Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12 REVIEWS OF XMAS: Giving Thanks I Don't Have to Watch Much Franco

At school a few weeks ago my daughter and some schoolmates were asked to name the things for which they were thankful. In true 4-year-old fashion she responded "holidays" and "kisses and hugs before bedtime". Whew. At least she knew better than to say "STAR WARS action figures" like some of the other kids in her afterschool program. Me? I'm thankful to have tireless reviewers like Crites – another longtime ER/Hungover Gourmet contributor who watches and eats things so I don't have to. And even at his crankiest (see below) the man delivers on the content. It may be late (sorry, I got distracted by Flyers/Rangers 24/7) but I bring you another piping hot installment of 12 REVIEWS OF XMAS. 

Whistling horribly, a female publishing agent, Carla, drives out to the villa of the Balasz family in an attempt to acquire the rights to a piece of their family history.

After a vision of the titular Snakewoman, seen dancing lethargically dressed in her double-headed serpentine tattoo (which, it must be said, looks more goofy than seductive), Carla lets herself into the mansion and confronts a pair of Euro-hippies. Telling them she's looking for Andros Balasz, father of Oriana Balasz, when Andros is not immediately available Carla helps herself to a bath. During which Andros magically appears, catching her in the nude, and invites her down to breakfast.

As Carla dresses, the Snakewoman jumps through her open window to pose and hiss ridiculously before vanishing. And it's here, over a quarter of an hour into the film, that you know for certain that your time is being wasted. That this 'erotic fable' is in fact a poorly conceived sex joke with no real point to it but to show off some shabby softcore lesbian love story. That, and to cash in on the name of a "cult" director whose 'genius' dried up long ago and whose status is debatable at best.

Anyway, at breakfast Carla is joined by a shady priest/doctor who tells her that Andros is the rightful heir to the estate of Oriana Balasz, who died in 1945. He also mentions that many others have tried to purchase the estate, but all have failed. What he neglects to mention is that he's keeping an hysterical woman who claims to suffer sexual visions and visitations from her 'mistress' locked up on drugs.

Returning to her room Carla finds the naked Snakewoman lying in her bed. When asked the tattooed girl says that she is the 87-year-old Oriana, and that Andros is her father-in-law. She then asks, "Do you like my ass?", the furry cleft of which Carla could not help but admire. Passing up this invitation Carla tells the Snakewoman that she would "Like to acquire all the rights to Oriana Balasz's catalog. The songs, the films, everything." Snakewoman doesn't seem interested in business however, offering instead the notion that, "The ass is the universal sex organ." There's some more back and forth, but instead of getting it on Carla goes off to get some sleep alone.

Dr. Priest and his young ward, Alpha, have another fruitless interaction in which the girl again raves about her magical lady. Drugged and confined, Alpha is visited by Snakewoman for a lengthy lesbian encounter.

Meanwhile Carla has a dream flashback to her initial assignment to secure Oriana's archives. This includes watching an old black & white Third Reich-era cabaret performance of hers, with no shortage of risqué beaver shots. As Carla dreams naked in her bed, Snakewoman again comes pouncing into her room and crawls into the sack with her where more simulated vampire lesbian action is had.

Breakfast the next morning is a queer affair, one which includes mother's milk in the coffee. Carla is informed by Andros and Oriana/Snakewoman that the Balasz legacy is not for sale at any price. However there was a final film made by Oriana, a masterpiece of perversion that has never been seen...

Carla winds up back in the city, confused and disorganized. She is told by her female psychiatrist that she has been missing for days, with the police looking for her, and has lost all of her belongings. The doctor ships Carla out to her lakeside estate for some much needed rest and relaxation, but while again dreaming naked Carla is visited once more by the Snakewoman for another bout of 'bloody' lovemaking.

Carla's writhing is interrupted the next morning by the doctor, who has Carla's publisher Tony on the phone. For some reason the Balasz estate has decided to release everything to them, including a love letter to Carla from Oriana. As the Snakewoman attacks Alpha's doctor, Carla and her doc head back to the publisher's office to watch Oriana's final film.

In the overly dark clip the starlet gets it on with another woman, then tears into a rubber phallus between a man's legs, reveling in the flow of 'blood' that her pointed teeth produce. As Carla stares at the video screen, hypnotized, she thinks she hears Oriana call her name. Suddenly the two are together again back at the villa, and the film is finally over.

Two words: utter shit. The most enormous waste of time I've been subjected to in recent memory. In every way. And my life is much the poorer for it; Franco has obviously been sucking from the same retarded turtle dick as Jean Rollin. I'd have said "Spoiler ahead" earlier, but with something this pretentious and lazy that's kind of a given.

The story is overly drawn-out and needlessly complex; the jumpy timeline that is utilized so often by directors attempting to fancify their substandard productions by making them seem deeper through timeframe manipulation is in full evidence here, and as usual it just doesn't help. Instead it just makes an interminable story seem that much longer.

Snakewoman doesn't appear to be so much an ageless sexual force as she does some stoned gypsy nympho. There are some mildly sexy scenes, true, but the softcore nature of the production makes them all look overly staged and fake. On top of that there's the poor lighting to contend with, glare alternating with shadow to provide an uneven visual experience which the jerky progression of the story does little to enhance. In Spanish with English subtitles.

SNAKEWOMAN comes with standard extras such as a stills gallery and preview trailers. But it also contains the bonus 1998 feature film DR. WONG'S VIRTUAL HELL. This flick is self-described by director Franco as "An all out farce," but as many of his films could be considered farcical this means one of two things: 1) It will be fucking hi-LAR-ious, or 2) To quote Killface, it will be "The absolute monarch of all bum-snackers." We're going to find out, but I think you can guess where I've got my money down.

A take-off on the Fu-Manchu films, VIRTUAL HELL begins on a difficult note with the narration being provided by some character with a lisp and a thick oriental accent. As there aren't any subtitles available the lead-in and much of the following plot description are literally foreign.

On top of this, portions of the film are approached in comic book style, with oddly colored still frames featuring shadowy figures and word balloons used to flesh out the story. Emphasized at times with what sound like Sesame Street voices.

You know, coming after the time-killing SNAKEWOMAN I really don't have a spare portion of my life to devote to another 97 minutes of poorly assembled experimental film, so I'm going to watch most of this rickshaw wreck on fast forward. And if I miss something at speed, well, chances are I would have missed it anyway. I'll tell you right now, clear and engaging this film is not.

So you've got some solarized scenery. More bad accents. Hey look, there's some tits. And a bunch of guys in 'Chinaman' glasses watching a burlesque act. Lesbian frottage and simulated rimming. Some spanking and whipping. Now a hefty middle-aged woman is showing her bush. There's a fake blowjob. The thought balloon for one of the stage show voyeurs says it best: "...zz zz zzz..."

Finally there's some sort of meeting or confrontation between Dr. Wong and private eye Nelly Smith, both with associates in tow. The result: the film is over. Thank fuck.

To summarize: bad coloration, bad accents, bad lighting, bad sex, bad plot, no point. Enough said.

Goddammit, I feel ten years older.

SNAKEWOMAN is available at Amazon.

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