Friday, July 04, 2014

Anyab – review

Directed by: Mohammed Shebl

Release date: 1981

Contains spoilers

Anyab is Arabic for fangs and I have to say right at the outset that this Egyptian film has to be one of the most outrageously strange films I have looked at whilst doing TMtV, which is some claim.

What we have is essentially a(n at times scene for scene) rip-off of the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) replete with musical numbers (that are truly blooming awful, without either the catchiness or comedy inherent within the original film’s tunes), sanitisation of the overarching RHPS themes and instead of Frank-N-Furter we have Dracula – referred to during the film as the Prince of Darkness.

So we start with an overhead shot of cloaked people wearing rubber masks (that’s kind of explained later, or at least referenced) moving in a circle. They start dancing and we hear singing and (just as in the RHPS) we get lips singing the song – but these lips hide fangs. During the sequence, amidst the dancers, a chicken is beheaded (and bleeds, obviously). It is a strange mix of (hopefully pseudo)-animal cruelty, performance disco dancing and blatant rip-off.

Mona (later on)
Cut to a street and Ali Mostafa Mohamed, a history student and dreamer, stands by his car. A group of joggers stop behind him and dance along as he serenades his fiancé Mona Magdi Kami. She has a degree in literature and is described as a dreamer too. His song is, obviously, a love song and as well as promising her a home with their own telephone (!) he seems to describe the world as pink. It is a banal piece compared to Dammit Janet, but there you go.

looking for assistance
We cut to a narrator who bibbles on about colour and how these two see the world in pink. He says that they are going to go to a New Year’s Eve party but they never expected it to be a stormy night. They get a flat tyre and Ali has sent the spare to be repaired. Mona saw a house and so they walk through the rain to see if the owners have a phone. As they sing (and completely miss a grim reaper standing in the bushes) they are watched by a hunchback – we later discover he is called Shalaf and he wears a ball and chain.

They knock on the door and Shalaf answers. Ali asks to use the phone and we get a direct lift of the “you’re wet”, “Yes, it’s raining,” gag from RHPS. Shalaf shows them in and they enter a room that seems to have a lot of dry ice floating at floor level. Mona sees something behind a curtain – we see it is a rubber gorilla mask – and screams but, when Ali checks, nothing is there. Then a man wearing a cape and a rubber vampire mask enters the room.

Lightning Bolt vampire
We never get his name but he takes the mask off and he has a face-paint lightning bolt over his right eye and fangs. He suggests that they all wear masks in the Palace of the Count. When asked which Count he replies, “Dracula.” Cutting to the narrator, we get an explanation that Count Dracula was an imaginary person created by English (sic) author Bram Stoker and based on the Transylvanian (sic) Vlad Ţepeş (which we know isn’t quite accurate). During this we see a drawn picture of Christopher Lee as the Count and later we see this is one of several portraits in the house including one of Ţepeş and another of Klaus Kinski as Dracula.

After discovering that the storm has knocked out the phone (in reality Shalaf has unplugged it) they are invited to the party. Dancers in rubber masks weave around and start to remove the masks to reveal face-paint and fangs. Elsewhere an ornate coffin, with a dragon statue carved atop the lid, opens and Dracula (who wears a gaudy gold waistcoat beneath the obligatory high collared cloak) awakens. He comes up and dances with Mona and then – having used some form of magic to clothe them in dry clothes (and big bat pendants) invites them to partake of some supper (rabbit, apparently, and what he claims to be tomato juice).

Fangs go Here
During this sequence we see one of the vampires pierce their own neck with straws and bleed into a goblet and another extract blood from their own wrist by syringe and then drink it. We also have Dracula eyeing Mona up and a crosshair appears with the motif “Fangs go here.” Ali cuts his finger, which gets the vampires excited until he sucks his finger himself, and when Dracula suggests it’s time for dessert the vampires pair off and bite each other (as the theme from the Munsters plays).

the narrator
The film does steal musical themes for its incidental music. Around this point the narrator and Dracula argue over the existence of vampires; Dracula denies they exist and the narrator offers evidence. We get a sequence with Ali going to a bathroom in an apartment, to the Pink Panther theme, and the tap is broken. Mona has called a plumber, who arrives to the James Bond theme. The plumber is Dracula and the plumber’s mate is Shalaf – the cost of their work is outrageous. The idea of likening vampires to the plumber in this way would have been a neat idea but we then get sequences with butchers, mechanics, market stalls, taxis, private tutors, landlords and doctors – talk about milking the gag, it is entirely tiresome and the narrator's “hysterics” after each sequence doesn’t help.

RHPS T-Shirt
The basic idea is that Dracula has fallen for Mona (she appears to reciprocate) but the lightning bolt vampire is upset with Dracula and the way he is treated and so wants Mona for himself. Also Shalaf is tired of being an enslaved prisoner and decides to help the young couple escape. However much of this is lost in rubbish songs and nonsensical sequences. At one point (despite being in the house with them) Dracula decides to wall crawl outside to get to Mona and the Hammer Dracula theme by James Bernard plays. At another point lightning bolt vampire wears (for just a few seconds) a RHPS t-shirt.

Beyond drinking blood, wall crawling and turning into bats (we don’t actually see this, just hear of it, but we do occasionally get badly drawn bats in randomly appearing inter-title moments) the only other lore we really get is that vampires can become (and generate) mist and sunlight kills vampires. There is a coda ending that rips off Scooby-Doo but given the other blatant rip offs in the film that shouldn’t come as much of a shock. The sexual side of the RHPS is as absent as the (intentional) humour and all in all this is a terrible film. However, it is also really strange and really unusual and that in itself makes it something worth watching once (but only once). 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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