A Movie A Day: PRIVATE PARTS (1972) I wouldn’t disturb George at this hour. He’s probably still jerkin’ off.
Published at: Oct. 11, 2009, 11:10 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the newest October special horror run of A Movie A Day!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf, recorded on the home DVR or streamed via Instant Netflix and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my usual A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
Paul Bartel is a happy director for me. When I see his name on a movie I know that guarantees a level of entertainment and humor. I’ve long been a fan of CANNONBALL, EATLING RAOUL and DEATH RACE 2000 and for whatever reason I wasn’t aware he was the director of this film, PRIVATE PARTS. Not only is it directed by Bartel, it’s his first feature.
So, when the credits started I knew I was in for something fun and I was right. The flick is fun and not as drowned in the snail’s pace structure as a lot of like films from the early ‘70s. To make it even better the fun is surrounded by some amazingly demented moments.
Ayn Ruymen plays Cheryl Stratton, a young girl fed up with being treated like a child, but unable or unwilling to take the personal steps into adulthood. Before we even start the story Ruymen’s character has stolen money from her parents and high-tailed it to Los Angeles with her slutty best friend.
When we first meet Cheryl she’s peeking in on some sex a-happenin’. Naturally, she’s not even good at watching sex and she’s caught, humiliated and then runs away again, this time to her weird Aunt Martha who runs a hotel in some seedy part of LA. They call it a hotel, but it seems to be run more like an apartment complex with a ton of extremely demented tenants.
However, none are as demented as their landlord.
Aunt Martha as played by Lucille Benson (I remember her mainly as the snake lady in Spielberg’s early and awesome flick DUEL) is a piece of work. Even though she’s an uptight schoolmarm of a lady she’s obsessed with death. Her hobby is to attend strangers’ funerals and photograph the corpses trying to capute that moment when the soul leaves the body.
I would think that moment had already passed by the time they’ve been gutted, stitched up and presented to their grieving family members, but you wouldn’t catch me correcting this lady.
So you have this young girl now living amongst some crazies, like an old lady who walks down the hallways cleaning her dentures (in her hands, of course), a man who dresses like a priest and has muscle-man pictures pasted up on his wall, a quiet voyeuristic doll-obsessed photographer who looks a little like TIMES SQUARE-era Tim Curry and a dude constantly drunk and belligerent.
Not only do we get introduced to these colorful characters in the first reel we also get a beheading as her bitchy best friend’s boyfriend comes looking for young Cheryl. Poor bastard was just walking along the hallway one minute and the next he was 8 pounds lighter.
There’s a bit of mystery to who the killer is, but the main suspect is the creepy photographer (John Ventantonio) and for good reason. The dude is a peeper who has a plastic doll that he fills with water and makes out with. He becomes obsessed with Cheryl and takes a photograph of her face, blows it up and tapes it to his doll.
The “sex” he has with the doll is the most fucked up thing in the movie. I will say no more so you can experience it yourself if this is a new title for you.
Performance-wise, this movie is pretty strong. Ayn Ruymen was in her early 20s when she played this girl, who I’d guess is supposed to be 16, and has the difficult job of making her sympathetic even though a few of the choices she makes in the movie aren’t exactly the best.
I particularly like Lucille Benson as Aunt Martha. The way Benson plays it you can never really pin her down. Sometimes she’s cold and a horrible person, but in other scenes you can see her humanity. When the finale comes you know which side of the crazy coin she falls on, but still… there are layers to her.
The whole movie is more than it appears on the surface. In fact, the only thing I think Bartel fumbled is the final sequence of the movie. Conceptually the ending is great and the actual climax of the movie is well-handled, but the last shot I felt was more than a little corny. I’m pretty sure they meant for it to be creepy, but the more I think on it the more I don’t like it.
Final Thoughts: Private Parts is the kind of movie I’d love to discover at the Alamo Drafthouse Weird Wednesday screenings. In fact, the DVD almost felt wrong because it’s a good transfer and not faded pink. It’s a weird movie, a fun movie, a disturbing movie and a perfect example of the rewards you can get for braving the mounds of near unwatchable cheap-o schlock.
We’ve been talking Bartel, so I think we’re going to have to go to Paul Bartel’s crazy cannibal comedy EATING RAOUL starring Bartel himself and Mary Woronov.
Now, EATING RAOUL is much more of a comedy than PRIVATE PARTS, but both are pure Paul Bartel and with the former you have so much more Bartel. He has a cameo (as a man shitting in a park) in Private Parts, but he’s a full blown lead in EATING RAOUL.
Black comedy is a term that is used often and sometimes inaccurately, however here it fits. In fact, I’d go so far as to say any list of black comedy classics is full of shit if this movie isn’t near the top.
Basically you have Bartel and Woronov playing what seems on the surface to be a mismatched husband and wife team, but in reality they’re kindred spirits. He’s a stuck up liquor store employee with aspirations of opening a restaurant and she’s an up-tight nurse. They both are constantly fucked over in their attempts to make their dreams come true, neither seeming to have the nerve to really push it through.
On top of all of that they live in a shitty apartment inhabited by “swingers.” These people are loud, flagrant with their sexuality and morally reprehensible in the eyes of the Paul and Mary Bland.
One day they’re pushed too far and stumble across the realization there’s money in killing these perverted jackasses and taking their money.
Enter Raoul, a sleazy locksmith who adds another layer to their process… why just pose as a prostitute and kill every john with a cast iron skillet for the measly contents of their wallets when you can sell their bodies for meat?
Sure, at first Raoul only sells these bodies to a dogfood company, but by the end of it we do get some honest to goodness cannibalism.
Woronov and Bartel are so damn good in the lead and Robert Beltran is the perfect mixture of charming and doofus that his Raoul can easily hold the screen with Mary and Paul, but the movie is also a great showcase for character actors. My favorites are Ed Begley Jr. as a horny hippy, Buck Henry as an even hornier bank manager, Edie McClurg (from Ferris Bueller!!!) as a Swinger chick and John Paragon (Jambi from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse!!!!!!!!) as a loud sex shop owner (he’s my favorite).
The movie’s cheap as can be, but the comedy is always going strong. It’s a very unique movie, one that you should absolutely seek out if you haven’t exposed yourself to it yet.
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Sunday, October 11th: ROAD GAMES (1981)
Monday, October 12th: DEAD END DRIVE-IN (1986)
Tuesday, October 13th: PSYCHIC KILLER (1975)
Wednesday, October 14th: THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)
Thursday, October 15th: THE LEOPARD MAN (1943)
Friday, October 16th: WOLFEN (1981)
Saturday, October 17th: MADHOUSE (1981)
As you can see, I’m still a day behind, but my catch-up is in the works, so look for two AMADs to hit tomorrow, both of them Aussiesploitation flicks kicking off with the Jaime Lee Curtis and Stacy Keach vehicle (yuk-yuk-yuk) ROAD GAMES!
Follow Me On Twitter