Saturday, October 2, 2010

CULT OF THE DAMNED (1969) - let's freak out the man by having one big freak out together

The alternate title is Angel, Angel, Down We Go, and here is the alternate title song. Take notice of the random, hash-tastic organ noodling.

Money might be able to buy love (fuck you Patrick Dempsey), but it can’t really buy happiness. Oh sure, it can alleviate certain types of misery (like financial worries), as well as buy respect from your peers and maybe a bid for political office, but the rest is up to you. If you've seen any of these melodramas starring the rich and famous, you may have noticed that whatever advantages and pleasantries that come with great wealth are often offset by the fact that parents are shrieking spoiled assholes that don’t give a shit about their kids. Life is, at best, a zero sum game, and only for those that somehow manage to break even. After all, the house always wins.

Poor Tara is the richest little girl in the world, but sadder than a 37-year-old woman sitting alone at a Tori Amos concert. Her dad is a business mogul and closet homosexual who gets his kicks showering with some hot young sirloin that likes to bare his ass to the camera (keep in mind that for Hollywood circa 1969, this was considered, at the very least “pushing the envelope” for most audiences, although “butttastic” to those “in the groove”). I, for one, am not surprised. Let me put it this way…can you imagine Donald Trump masturbating to gay porn? I sure can. Oh…wait a second. I mean “theoretically”, of course. My imagination is all about the ladies. I swear.

Her mother is a boozed up pill popper by the name of Jennifer Jones, who may have starred in several stag films, and speaks in juicy Valley of the Dolls-esque sound bites. She is also caked in make-up, and photographed in soft focus close-ups so soft they're completely out of focus. Instead of providing love and guidance to their daughter, they yell and throw scotch glasses at each other. Here is actual fucking dialogue between the two:

Husband: Shut’re drunk!

JJ: Tell it to your analyst!

Husband: You can’t behave like a hooker in my house!


Husband: You have all the manners of a prize blue ribboned pig!


And so on and so forth. Of course, “JJ” refers to Jennifer Jones, and not former Duke basketball star and current mediocre white NBA (although steadily improving) player J.J. Redick. Sorry for the confusion.

Well, this family situation leads to a vicious circle for Tara, as you might imagine. She eats to try and cope with her shitty childhood, and slits her wrists on account of her being a tub of lard, and shovels yummy treats down her feast hole, attempting to smother the sorrow that comes with being a big anthropomorphic pile of jello. Her mother, in a sincere moment of bitchy clarity, tells her “you are a fat girl...IDIOT! I DON’T KNOW WHY ANYONE WOULD EVEN TOUCH YOU!“ So, in summation, her self esteem is not quite where it needs to be. She is looking for ANYONE to show her love and affection (not the homo Nelson song, although it's pretty catchy), and to finally feel GOOD about herself, and maybe get a "cushion for the pushin’" situation going, if you follow me (or pushin’ for the cushion, I can never remember which).

Of course, since this is Hollywood, Tara is not really that fat. A little plump, yes, but hardly seismically heft. Just as the camera adds ten pounds, the audience is supposed to mentally add weight to a character that is considered “fat”. After all, you can’t really cinematically showcase an obese person dealing with a weight problem. That shit is GROSS, and real fatties just aren't very sympathetic. It makes total sense.

Well, she dresses up for a huge expensive party, painting half her face silver (maybe it’s some sort of KISS groupie thing) and slashing her wrist with a razor blade. She then wipes the makeup off, covers up her slashed wrists (you don't want to bring down the party with your emo-ness), and walks downstairs to meet everyone, in a slo-mo shot coupled with some sitar noodling (for some reason). She immediately falls in lust for the lead singer of the house band, a shirtless inferior Jim Morrison type named Bogart, and then starts scarfing down pastries like they are going out of style and directly into her hips. She flees from the party and almost gets run over by Mr. Bogie, who threw on a shirt and got behind the wheel of a car in record time. He speaks in nonsensical "groovy" speak, easily luring Tara under his spell, quickly taking her virginity by porking the pork out of her. She immediately becomes a defacto member of his freak out cult, which also includes a blonde girl who dresses as a pilgrim (?), the token groovy black dude, and Roddy McDowell. I think it's safe to say that Chuck Manson's little group of misfits began in similar fashion (minus Roddy McDowall, of course).

Tara is loving this new found attention, ANY attention, and she can finally dance, love, and be free, instead of worrying about her cellulite (some off screen LSD helps this along). The expansion of her mind of course includes the discussion of radical politics, like this exchange:

Bogart: Don’t you believe in the fall of the American empire? WHERE’D YOU GO TO SCHOOL?!?

Tara: Finishing school…

Bogart: Quite right…you’re quite finished! American imperialism is your dream!

Tara: I don’t know anything about…

At which point, Bogie smacks her across the face. I guess he’s trying to knock the imperial evilness out of her head. Makes sense. He then implores her to “screw anyone who hates killing.” I’m gonna go ahead and guess that this dude fits this category of "people who hate killing”. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. Either way, they naturally all decide to go sky diving together. It’s a groovy way to stick it to the man. The man HATES sky diving. To the man, getting your kicks by jumping out of plane SIMPLY DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. The unexpanded mind, it would seem, just sits in a box.

So, Bogie, Tara, and the cult all get chummy with Jennifer Jones, and they naturally contrast with each other, philosophically speaking. Bogie tries to explain to JJ that getting high (both physically and chemically) is the way to go, and she retorts with “I only drink…occasionally. I only take pills…occasionally. Sometimes pills and liquor work together…teamwork! I don’t get high!” Of course, he fucks her, because, you know, free love and whatever. Meanwhile, Tara weeps on the ceiling. Yes, she is so upset about Bogie no longer loving her that she levitates up to the top of the room, despite her heft. That’s gravity working overtime. It brings to mind that Bill Hicks joke about the Beatles getting so high they let Ringo sing a couple of songs, as soon as they managed to scrape him off the ceiling. Sadly, Tara has no songs to sing.
If you want a appropriate summation of the psychedelic generation, drop out, tune in, and SOAK in this fucker. The film was co-produced by exploitation impresarios AIP pictures, presenting complicated social reverberations the drive-in way, exploring territory the squares in Hollywood fear to tread.

So, with that being said, let's check those drive-in totals. We got psychedelic montage-fu, incense-fu, inappropriate use of beads, inappropriate appropriation of Herman’s Hermits haircuts, sitar-fu, inexplicable tribal allusions, black power-fu, zoom lens-fu, Freudian dream sequence-fu, wah pedal-fu, pop art-fu, gratuitous sky diving, jilted generation-fu, gratuitous hippie speak, bell bottom-fu, gratuitous Jennifer Jones mugging, and, most of all, the complete and utter destruction, if but for a brief moment, of the ideal set forth by “the man”. Granted, what results makes little sense and probably could use a shower, but battles are measured in the bodies that lay strewn. The hippies may not have won the war, but they managed to hack off their fair share of limbs, far more than snark and irony have ever managed to accomplish.

P.S. This previously rare movie recently popped up on Netflix instant watch in a beautiful widescreen transfer. If you don't watch it, a hippie's hacky sack will fall into the gutter (with all apologies to Patton Oswalt). Don't be an imperialist piggie.

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