Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary – review


Director: Juan López Moctezuma

Release Date: 1975

Contains spoilers

This was a film by the director that brought us Alucarda and is an unusual take on vampirism that almost works and yet falls short.

The film begins with a van stalling in the night as a thunder storm begins. The driver, Mary (Cristina Ferrare), goes to a large house to try and illicit help. She is knocking at the gate as the heavens open and pushes through to find that the house is derelict. We see her explore the house and movement upstairs. She finds a telephone and then is grabbed. She gets away and runs into the night, followed.

The man, Ben (David Young), finds her and speaks to her. He apologises for grabbing her, he is a hitchhiker sheltering in the house. He suggests that he takes the upstairs and she the downstairs. As he moves away we see Mary replace her hair clasp – it is fashioned into a wicked knife. Is she just defending herself or is the film playing with our expectations? Given the film’s fabulous title we already know the answer to that. What is less clear is why Ben would grab her in the first place and why she would so readily agree to come back.

Mary with her first victimMary sleeps and we flashback to her at a gallery. She is an artist and a man, who we later find out works at the American embassy, is buying one of her pieces. Mary returns to his home and drugs his wine, which he spills. Though he might have ingested a little of the wine she moves to plan B and has sex with him before slitting his throat with her concealed blade and drinking his blood. We see her wake and go upstairs to see Ben, yet she does not attack but simply walks away.

Arthur Hansel as CosgroveThe cops have found the American’s body and the murder is being investigated by Lieutenant Pons (Enrique Lucero). Also at the scene is Cosgrove (Arthur Hansel), an FBI agent sent to discover whether the attack was a simple murder or politically motivated. The doctor has noticed that the body is completely drained and wonders why there is so little blood as it should have sprayed the ceiling. In the meantime Ben has fixed the van and gets a lift for his trouble.

Cristina Ferrare as MaryAt this point the credits start and we get one of the worst title songs in any movie I think I have seen. Honestly it just does not work in any way, shape or form. This is one of the big problems with the movie, the soundtrack is awful and does not fit with the piece at all. Sometimes a soundtrack threatens to break a film’s mood but this one smashes it completely.

Ben and Mary get to a beach as we see a man being carried covered in blood and a group of locals beating the living crap out of a shark in the shallows. It is a bizarre scene and ends up with the shark carcass on the beach surrounded by turtles on their back, which Ben rescues. Mary tells him it is pointless, the blood on their shells will attract other sharks. It obviously wishes to allegorically tell us something but the referencing is so obliquely handled that the message becomes lost.

attacking the fishermanOn the beach, whilst Ben has wandered off, Mary finds a fisherman and drugs him. During their exchange we hear about her father, how he taught her early (the fisherman believes she is referring to fishing, we know otherwise). The attack is well done and ends up with another feed. She finds Ben, they move beaches and then it is back to her place where we see a portrait of Mary’s father. She comments that he was unusual and that she believes him dead.

the man in blackThings then continue with Mary attacking a friend, after a tease of lesbianism that never really happens, the police closing in but liking Ben as the murderer and Ben being generally dense. We also get the appearance of a mystery man (John Carradine) who is swathed in black and attacks people in the same way as Mary – which distracts the investigation a little but not as much as you’d think. He ends up stalking and then attacking Mary and his identity is allegedly a mystery but anyone with half a brain cell will realise it is her father from the first instance.

John Carradine as Mary's fatherHis existence gives us a clue to the vampirism. It is a disease, a compulsion or addiction making the sufferer drink blood - thus it looses all supernatural trappings. There is no problem with sunlight and none of the other trappings are even mentioned. Her father’s hands are arthritis riddled and his face, when revealed, seems decayed almost. He wants to kill Mary as the disease has progressed to the point where he has little control left and he wants to spare her his fate. How he looks is how she will eventually look.

a victimThe idea is rather cool but the execution is poor. The soundtrack doesn’t help, nor does the acting as most involved give very low grade performances. Carradine hams it up to the hilt and is great fun but Ferrare is so limited in her acting abilities that she takes a character that should have been complex and interesting and makes her irritating. The film looks cheap also, though some of the blood letting shots are impressive given the obvious lack of budget. The film hints at an Aztec connection but then goes nowhere with it, which was frustrating.

Ben with Mary as she feedsThe story suffers from plot contrivances that are more than annoying in places and there are logic holes scattered through the script. With a re-write and competent cast this could have been a classic. Clearly Ben was meant to represent the innocence of Mary’s humanity and her father the disease that held her. Ben actually became a walking dullard whom we hoped would be finished off rather quickly or be arrested (as the cops really did like him for the murders). Perhaps it would have been interesting if Mary had sold him out to the cops with a frame up, selling her humanity for the disease/addiction, but the film never went along those lines.

I was tempted to give a little higher score (perhaps round the 4 mark) because I liked the base idea, but 3 out of 10 was all I could muster and feel I was being fair. You’ll be much better off watching Alucarda – more supernatural in content but, more importantly, a much stronger cast and story that is visually stunning whilst this is visually cheap.

The imdb page is here.

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