Reviews

Beautiful, The Bloody, And The Bare, The (1964) + Behind Locked Doors (1968)

In a fury, I called Sande Romine’s Restaurant, the local greasy spoon. My craving for slithery-fried sleaze had to be satiated. I said, “Give me the daily special. Delivery. And don’t be selfish with the emulsion lines.” Ten minutes later, The Beautiful, The Bloody, And The Bare/Behind Locked Doors DVD was on my plate. It was lukewarm. I ate it. And you know what?

I’d eat it again.

When the sleaze-pang hits, anticipation is at an all time high. Sometimes the ensuing gorge delivers (Mardi Gras Massacre), while other times, your stomach just can’t take the heat (God’s Bloody Acre). Nevertheless, any dip into the crock pot of vintage American grime will at least fill you up for the evening. Which brings us to The Beautiful, The Bloody, And The Bare and Behind Locked Doors — two brooding, dirty-minded New York greasies from the vaults of Harry Novak’s Box Office International. The temperature might not be perfect, but you won’t walk away hungry.

Hold the marinara sauce; it’s The Beautiful, The Bloody, And The Bare! Photographer Pete arrives in New York after a two-year job stint in “Europe.” Crashing at his friend’s flat, Pete attempts to break into the commercial photography biz by shooting nude women. Furthermore, Pete cannot stand the color red. It drives the guy nuts! Redhead. Red sweater. Red chair. Red blood. Red kills. After a lazy 48 minutes of breasts, righteous 60s interiors, and stuttering art debates (they actually use the word “conducive” when describing a painting), The Beautiful goes out with 17 minutes of pop-art violence. And then, with a humble Public Service Announcement (“Beware of old friends!”), it’s all over.

Aside from the hand-scrawled opening credits on the streets of NYC, director Sande N. Johnsen ditches the downtown grit of his later Teenage Gang Debs for a beach party with a twisted brain. For the most part, that’s a fine place to be. This movie glows with electric mid-60s color, clean-cut appearances, and hints of manic strangeness. Bongos never stop. People scream, but no sound emits from their mouths. Narration skirts around the plot, but finds solace in the leisure activities of nude models. Monotonous? At times. Charming? Always. Quite simply, The Beautiful is Barry Mahon’s nude revue coming to terms with the gore revolution. Imagine Color Me Blood Red talking shop with The Beast That Killed Women in a beatnik diner. Mahon and his ilk never chanced upon this lovely combination in real life, so The Beautiful is the next best thing.

Ready for round two?

Laddle on the grease — it tastes best Behind Locked Doors! In a dirty little barn, Terry and Ann party away to garage rock, thwart a would-be date rapist, and chat with a wandering peeping tom. The peeper, aka Dr. Bradley, has major sinus problems and is obviously Up To No Good. Soon, it’s time to go home, but Terry’s jalopy is fresh out of gas. Oh shit! Cue Doc Bradley’s house: A sinister sister. The “Indian” guy from Shriek Of The Mutilated. Iron-bar imprisonment. A search for “the perfect love mate.” Serious sex. Uncomfortable sex. Hilarious sex. A Basement Of Horrors from Coffin Joe’s short ends. Too much body oil. Delicious.

Simplistic! Eclectic! (Not so) Sextastic! Behind Locked Doors bottles up the negativity of The Last House On The Left and lets it loose over the free-form lunacy of Charles Nizet’s The Possessed, before those films even existed. The result? A sleazy experience which becomes not-so-filthy in the midst of absurdist delights. This is an adult film in a 1950s playing field. It never goes over the top, but the option is always present. The barren, “windy night” visuals are infectious. Characterizations are both sensible and ridiculous. Hostile sex-periments lead to chuckles when scored with bull-fighting music and instigated by a polite, overweight nebbish. Some of the repetitive sex could’ve been exchanged for an axe murder or two, but reality shines through. This one has the stuff. That includes corpse statues, random sci-fi sound effects, and a brilliantly drugged-out ending. Basically, my stomach is stuffed and it feels so good.

From the Archives