Last Sunday, I went to the Cinefamily for their NIGHTMARE U.S.A. double feature of two of the sleaziest, grimiest, vilest, scuzziest and most misogynistic 70s exploitation films ever made! These movies were made for nobody. Nobody but us: the seekers of the rarest, weirdest and almost completely forgotten oddities from the grindhouse circuits of old. And we were out in force that night.
First up was a disturbing little character study about a serial rapist called VICTIMS, A.K.A. PAULIE: DAY OF THE RAPIST (my favorite!), A.K.A. PORTRAIT OF A STRANGLER, which was the misleading title on the film print we saw, because Paulie doesn’t strangle women at all. He rapes them.
This was actually the world premiere of VICTIMS (1977) because for some reason or another it was never released theatrically. It had a brief release on VHS in the early eighties and is well documented in the holy bible of exploitation films from the seventies, NIGHTMARE U.S.A. The print we watched was an original 16mm archive that belongs to the writer, director and star of the film, DANIEL DiSOMMA. Well, after seeing it I can kind of understand why it wasn’t given a release. Movies about a day in the life of an out of control rapist have always been a tough sell with audiences.
Paulie is a fucked up middle aged guy who’s struggling with the demons of growing up with a prostitute mother that was abused and murdered by her pimp boyfriend before his very eyes. He beats up and rapes hookers, pathetically breaks down and cries during hypnotherapy and dyes his hair black in an attempt to attract a future victim. He ironically meets his fate at the end of a pimp’s vengeful switchblade in a violent display of street justice.
This movie was like a poor man’s TAXI DRIVER, if ROBERT DeNIRO was a hairy guy in his late forties who tried to rape JODI FOSTER rather than help her. Truly slimy. Next up was the far more upbeat and optimistic slasher film from 1979, DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE.
This movie is like PSYCHO with a flamethrower! Donny (THE SOPRANO’S DAN GRIMALDI) is a fucked up loner who works as a custodian at the local incinerator (foreshadowing at its finest) who finds himself experiencing a burst of new freedom at the passing of his cruel mother who used to discipline him by burning his arms over an open stove (more foreshadowing). After she kicks the bucket in the huge old creepy mansion they share, Donny answers the crazy voices in his head by playing his disco records REALLY loud. Then he starts letting off steam by abducting women and burning them to a crisp with a flamethrower in a special room that he has built. Before long, he finds himself being haunted by the burnt corpses of his many victims, ala MANIAC.
I remember being really fucked up by this movie when I was a kid. I can’t remember how I saw it, but I think it must have been on video or cable TV. It’s got a really freaky scene where an unconscious girl wakes up to find herself naked, bound and hanging from the ceiling of an all metal room. Suddenly, the killer walks in wearing a fire retardant jumpsuit and splashes her all over with a jug of gasoline. He slowly puts on his flamethrower and burns her alive AND WE WATCH EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF IT! It’s all kinds of crazy and sleazy from that point on and the film has some really effective scares that still work very well today.
When this double feature was over, the head programmer of the Cinefamily, Hadrian Belove decided this was the perfect audience to share the three reels he has of some old porno movie from the seventies about a sociopath that impersonates a cop and rapes women, called CLIMAX OF BLUE POWER. It sounded like MIAMI BLUES with penetration, but I already had enough sleaze for one night, so I headed home to take a nice long SILKWOOD style shower and to think some wholesome thoughts for awhile. I ended up watching THE VANISHING instead. Oh well.