Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Lucio Fulci's SODOMA'S GHOST
Ah, late-period Lucio Fulci flicks. You know somewhat what you'll get - which is stuff that varies from decent to not very good, at all. One of those, just before Sodoma's Ghost, was Zombie 3 (what about 2? Well, technically Zombie 2 *is* Zombie 1 here in the states, but it's two in Italy as 1 is Dawn of the Dead and, oh, nevermind) That film could be somewhat excused for its shittiness as Fulci didn't even direct half of the movie. But this time, with this slice of would-be Nazi-haunted-house-sploitation, it's all on him.
What's the big problem here? Frankly, it doesn't know what it really wants to be. It also doesn't have the best grasp on context. One is just thrust in by way of an awkward dolly-to-zoom in shot on an old house in the woods in Italy (or Germany?) in the 1940's as a bunch of Nazis with a bunch of hookers and blow - cause, you know, Nazis didn't have much better to do DURING THE WAR (again, nevermind, let's move along). They have a wild orgy and dance session where they play pool with balls shooting towards girl's cooches and other shenanigans. And then, via some intercut footage of planes flying up and getting ready to bomb, we see a quick - very, all-too-quick (and bad-fx), explosion.
Then it's, um, today (that being the 'today' of 1988), and it cuts to a van full of 20-somethings (three guys, three chicks) who are on their way to, um, somewhere. They come across the not-really bombed-out home of the former pad the Nazis hung out at, and, well, since they don't know that they decide to crash for the night. Such a cool pad it is! Swinging, man - full of wine bottles and old records and original paintings that could be worth a lot of money (though they never think to take them despite the deserted nature of the place, whatever, that's giving them too much credit). And then that night something 'strange' happens, as one of the girls, conveniently only wearing panties, is visited by the ghost of a German-Nazi Don Juan who does his misogynist thing and has his way with her... but is he even there?
Oh, this movie is a mess. And kind of dull, too. Not well acted by anyone really. Not too many likable characters; the guys are dicks or just misogynists, and the girls are either feeble or a little repressed in their desire to have another girl in the proverbial sack. Sometimes the Fulci we know and sometimes love pops his head. There are a few creepy moments. When one of the men goes through a suspenseful (and it is, surprisingly, suspenseful if only in a conventional way) card-game with an ghostly Nazi in order to get the "prize" of hot sex with another ghost-Nazi-chick, her revelation of having weird black molasses instead of breasts is a big shock.
Actually, that's the one sequence, as the guy is looking very wearyingly at this skinny blonde fuck shuffling cards and trying to get the 'good' guy to shoot himself in a bad game of Russian Roulette, that seems to work best out of the bunch. Or, at least, isn't doused in lameness. A lot of this movie just feels kind of half-assed, like the actors aren't trying, the editor is barely trying (some of the laziest transitions and dissolves I've ever seen - it's a small point but significant as a really good editor could make some better tension and scares here), and Fulci may not even be all there despite being credited as co-writer (and creator of the story) as well as director. He's all here... OR IS HE?!
Another problem, for me anyway, is that the film didn't quite stick with something to be. For example a character at one point dies, and the body just lays there on the floor and decomposes. This is done in pseudo-classic Fulci style with lots of pustulous sores and popping weird crap all over the place on the body... and why? Sure, it looks kind of cool, at first, until he keeps pushing it. And there is nothing else in the movie that should indicate this. The opening of the movie, too, is misleading, as it has a rather raucous and actually well-shot and paced orgiastic sequence with the Nazis and lots of coke and dancing and fucking and so on with a guy shooting it all (heh, meta, is there nothing it can't do). Where else is this in the movie? And what about these 'ghosts'. Are they ultimately going to kill these kids, or make them Nazi sex slaves, or make them insane? There could even be something with the Bunuelian tact of a bunch of kids trapped in a house that they can't leave.
It has a lot of these elements, and yet in a 82 minute movie doesn't feel quite complete, or doesn't have the kind of direction that should lead it well. The premise isn't too bad. It's the execution that leaves one lacking, unless if some spare Nazi-sploitation and a few odd breasts (one set, subjectively, and I won't say which, are better than the other) make it an alright viewing. That it also has a real cop-out ending - not for the end result of the Nazis but for the fates of some of the characters - is a further disappointment. Except for a few key scenes, like the roulette or the discovery of the man to the decomposed woman (which itself is a slight rip on The Shining's bathtub scene), it's forgettable. Not the worst of the director's long career, but not something one ever has to revisit, if one has to watch at all.