Archive for June 1979

The Driller Killer

June 2, 1979

Notorious maverick Abel Ferrara made his feature (non-porn) debut with this strange, grimy art-horror film. It’s about a painter (Ferrara himself, acting under the name “Jimmy Laine”) who shares a cruddy New York apartment with two lesbians (Carolyn Marz and Baybi Day) and can’t make ends meet because he’s taking too long on his latest work. He goes steadily crazy when a band in the apartment below keeps practicing loudly night and day. Eventually he goes out and kills a few derelicts with a power drill.

There are stretches when the fast-forward button beckons, and the movie’s point seems to be pointlessness, with artsy red-screen fade-outs and feints at a cinema verite tone. And the two female leads aren’t given much to do besides lick each other in a long, steamy shower scene. But the movie does shine in random moments, and Ferrara appears to have more on his mind than slasher-flick exploitation. It’s of a piece with his other work; its portrait of New York as a squalid, menacing place where the mentally ill are dumped onto the streets is more disturbing than the gory drill-killings. Worthwhile for admirers of Ferrara’s overall portfolio; probably too slow and odd for those hoping for shallow splatter.

Love at First Bite

June 2, 1979

1979 was the year of the vampire: Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, John Badham’s Dracula, Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot on TV, and this very late-’70s spoof with George Hamilton as the legendary (and, fortunately for all spoofmeisters, public-domain) bloodsucker. Evicted from his Transylvania castle, Dracula moves to New York with his servant Renfield (a role Arte Johnson was born to play). He spots a beautiful, jaded model (Susan Saint James, looking fab in Oscar de la Renta) and decides to make her his wife; the only complication is her bumbling ex (Richard Benjamin), a descendant of Van Helsing. Call me insane, but I’d rather watch an entire movie with Richard Benjamin as a Van Helsing than an entire movie with Hugh Jackman as the Van Helsing. But I digress.

Love at First Bite has moments (such as when Benjamin waves a Star of David at Dracula — an inversion of a gag in The Fearless Vampire Killers), but it’s resolutely mainstream; its humor sticks largely to sitcom-level jokes about Jews, sex, drugs, and the Dracula legend. (Most of the Dracula gags had been around for decades in humor mags like Mad.) Worst of all, the filmmakers throw in a gratuitous disco scene wherein Dracula boogies to the horrid “I Love the Night Life” (in an accidental mercy due to rights issues, the song is absent from the DVD, replaced by “The Man That I Love”; fans of the original soundtrack have been up in arms about this). Still, Hamilton is suavely funny (he’s noted for one performance — this one), and the supporting cast is game. With its TV stars (including both Jeffersons, Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford) and TV jokes, this may be the most “respectable” movie AIP ever released. And is anyone else sort of surprised there was never a sequel?


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