Directed by: Christopher Speeth
First Released: 1973
Surrealism in movies can be a strange thing, an ethereal aspect almost inexplainable can make one surreal movie work and another not. The movies of David Lynch, for instance, work for several reasons; the direction is world class, there is a story being told (even if that story is camouflaged at times) and it has that certain something. The movie 200 Motels might be missing story and direction but simply has that certain something! Unfortunately Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood hasn’t got any of those things. It does have a story but one that is flimsy and not worth delving into its shallows (as it has no depths), weak direction and it is missing that certain something.
It does, on the other hand, have Hervé Villechaize as the character Bobo. We are at a carnival, it is just before the season begins. Vena Norris (Janine Carazo) is having her fortune told by cross-dressing gypsy Sonia (Lenny Baker). The cards are negative but he refuses to reveal their secrets – there is no charge, however, for new employees. Her parents, Mr Frank Norris (Paul Hostetler) and Mrs Norris (Betsy Henn), are being shown around the site by Mr Blood (Jerome Dempsey) – Malatesta’s business manager.
The Norris family are opening a shooting commission stand and Vena is setting it up when a young man called Kit (Chris Thomas) comes over. He has been given the tunnel of love to run. Another family, the Davis clan, come over – they have the Ferris Wheel. Their daughter is a brat. Kit lets them onto the tunnel of love but they never emerge. He looks inside and finds Mr Davis’ glasses and blood.
That night the Norris family are in their trailer, they offer Blood food but he mentions his unusual metabolism and a special diet; years before the doctors gave him just a few months to live but the diet has seen him through. Kit contacts Vena and asks her to meet him at the ghoul eye (presumably a ride). We hear Mr and Mrs Norris talking about sticking together and that *he* must be here. This is where the film is annoying, clearly they are looking for someone who is missing but no more is ever said on the subject.
A couple of guys are on the site and one asks if he can go on a roller coaster. He loses his head in, what amounts to, probably the worst decapitation scene I have had the misfortune to see. His friend freaks and Blood sends him to a cleaner – who is somewhat grey faced – who attacks him and kills him. The cleaner then carries the body off to a place where the blood is siphoned and the flesh is eaten by more grey faced people.
So Vena and Kit realise something is wrong but reality and fantasy become definitively blurred. For instance Vena dreams, she is running and, in her dreams, she likes to run for prolonged periods of time without a bra. However, she is really out running in the carnival, and her folks become besieged by the grey faced folks who stumble along like zombies. Gunfire doesn’t seem to stop them, so perhaps they are zombies except…
Later we are told directly that they are underground dwelling cannibals. Such an explanation would not, to me, account for the grey faces (white maybe, but not grey). Nor does it explain why they are shambling and seemingly immune to gunfire. They enjoy old black and white, silent horror films and later, in the cobweb festooned general office, we see posters for the classic universal monster flicks.
As for a vampire, well that would seem to be Mr Blood. He sports fangs, drains blood via a machine and has his special metabolism. He tells Malatesta (Damiel Dietrich) that he gave him the taste for blood and yet Malatesta states that Blood plays a good vampire. Is he a vampire? He clearly believes he is… his death, however, is unusual as Malatesta kills him by showing him his face of madness.
Malatesta claims to be a man of 1000 faces, certainly he looks at Blood and kills him with one of his faces. However that looks no different to us and thus, for the most part, he simply looks like someone pretending to be Ringo Starr circa that era. As for anything else, well the film doesn’t say, but it doesn’t say very much. It is a masterpiece of avoiding narrative, cohesiveness, an ending and… well… basically anything that makes a film worthwhile. For freakiness sake it is worth watching once, but I suspect only once. 2 out of 10 for freak value only.
The imdb page is here.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Directed by: Christopher Speeth