Sunday, February 21, 2010
DVD Review: SADIST WITH RED TEETH/FORBIDDEN PARIS (Mondo Macabro)
When MM first made their announcement that they’d be releasing SADIST WITH RED TEETH on DVD, there were several cult-film pundits crowing about the utter awfulness of this French vampire opus. And indeed by anyone’s standards of what constitutes a “normal” film, SADIST is mind-bogglingly terrible. Its plot is hopelessly confused, its script sounds made-up on the spot, the performances practically define the description “wooden” and the special effects are totally unrealistic. Your average self-respecting horror fan might look on these meager works and despair. But the open-minded cult film fan, the lover of the eccentric and the bizarre in world cinema will look upon SADIST with nothing but wide-eyed affection. For me it was love at first sight. SADIST is pure weirdo entertainment, more psychedelic than terrifying, mesmerizing in its total commitment to its own oddness.
A man thinks he is becoming a vampire following his release from a hospital. His doctors attempt to continue and foster this belief to further some obscure occult conspiracy. Eventually of course he ends up murdering some people and the police are soon hot on his trail. Except that that in no way sums up what is actually going on in this movie. SADIST is confoundingly weird, separating you from any sensible interpretation of the gothic events unfolding willy-nilly. Grainy stock footage of natural disasters regularly intercedes on the action ostensibly illustrating the main character’s violent state of mind, along with arty polarization effects and random shots of snakes and spiders, but these wayward avant-garde effects do more to interrupt the viewer’s frame of mind than reveal anything of value about the characters. Oddball characters waft in and out of the story with little rhyme and certainly no reason. My advice? Just give up and go with the flow. If you like weird movies, and you probably do, this is seriously one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen. It has a weirdness that is beyond words. SADIST WITH RED TEETH comes with Worldweird Cinema’s highest recommendation possible. If you don’t like this movie, it’s possible that bizarre foreign cult movies are just not for you.
I wish I could say the same about FORBIDDEN PARIS. Oh, it’s pretty weird, and has some wonderfully odd images and moments, but it just barely held my attention throughout. Director Van Belle’s first feature film, it’s a “mondo” style documentary depicting a swath of oddballs and nutjobs in the Paris of the late 60s. It starts off strong with a slow motion shot of a woman walking through the streets in the buff, and then heading into a vignette showing a family of three preparing for a post-nuclear future. But overall there’s a little too much drag in the episodes, with the usual fakirs and animal deaths and whatnot. I am not much of fan of this type of cult movie, and PARIS did not covert me. It does have a great droney pop-jazz score and it looks good, but I doubt I’ll be returning to it anytime soon, unlike SADIST, which is already demanding an encore viewing.
Mondo Macabro’s digital video presentation of each of these rare and almost lost films is nigh perfect. A wee-bit of damage on the negative for SADIST comes through, but otherwise it’s astonishingly beautiful, colorful and sharp. PARIS fares even better, looking as though it could have been filmed last year and not 40 years ago. There’s a great French language documentary about Van Belle, which centers on this enigmatic directors propensity for storytelling and obscuring the truth of his own biography. Liner notes from Christophe Bier, who is also interviewed in the docu, do their best to separate fact from fiction but ends up emphasizing the unknowability of this unique figure in European low budget cinema. JLVB himself does little video introductions to each film, talking a bit about his reasons for casting mega-cutie British actress Jane Clayton in SADIST. Mostly it was because she was mega-cute, and had nothing to do with her acting. Which, after you watch the movie, will make perfect sense. She’s not very good, but she’s totally hot. His intro for PARIS emphasizes the verite of each scene, claiming nothing was staged. I think I may have to call bullshit on that one, but judge for yourself. While we are only two months into 2010, Mondo Macabro has unleashed a likely contender for the best DVD of the year. SADIST is amazing and the extras all worthwhile (even PARIS though I didn’t much care for it). Do yourself a favor and inject some much-needed weirdness into your life with this astonishing double-bill release.