it's kind of hilarious that it's mostly a vehicle for makeup and effects!  This is definitely an abridged version of the book, shorn of any sleepy scenes and with 110% more hell content.  For God's sake, please tell me you know the plot of Dante's Inferno, I am begging you.

Fine.  Dante, who had previously fallen in love with a young girl (as in young), wrote this book about his travels to the underworld, accompanied by the famed Roman poet Virgil.  They see all sorts of things, since Dante's version of hell is zoned into different areas of punishment.  Suicides get turned into trees, spendthrifts get to push big sacks of gold around, etc.  God has clearly put a lot of thought into all this.

These hell scenes comprise the entirety of this film.  And, given its age, some of the scenes are staggering, both in terms of technical achievement and audacity.  In the screenshot above, the film utilizes real amputees to feed its infernal frames.  But, hold on, because next we see MUHAMMED with his chest ripped open, enduring the punishment of heretics.  Like Gun Crazy, this is an old film that now seems even more transgressive.

Some of the effects are, as one would expect from this early date, rather rough.  But much of the imagery shows great imagination and a commendable sense of perversity.  

This probably isn't something you'll select for movie night instead of Bridesmaids, but it's only an hour and worth watching to get a sense of where this thing on which we've wasted our lives literally began.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Mondo Keyhole (1966)

Jack Hill, who would gain fame for his blaxploits and Spider Baby, first filmed this seedy and fitfully entertaining piece of roughie sexploitation.  Despite the title, it has nothing to do with the mondo genre—Hill's original title was The Worst Crime of All.  And what is the worst crime of all?  No, not the Suspiria remake.  It's rape!  The movie even tells you this in the dialogue. 

Rape is the reason why Howard Thorne's marriage is falling apart.  He spends all day at the pornography office, overseeing torture photosheets and circumventing the Comstock laws in Peoria.  So when he gets home and his wife is ready for randy adventures, he's all, "ZZZZZZZ".  But he's always up for raping and seems to have a special affinity for nonconsensual sex.

Thorne waxes eloquent about the natural origins of rape and spends copious amounts of movie time daydreaming about rape in exotic locations, like the beach.  

This is kind of an indication that Keyhole was made by a genuine talent, as Thorne's rambling mirrors the comedic rhapsodies of a pretentious pornographer earlier in the film ("Even Freud would like this movie!").  The early goings offer lots of comedy and weirdness, but the film loses it way a bit and starts stumbling midway through.

We get twin Big Endings.  In one, an Eyes Wide Shut-style costumed sex bash offers all sorts of softcore thrills.  I enjoyed the woman buried under mounds of food, who is then swarmed by hungry partygoers.  That's transgression!  But too much of these scenes are devoted to typically 60s pool shots and such.  Kinda dull.

And, of course, the rapist gets his comeuppance in a reprisal of an earlier staged torture scene.  I don't care who gets nominated to the Supreme Court as long as her makeup looks like that of the judge below.  Also, way to go, Jack Hill, at including the clock from earlier scenes,  This is worth a glance if you are a huge Hill enthusiast, as glimmers of his style are displayed, but otherwise the director's own assessment is probably accurate: "just a cheapo junk movie".