Monday, 21 April 2014


Director: Curt McDowell
Writer: George Kuchar
Producer: John Thomas, Charles Thomas
Cast: Marion Eaton, Ken Scudder, Melinda McDowell, Mookie Blodgett
Year of release: 1975
Country: USA
Reviewed from: UK festival screening (Far Out 2002)

This riotously funny, black and white, ‘old dark house’, hardcore sex comedy used to play regularly at the Scala in London. It has never been given a BBFC certificate but occasionally local councils are broadminded enough to allow a screening - so kudos to Leicester CC for giving Phoenix Arts permission to show a 16mm print imported from Denmark.

On a terrible, stormy night, three men and three women seek shelter at the isolated home of batty Mrs Gert Hammond, a faded Southern belle with too much make-up and a dead husband buried in the wine cellar. They change out of their soaking clothes and indulge in various sexual activities with each other or alone, while discussing where they’re going and how they might get there. Then a fourth man (writer Kuchar, who scripted only one other film but directed more than 60 from 1957 to 1986) arrives, who was transporting a horny female gorilla for a local zoo - the beast has escaped and is very dangerous unless placated with bananas.

A simple synopsis like that doesn’t begin to do justice to this unique film. It is a hardcore porn flick, yet would be just as entertaining without the hardcore shots (well, almost!). Extraordinarily, it includes not only straight sex and lesbianism, but man-on-man buggery as well, along with both male and female masturbation. One chap uses an odd-looking device which, in a post-Austin Powers world can only be described as a Swedish-made penis enlarger, and another shags a blow-up doll while sticking a dildo up his arse. What sort of audience was this aimed at?

Throughout it all there is the clearly demented Mrs Gert Hammond (Marion Eaton - also in Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat), a sort of Miss Faversham of the Southern States who clearly hasn’t spoken with another soul for years, and who constantly stresses that her husband is dead but her son “no longer exists.” She gets off on watching both men and women undress, spying on them through peepholes in a portrait of George Washington. One of the men (it’s difficult to tell which one as all display the obligatory 1970s porno hairstyle and moustache) is going to burn down his father-in-law’s corset factory; his wife died when her rubber foundation garment caught fire at a party, and he has turned to men ever since.

When Medusa the gorilla appears, it is (understandably) a man in a hairy suit, and an elephant is represented by a silhouette at the kitchen window. This is not a big budget production, something evidenced by the opening titles’ ability to spell ‘Original score’ with three ‘i’s. Several other names in the credits raise amusement among modern audiences, notably producer ‘John Thomas’, which probably means nothing to American (or Danish) audiences!

The storm and the gorilla-as-monster keep this just on the border of the horror genre - but the eventual unlocking of a mysterious door and the revelation of who/what is inside (a brief but unforgettable shot) tips it over into real Edgar Allan Poe territory. It also has some remarkable monochrome cinematography, some accomplished editing (especially of the flashbacks, some of which are shown split-screen) - both credited to director McDowell - and a fantastic ‘originial score’ which really adds to the comedy. The version shown at Far Out ran two hours; there are also 110 minute and 152 minute versions, apparently.

I can certainly see why this has such a reputation and cult following - there really is no other film even remotely like it (though comparisons can be made to Walters, Warhol and Wood). See this if you ever get the chance - but do be prepared for close-up shots of men and women enjoying themselves...

MJS rating: B+

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