Monday, July 06, 2009

Killer Barbys – review

dvdDirector: Jess Franco

Release date: 1996

Contains spoilers

The Killer Barbies were a horrorpunk (I guess would be the best descriptor) band and two films were built around them by Jess Franco – this being the first. The band name had to change spelling in the title of the movie, due to protests from Mattel and the UK release of this had the title extended to ‘Vampire Killer Barbys’ just so you’d know what it was all about.

Now, I have to say that some time ago I had said that I can even find things to like within Killer Barbys – and it is true, just. What I did thoroughly like was the actual tracks by the band. Unfortunately only two songs were used as far as I could tell (over and over again) but they are very catchy little ditties.

What I didn’t like was the lack of cohesive story – one might say that the film is deconstructionist and it is meant, being pure fantasy, to have no cohesive story but, frankly, that is so much bs. I also hated the awful dubbing on the UK release. Finally I hated the obvious night shots filmed during the day – especially when the same scene might transform into a night shot filmed at night!

the rotted undeadAnyway we start with a man running from a castle. It appears he is a lover running from discovery due to his state of undress but then a man, Arkan (Aldo Sambrell), seems to follow him with a crossbow in hand. The man is caught and suffers his throat being cut by a further man named Baltasar (Santiago Segura). Baltasar then takes an ear, cut from the victim, to Pipa (Pepa López) and Pipo (Alberto Martínez). Arkan attends a rotted skeleton that is still alive and says that *he* has returned to help us.

squished by road rollerThe he is Baltasar and there is a story later of how he was a satanic monk who kidnapped an aristocratic woman, who killed her and then saved her with a potion made from blood and semen. He appears in the castle every so often and refers to Arkan as master. The two dwarf cohorts he has refer to him as father and he calls them the children. It is not much of a spoiler to say that he is disposed of at the end of the film by steam roller – one of the few examples outside animated cartoons that I can think of.

on stageThe Killer Barbys are playing a gig. They are comprised of Mario (Charlie S Chaplin), Rafa (Carlos Subterfuge), Billy (Billy King) and Flavia (Silvia Superstar). Dancing in the same skimpy outfit that Flavia wears is Sharon (Angie Barea). We see that Arkan watches the show and rips a bit of poster away before leaving. The band hit the road, after the gig, but take a turn off the beaten path when a road sign indicates that direction (in fairness it was also clearly written on paper, presumably by Arkan on the ripped poster). They end up with the van out of commission and at the castle of the Condesa Von Fledermaus (Mariangela Giordano).

Billy in the barrowShe was the skeleton but, due to the potion created by Baltasar, she is becoming whole again. Billy and Sharon stay in the van having sex – a move that sees Billy stabbed and placed in a wheelbarrow and Sharon chased naked through the woods until, eventually, she is beheaded. The others go to the castle, where apologies are given for the Condesa as she is ill. A tow truck is ‘due’ first thing in the morning.

Arkan presents the CountessMorning never seems to come. We keep passing through 12 o’clock, being midnight or midday – depending on dialogue – it is difficult to tell as many of the night shots were filmed (as I mentioned) during the day. The band members seem worried at first – they even work out that the tow truck has not been phoned for – but that consideration goes out of the window. Eventually, however, the Condesa is well enough to have dinner with them.

feeding, or at least rolling in bloodDinner seems to be a cannibalistic affair – though the band does not know it. Rafa, who is with Flavia, seems bewitched by the obviously older Condesa (and the band seem to have worked out that she was a famous screen vamp and singer, thus should be over 100 years old). He therefore leaves the dinner table with her for sex – a sex session that ends up with him being stabbed and her rolling in his blood.

wandering around with a knife in my handHow will the band members escape? Who cares… the film is a mess. My write up seems more coherent than what I watched on screen and yet the band are fun to watch, if badly dubbed, and their songs are catchy. The cinematography is typical Franco with a reliance on stuffed animals in places! The effects are poor and yet passable for a low budget flick. It is the lack of cohesion that lets this down more than anything. 2 out of 10 is generous.

The imdb page is here.

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