by Eric Messina
I've watched tons of exploitation and horror flicks over the years and have noticed that some of these characters have a certain special and complex bond that almost borders on platonic courtship between two straight male protagonists. The films where I've noticed this extremely special relationship are in the incredibly scuzzy Ruggero Deodato movie House On The Edge of The Park, Street Law with Franco Nero, Fernando Arrabal's mind-shatteringly disturbing and surrealistic I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse and Duke Mitchell's "Wopsploitation (to coin a phrase from the great Stefano Monteforte’s blog), opus,” Massacre Mafia Style.
House On The Edge of the Park is about a dynamic team of two low life cretins out on the town all coked up and ready for action. David Hess, fresh off the success of Wes Craven’s controversial grindhouse hit Last House On The Left, plays Alex. This movie attempts at every measure to upstage the aforementioned flick. Deodato had the genius idea to borrow Hess' vicious Krug character and encouraged him to take it five more steps into hostility and madness. His best pal Ricky, who he sort of bullies along into uncomfortable situations, is played by John Morghen. These two are sadistic rapists out to humiliate and torture anyone in their way all in the name of "fun" and "games" which to them equal unrepentant brutality. They invade a party and hold everyone hostage, turning it into a class war between two maniacs and a large group of stuck up partygoers. Alex is insecure and bipolar, easily manages to overpower them armed with a straight razor. He doles out beatings like hors d’oeuvres at any top notch shindig. Ricky reluctantly goes along with all this debauchery. There are so many vile and misogynistic moments in the film it’s hard to count, but one of the oddest occurs when Ricky sexually assaults a character played by Lorraine De Selle who costarred a year later with Morghen in Cannibal Ferox. Alex screams at him to “speed it up.” I was seriously disturbed by the notion in screenwriter Gianfranco Clerici’s mind of consensual rape. After Morghen’s character bawls like a baby, Gloria (De Selle) actually takes pity on him and comforts him—it just grosses me out every time I watch it. I guess that disgusting moment signified their newfound love for each other – BARF! Everything about this movie is vile, unpleasant and hard to stomach. It's consistently offensive, but the two pals’ demented relationship is inexplicably fascinating. Clerici penned some of the most atrocious images committed to cinema like the infamous Cannibal Holocaust and the MST3K lampooned Devil Fish.
I never feel sorry for them mind you, but the way Hess' character treats Ricky's dimwitted and gullible nature is sort of pathetic. There's a bizarre moment when Alex cradles Ricky in his arms and spouts misogynistic gibberish about his new relationship (maybe he's jealous). He claims that he didn't want to hurt him even though he puts him through the wringer and it ends on a depressing note. As nihilistic as this film is, it’s highly entertaining and surreal.
Another doomed connection of mistrust that is pretty gut wrenching to watch is in another Italian film called Street Law (1973). The title song for this film by Guido & Maurizo De Angelis aka the folky Prog duo Oliver Onions is blisteringly aggressive in an English Second Language kind of way, sung in by two Italians. The mournful lyrics on “Goodbye My Friend” don't make a lot of sense but goddamn are they effective! It's played during a barrage of squib explosions during the credits. There is a cursed friendship between Franco Nero's character and a ruthless gangster named Tommy played by Giancarlo Prete, from the film that Spielberg’s lawyer’s attacked The Last Shark (1981).
If you're looking for people to get bludgeoned or smacked across the face super hard realistically, this high action police crime flick has got you covered. Street Law inspired Bill Lustig to make Vigilante (1983); his DVD Company Blue Underground re-released both films.
Instead of give an outline of the plot, I'm going to zero in on the abusive friendship between victim and perpetrator. Franco plays a man fed up with the police and the way he's treated by authority after a bank hold up. It gets to the point where he becomes a makeshift detective and is appallingly shitty at it. Eventually he finds Tommy, one of the rotten thieves who thinks Nero is about to punch him for stealing his girlfriend. In this way he can find the rest of the creeps who stole his dignity in the heist. He won't let up until he feels justified and once the robbers are jailed, the police however consistently let him down.
Tommy and Carlo's friendship is based on paranoid trust and suspicion; they're both manipulating each other. The criminal wants to humiliate Carlo but he’s smarter than he thinks. Tommy expresses that he has no choice and its delinquency that’s sealed his fate. Carlo is kind of an idiot for trusting the lowlife he's been stalking for weeks but I did feel sorry for him even though his gullible nature is infuriating! Tommy does have a soft spot for him, so it seems, but it always leads to violence and humiliation for Carlo. They have a sadomasochistic kind of companionship. At one point Tommy puts his neck on the chopping block and his cronies make him pay for acting like a snitch by shredding him with their weapons.
The system in Street Law is cracked because the stupid police are never able to convict anyone in the shootings. Carlo, after seeing another victim at the station receive the same hellish treatment, finally accepts that things are cyclical and beyond his control. This is one of Franco Nero’s best performances (and is available to stream on Amazon Prime).
I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse is almost painful to revisit; the first time I watched it on Fandor, thee cult movie fans’ main destination for quality, I couldn't take notes because I don't speak French and was so captivated by its profound weirdness that my eyes were glued to the screen!
While on the lam from the murder of his own mother, Alden Rey (George Shannon) meets his best pal and life partner Marvel (played by Hachemi Marzouk). Marzouk, a little person actor, was great and only appeared in one other film by the same director, Viva La Muerte (1971). Shannon in the same year acted in Sugar Cookies, a sleazy melodrama with Lynn Lowry and Mary Woronov. There's some very disturbing flashes of insanity that assault your ocular cavities in just a few minutes than in any conceited four hour art house flick. Shit eating, cum facials that trigger a child seizure, a boner candle, genital mutilation and tongue nailing. Arrabal worked with Jodorowsky and almost upstages him in debauchery. Him, Alejandro, and Roland Topor were all in a collective shock theatre group in the seventies called The Panic Movement.
My best pal, Skunkape, who sends me all kinds of rare movies that we both review on my site Theater of Guts added this trailer to a comp he made for me which has no title or narration at all – just a series of scary images and goofy childish singing.
The character of Marvel is always chipper even though he lives in the middle of the desert. Rey seems to instantly adore him and envisions him as a swirling angel floating in the blue sky. Everything just appears for them: food, animals, and there seems to be no reason for either of them to return to the industrialized cruel society but of course they do. This film is one of my recent favorite discoveries; it must be seen to be believed!
Massacre Mafia Style begins with two mob enforcer paesanos out killing schlubs gangland style with "Guts, balls and trust." Duke "Mr. Palm Springs" Mitchell wrote, directed, and starred in this slimy pile that Grindhouse Releasing resurrected from 1974 to a new generation of adoring fans. There's something so enjoyable about watching these Hollywood dollar store gangsters orchestrate different murders while swiftly moving from each floor to elevator in the first few minutes. Everything about this flick is so earnest and from the heart that it overrides the cheapness. The chemistry between Jolly (played by Vic Caesar, who looks like Wolfman Jack) and Mimi cannot be faked and comes off as so genuine. In the first minute there's a urinal electrocution scene that's seriously creative and was inspired by Sicilian style methods! Caesar did the score for one of my favorite cheapo trashy actions flicks Bare Knuckles (1977).
The racism between Italians and black people in this film is the rotten capicola deli meat stink that sort of lingers in certain situations and is something best left in the 70s along with macramé. There's another offensive part where they crucify a black pimp; I guess they were trying to convey that racist Italian Godfather stereotype – it’s pure exploitation of course. I like how just before Duke rattles off a threat to murder Super Spook's family he kisses Jolly on the lips. It's unintentionally hysterical when mobsters feed Jolly his own pet poodle Chaco then blow off his hairpiece and brains. I kept seeing this trailer ad nauseam in a lot of independent theaters and was ecstatic when it finally showed up on TCM and DVD. I think it really taps into the marinara flowing veins of any Italian-American but can be enjoyed by exploitation fans alike.
I urge exploitation horror fans to check out all these films but be forewarned they’re very disturbing and not for the squeamish or easily offended. Thanks Moviejawn for the contribution invite and please check out my pal Skunkape’s trailer page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc4CbO0lXQQNoVe1boU4LzQ.
Check out more from Eric on Theater of Guts: http://www.theaterofguts.com/