Reviews

Deadly Weapons (1974)

After her boyfriend is ruthlessly snuffed by Harry Reems and his substantial mustache, Chesty Morgan, the “successful advertising executive,” stares through a sliding glass door. And weeps. The Saline tears cascade past her cheek and nostril, towards a final descent over the cleft of her chin. The tears leap! The camera cuts!

And there, in cramped close-up, two very melancholy teardrops land on two very interesting breasts.

Deadly Weapons is a big one for many, many reasons. The initial chapter of Doris Wishman’s Chesty “trilogy” (Double Agent ’73 and The Immoral Three followed), this is the mid-70s Doris film that most closely resembles a work crafted with human fingers. But it also serves as a gateway drug for all sorts of bliss. I mean, this is it. A vengeful Chesty Morgan, smothering gangsters with a floppy acreage of abnormally large boobs. What could possibly serve as a more inviting proposition in life?

In the spring of 1998, I was sharing a farmhouse with my friend Rachel. She was attending grad school, while I plied away as an undergrad. Our bands brought us together, and we ended up making music and sharing some good times that year, including a mutual appreciation for exploitation films. One day, Rachel returned from a tour with her band and said: “Hey! We went to Kim’s in NYC. I checked out the tapes because I wanted to get you something for your birthday. I hope you don’t have this!”

With that, the Something Weird VHS of Deadly Weapons was placed in my hands. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Before Deadly Weapons, it was all Blood Feast and Orgy Of The Dead and Brides Of Blood. All fine, strange films. All films I revisit fondly now and again. But Weapons was something more significant. It wasn’t just hilarity and viscera and transient thrill; the film altered my perception of what was possible within the context of unorthodox cinema, grotesque breasts, and any combination thereof. That significance still sticks.

The revelation of Deadly Weapons lies in its amalgamation. Doris had previously perfected her surreal, sex-infused slant on cinéma vérité with Indecent Desires, and both The Amazing Transplant and Love Toy proved that she could dish out joyless sex with much success. But Weapons evolved from a technical standpoint. It was more colorful, more persuasive, and with the addition of Morgan, the film marked a shift from excitable exploitation to unqualified experience. Chesty was the twitch. Doris was the seizure.

As per usual with Wishman, particulars work in tandem here. Dubbing rarely introduces mouths to voices. Photography pans, cuts, shifts focus, stumbles, and realigns, all for the benefit of a man and his five second rendezvous with a powdered doughnut. Glum sex reigns. “Captain Hook” is the name of a key character (because he wears a pirate patch). And then there’s Chesty — medicated, mouth agape, silver-wigged, boobs always out, sometimes stripping, always smothering her victims in unsettling ecstasy. Other characters interpret 1940s gangster-isms over a cloud of plastic-covered couches and library music clusterfucks, but Chesty doesn’t notice. That’s our job. Everywhere you look, something perverse is happening. Yet, the film rarely overwhelms. The stature is cordial, gradual — visually crazed but cognitively sincere. That’s why Double Agent ’73 is the Chesty/Doris hit you eulogize, while Deadly Weapons is the one you protect. Double Agent is easy to love; it’s non-stop madness. Weapons is 74 minutes of complete disengagement that desperately tries to masquerade as a crime thriller. It doesn’t always work. But, it doesn’t always work in ways that you never dreamed were possible.

Since that first viewing, I’ve watched Deadly Weapons more times than I can remember. And I continue to do so, at least once a year. Because, like Dracula, The Dirty Old Man and Samurai Cop, this film makes me happy. Granted, that has a lot to do with nostalgia and formative years and whatever else you want to throw at me. But I also watched Russ Meyer’s giant-tit-festival, Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra Vixens, in 1998. And I haven’t seen it since. Which just goes to show you:

It’s not the boobs. It’s Doris Wishman’s poetry.

You can do a lot of things with your free time. But none of those things will ever provide the satisfaction of a film starring Chesty Morgan and directed by Doris Wishman. This is where it all begins. And ends. Because you will probably stop watching movies after seeing Deadly Weapons and/or Double Agent 73. Isn’t ruination beautiful?

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