Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Sadist with Red Teeth – review

Director: Jean-Louis van Belle

Release date: 1971

Contains spoilers

Sometimes I watch a film and I don’t know where to start with the review. As such I owe a debt to Arbogast as I first came across this at Arbogast on Film. As such, and making no apologies for starting in the same sort of place, I have to say that this is kind of the absent father of the films Martin and Vampire’s Kiss.

Why the absent father? Because there is a substantial difference between this and both of the ‘sons’ and so, whilst nature proves enough to offer a cosmetic similarity, nurture has been missed (and probably for the better, as this is a no-good stoner father). Martin carried much of the ‘is he/isn’t he a vampire’ but with a rugged bleak aspect. Vampire’s Kiss carried a distinct level of humour, but unlike the whimsy here it was a humour with a tainted black heart.

the car crash
Neither of them carried the unerringly psychedelic surrealism that underpins this. After credits are run above an anti-love song, as we see moments of the film in negative, we meet Daniel Bernard (Albert Simono, Dracula and Son). Daniel is being released from a psychiatric hospital. He had been in a car crash, in which his best friend died, and now he believes himself to be becoming a vampire. Why? The root cause is not stated but might be because his friend dripped his lifeblood into Daniel’s mouth in the wreck.

Daniel's Terror
We see this as he flashes back, when a car nearly runs him down, but soon he is in the arms of his lover, Jane (Jane Clayton). His doctor watches him and the doctor’s assistant suggests that they shouldn’t have let him go, but the doctor states that Daniel is their last hope. Daniel thinks he is a vampire and so he will be – but the girl is in the way. Daniel gets to his apartment, past people gossiping about him, and Jane leaves him there after commenting that the walls are sweating. He touches the water but in his mind he sees blood, he sees spiders and snakes and then a vampire running at him. He screams but it is a co-worker come round to see him.

seeing coloured faces
This is the tone of the film; we see a parade of images that are hallucinations. Daniel goes to a market and buys mince, the butcher telling him that he should eat it raw. Then women speak to him about the blood from the meat and they all have coloured faces of various hues. Then, when they speak again it is clear they never spoke earlier and their faces are normal again.

Lucifier lurks in the corner
In another scene he goes to a cinema with Jane. As the light dims he grabs a woman by the neck. At the police station he explains it was only a joke (charges are not pressed). Later he walks out of a photo-shoot at his place of work and is followed by Jane. He enters a building and she is grabbed by the doctor’s assistant and bustled into a car. The doctor explains that Daniel was summoned by telepathy to go to a hypnotist and they are trying to cure his belief that he is a vampire by pushing it to its natural conclusion. As such they elicit her help but his hypnosis implants the idea that he is called Red Tooth and introduces him to Satan, who suggests he will father what I guess was meant to be the anti-Christ.

Daniel's victim
Is he a vampire? Probably not, but he certainly believes he is. He buys plastic teeth and kills the shop assistant (or it is implied that it is he who killed her). Does the doctor actually believe him to be a vampire? Very possibly, in fact it seems to be his delusion more than Daniel’s. He connects the dots for the police between the cinema assault and the murder as a way of honing Daniel’s skills.

Red Tooth haunts the streets
This sees him tracked by the police, hunting the night, being held by the doctor and invading a costume party (by which time the doctor has elicited a journalist’s and the police’s cooperation somehow) where groovy music is played and no one sees Daniel stood before them until he reveals his vampiric hunger, as it were. It is all very, very odd.

the final dissolving of his mind
I will spoil the ending because it is so strange and yet, bizarrely, one of the clearer motifs used. He ends up on the floor, with the all-too-orange/red blood on his face. He suggests he will return in the night for Jane as he begins to dissolve in the sun. This, to me, was clearly the final dissolving of his mind.

wanting a bite of Jane
I suggested that the blood was rather unconvincingly coloured and the film has a grease painted look that almost fits the whimsy of the music – that actually lowers the tone of any comedy from black comedy into the realm of the absurd. From various moments of stock footage (demolitions, storms etc), to the assistant’s pronounced facial ticks, all the way to the world moving backwards past Daniel; this entire film has an unreal, amateurish feel that feeds into the general feel of the film in a positive rather than negative way.

a moment of graphic art
It is not great cinema and the two abandoned ‘sons’ I mentioned at the head are both much better films. Yet this has something, it just probably isn’t healthy to admit it! 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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