Reviews

Possessed, The (1976)

This morning, my Lucky Charms were sweet as can be. The work day treated me just fine. But then, while riding the train, I nodded off on the way home. Visions appeared. Super Ropes licorice flailed against a black backdrop. A hunchback had a hacksaw. Everyone was hanging out in a cardboard dungeon. When I woke, I had no idea where I was. California desert stretched endlessly and a lone man was standing to greet me. His name was Dr. Blackwood. It has happened again.

A living nightmare or an impeccable trash film? Who can tell the difference? Just in time for your next vacant late-niter comes The Possessed, an avalanche of free-form brilliance. Shot for cheap around the outskirts of Hollywood in 1974, it’s like Al Adamson directing Doctor Gore, frivolously topped off with a touch of Ed Wood’s waning touch circa 1959. And lots of wigs. These are all good things. After a small scale theatrical bow in 1976 as Help Me…I’m Possessed, the film fell off the face of the earth, aside from a brief video release courtesy Video Gems in 1984. Ten years behind in its “explicit” content and fifteen passed with the 1960s slang, this one gets it right.

Dr. Arthur Blackwood runs a tight ship at the Blackwood Sanitarium. Balancing his “forces of evil” experiments while keeping the rogues gallery of helpers/inmates in check, the good doctor oversees plenty. Girls wearing nothing but underwear feel the bloody whip of Mr. Hunchback! Random nobodies like the organ player with an afro and Zolak, the sex-fiend, make dumb faces! Girls get fondled and tortured, complete with orgasmic moans! That’s only the half of it. Out of nowhere, Arthur’s wife shows up and a cop says “She’d make any man happy.” Mrs. Blackwood is out to help a dense sheriff uncover the mystery behind recent killings of “young people.” And what of the killings? The POV monster shots seem to be tearing the people apart, but not the flapping Twizzlers.

With sets that recall Al Adamson’s Blood Of Dracula’s Castle and acting that begs for mercy, The Possessed makes a bid for the greatest plotless trash film of all time. No more than a series of obtuse, often violent set pieces set to discordant synthesizers, Director Charles Nizet (the guy behind the magnificent Rescue Force) shows a surprising amount of restraint when it comes to dirtiness, which is why the film succeeds so well. Instead of showing us the perversion, Nizet gives us lines like, “When I saw Mr. Zolak’s head severed from his body, I felt a definite sexual thrill. I must be very careful.” Random shots disappear and float into the subconscious as monster growls (From an elephant? An orangutang?) burst into the soundtrack for no apparent reason. Plus, mean-spirited torture becomes instantly hilarious when the torturer can’t keep his wig on.

The cheapness permeates and the lunacy prevails. Please don’t ever let me wake up.

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