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Saturday, 19 January 2008

Slaughter Hotel (1971)

Oh my goodness, this was bad. I mean, really bad. Midnite Movie Mamacita has found a few really atrociously awful movies, but this one takes the cake. It's MST3K bad except the fact that what must be half of it is softcore porn would preclude it from being screenable. One thing I've discovered in my travels through cinema is that the great film themes don't really change that much. A great film now may be similar in many ways to a great film from the twenties, and the greatness is in how it's done and who's doing it and the way everything clicks together, often to move the cinematic arts forward.

Yet when you look at the truly bad films, there are trends every which way you look. In the thirties it's historicals and women's pictures, in the fifties it's scifi and horror, in the seventies low budget sleaze. There are blips for particular styles as they rise and wane, things like blaxploitation, ninja films, beach movies, whatever happened to be in fleeting vogue at the time, even when you're not dealing with Italians whose cinema lives and breathe by saturating the market with whatever the current thing is. When it comes to writing a history of the trends, it's the bad movies you need to look at not the good ones.

What makes a movie truly awful is for it to have any potential for being anything other than awful ripped out of it by the basic premise. It's the Snakes on a Plane concept: just sitting down to watch it means that you have to suspend every bit of disbelief in the book and try to enjoy it on some other plane than reality. This one works around a lunatic asylum, erm rest home, where beautiful rich women go to find their way back to full health. However the treatment seems to involve nothing but sitting around drinking and smoking, with the only rule being that nobody leaves the grounds. The staff don't do anything remotely medical and the only reason for them to even be there is to sleep with the patients.

Most bizarrely of all, the asylum is full of weapons and torture devices of all descriptions, simply hanging on the walls in full reach of everyone and nobody seems to blink that it might not be a good idea to have suicidal and homicidal women roaming around freely with so many opportunities literally dangling in front of their eyes. One arrives in a car that she's tried to crash on the way, attempts to brain one of the 'guards' (what else are they, really?) even before she gets to her room, yet nobody cares about the ready availability of axes, four foot swords, maces, crossbows and even iron maidens!

Slaughter Hotel is one version of this movie, and it seems that while it's not the most cut version (that seems to be Asylum Erotica), it's far from complete. I'm therefore reviewing two thirds of a movie with some entire themes that must have meant something to the director completely gone. Apparently there's a lot of masturbation in this movie, but I didn't see any. I can see the slice marks where some of those scenes were removed but not many. No wonder there are so many bizarre flashback scenes: they had to fill the time back up that they cut out.

Looking the film up beforehand, I saw it was a Klaus Kinski movie, Kinski being the most intense actor in history and one who often starred in films with no cinematic merit whatsoever yet somehow elevated them at least a little by his magnetic presence. Here, he's just there. I honestly don't think he had a clue why he was there, what his part was for or why anything really mattered at all. There are other men in the film too but none of them do anything either, except the killer who has some scenes at the end that don't really fit with any that precedes them.

What this film is really about is the opportunity for various young ladies, who often look very nice indeed, to strip off and strut their stuff. There may be depth in the chicken dances and the grim reaper obsession and the preponderance of juicy buttocks, but somehow I doubt it. It's about women who strip off, writhe around and apparently masturbate a lot. I just didn't see that version of the film, so I just got the stripping and the writhing. And the weapons. Amazing and not in a good way.

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