NOVEMBER 18 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SAVAGE WEEKEND (1979)
"Ever Tasted It Fresh?"
If you're anything like me (and I hope, for your sake, that you're not), you spend a lot of your time in mom-and-pop video stores hovering around the horror section and making the teenagers behind the counter very, very, very nervous. Sometimes I like to ask for particularly colorful titles by name: "Excuse me, but do you carry Bloodsucking Freaks? No? Hmm... how about Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama? Rape of the Vampire? Fatty Drives the Bus? Darn. What about Baby's Day Out?"
My friends tease me mercilessly about my foraging trips, and I admit that many times I end up renting what turns out to be absolute garbage: enticed by the illustration of a killer cat screaming in frenzy, I rent Blood Feast and am treated to 45 minutes of an Italian in a helicopter flying onto women's patios and waving. Convinced that no one could possibly mess up a movie about a woman with a singing vagina, I rent Chatterbox and have to drink myself to sleep after. This is a crapshoot, folks -- this is gambling in the truest sense of the word. It's not just my $1.50 that is at stake here -- it's a good chunk of my time, and more than that, my expectations and faith in the possibility that somewhere out there lurks an undiscovered or underappreciated gem that just begs to be unearthed and shared with others, that reeks with the stench of years of sitting, untouched, on the same shelf (I have a friend who insists that all video stores smell like carpeting that has had juice spilled on it), without even receiving a second glance from the customers that crowd in for all the new releases (while I was in the store just tonite, a girl in her 20's almost broke down in tears when she learned that Uptown Girls was not available).
Such a film is Savage Weekend. Boasting some of the worst cover art in history, the tape sat there like a Cheshire Cat, smiling at me, winking, begging me to pick it up. My friend laughed and insisted that it would be shit, but I persisted and we took it home. What followed was not perfection, I will admit -- but it is easily one of the strangest and most entertaining things I've seen in a while.
We begin with a standard woman-in-blood-spattered-white-running-through-the-woods thing. She is cornered in a clearing, there is a running chainsaw, and a redneck picks up the chainsaw and approaches her. Cut. Hey, wait a minute -- wasn't that -- rewind that! Sure enough, the redneck in question is Larry from Newhart -- apparently, his brothers Darryl and Darryl are off on other chores at the moment, but here he is, ushering in a parable about the pressures of city life, the brutality of the country, the savagery of man, and the horror of pasty New Yorkers in direct sunlight with their clothes off.
Marie, Shirley, Mac, and Jay live a busy life in the city, and are heading upsate with Nicky, their kept fag, for a vacation. Marie's estranged (or perhaps just strange) husband Greg is staying behind, as he has been having some emotional difficulties lately that a few days off in the country will apparently be no good for (?). He and their son stay behind, and the 5 city slickers head off to a holiday of fishing, picnics, and certain death.
The group hasn't even gotten to their rental house yet when "Mother" Nicky first gets into trouble. The silly queer heads off to a bar while the others get groceries (to "get herself watered"), strutting into the roadhouse in short-shorts with his head held high. He instructs the bartender (the first stupid redneck local that we are to meet) on how to make a martini, hissing like a goose (how many S's are there in martini, anyway?) and arousing the ire of the locals, who of course proceed to tease him with sexual advances. Nicky plays along for a minute, accuses one of the men of having sex with his mother, and then suddenly, without warning, jumps the thugs and starts beating them senseless with anything he can get his hands on -- chairs, pool cues, whatever. After a campy "moment" with the cocktail waitress, he breaks a longneck beer bottle and holds it to one of the hillbillies' necks, spitting at them that he "wasn't raised in the South Bronx for nothin'".
The happy group arrives at their lodging to find a bat nailed to the door. Amused by the token, they apparently think that this is some kind of "welcome to the neighborhood" custom (perhaps the bat had the Torah inside it, and it was therefore good luck?). Oddly, though, the bat stands at this point as a poignant metaphor: for although the winged beast is not flying in this scene, something else is -- oh! It's the boom! Yes, our trusty boom microphone has decided to pay us a long overdue visit by appearing in the top of the frame. Whoop -- and there he goes! Bye, boom! Don't worry, kids -- he'll be back.
The next morning our friends are busying themselves with various activities: Marie and her man-friend are fishing with a local, Shirley is frolicking naked in the field, and Nicky is, naturally, in his room listening to an evangelist on the radio. Otis (Larry) is in a graveyard yelling about boats. Back in the fishing party, we learn from the local that Otis once locked a female cousin in a neck-vice and branded her with an "H" for "(w)Hore". The cityfolk laugh -- such funny, colorful local people. Meanwhile Jay porks Shirley in the field while Nicky watches, squeezing barbed wire until his hands bleed on his gigantic mood ring.
We move onto some plot development; something about the mayor committing suicide and Marie's husband Greg not taking it well. Marie and Mac hump regardless, and whale music accompanies the visual assault of yet another 30-something couple in flagrante dilecto. The next day, Marie makes a move on the local who took them fishing (at this point so many of the male cast members have moustaches that it takes me a moment to put this together), first touching his heavy machinery, then his muscled arm. Even though he was making the moves on her in the fishing boat, he spurns her advances, sending her away, and then smacks down one of his co-worker when he comments about it (oddly, this is one of the same burly men who was beaten up only a few days ago by a 70-pound fairy in his local watering hole). And guess who makes another surprise appearance during this exchange? Mr. boom! He waves from the corner of the screen to let us know that he's still with us and doing great.
We cut to a POV of the killer walking through the house, rifling through the visitors' belongings. We find a fright mask that Shirley picked up at the market and put it on, Halloween-style. We fondle some ladies' panties (could we be the fag?), and pass up a conspicuously placed issue of People magazine that lies on the bed (nope, we can't be the fag).
We return to Marie and her flirtations with the local moustachio, which have reached the levels of French sex farce by this point. She approaches him in the barn, where an oddly-lit pink cow stands, minding her own business. She proceeds to stroke and fondle the cow's udder in a most unladylike manner, and Sam the local asks, "Ever had it fresh?" and proceeds to coax some hot milk from the erect udder into his cupped hand and offer it to Marie, who is thankfully disgusted by this overtly suggestivve act. He instead rubs the milk on her legs and she retreats, apparently no longer interested in Sam and his dairy-air. He tries to force himself on her and squeezes her udders (sadly, no milk this time), but she turns and sees her husband in the hay loft and clubs Sam with a pulley and flees. Yes, her husband. She sees him. Write that down.
Ladies and gentlemen, Boom-shika is back! Shirley and Jay, the pasty porkers, are arguing in the living room as Boom-shika looks on, and Nicky is in the kitchen listening. He drops a pan in protest (his outfit of a pirate shirt and tights might also be a protest of some sort, but I can't say). Jay storms out and is promptly hung in the barn by Maskie. Inside, Shirley and Nicky engage in some sort of perverse Lady Marmalade-style burlesque show that spreads throughout the house and involves Nicky putting on lots of makeup. Marie and Mac hump out in the hayloft and the killer goes into the house. In an odd bit of scoring, tango music is used for a stalk-and-scare scene in which the killer follows Nicky around, and convinces me without a doubt that the clarinet is the least scary instrument available. Nonetheless, Nicky is stabbed in the temple with a hairpin and flops on the floor like a flounder, brandishing his tights-swathed package in a most unladylike manner. The killer then goes for Shirley, still dressed in her floosy outfit, and once he corners her in the basement she fights like a wildcat until he sucker-punches her in the back and ties her to a tablesaw. Unfortunately, the tablesaw is plugged into the wall switch (which is at the top of the stairs) so when he plugs it in nothing happens. Ha ha ha. The killer leaves Shirley tied up and goes after Mac, whom he quickly throws out of the window onto a board filled with nails which was apparently left outside the window for that very purpose. The killer sits down in the kitchenette, exhausted, and takes off his mask -- and what do you know, it's the boom operator! I mean, the husband! Apparently the stress of working for a local politician drove him to it.
Speaking of "drove him to it", the group's only car was borrowed by Sam the local so that he could take his daughter to the movies (all together now... "Awwww....."). In a grand, sweeping gesture of dramatic irony that would be more at home in a Lars von Trier film, we are treated to a short scene in which Sam decides NOT to return the car becase he'd rather get home and get his daughter to sleep. Priceless.
We cut to the next morning: moustached husband and Marie are still in the kitchen, in the exact same places. Meanwhile, the ho is still tied to the tablesaw in the basement, and I would think that her back would be mighty sore by now. Sam the local returns the car in the morning and of course searches the house for signs of life -- including turning on the wall switch to the basement lights. We see Shirley tied to the saw one last time and hear an incredibly loud whale call noise, which is apparently the noise that one makes when split in two. We move outside to a moustache battle: the trimmed, manicured, Perry King-style moustache favored by the successful Manhattanite vs. the long, drawling, Sam Eliot-style handlebar of the yokel. This of course evolves into a chainsaw/machete fight, and of course Sam Eliot wins (sorry, Perry). In an echo of the opening shots, Otis appears, picks up the chainsaw to kill the evil politico, and turns and smiles at the screaming Marie, ending in a freezeframe that shouts "Don't hate me because I'm inbred". Cue Jim Croce knockoff title song, "Upstate Man", and end credits.
As you can see, there's a lot going on here. There's faggotry, pasty-people sex, mutilations, sexual perversions involving cows, rednecks, Jim Croce, and one aggressive boom operator. Is it horribly shot? Yes. Does it lose some serious steam about halfway through? Yes. Is it morally confused, derivative, and offensive? Indeed, yes. But you know what? It's 20 times more sincere, audacious, and entertaining than just about any of the slick-sleeved video boxes that you're going to see on any New Release shelf at your local video store, and for that it deserves our love.
NOVEMBER 18 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SAVAGE WEEKEND (1979)
I have to admit, I had never heard of this film before. I thought I was pretty aware of most every Horror film, esp those from the late 70's and 80's, the greatest era of Horror films in my opinion. Somehow I didn't know about this one.
Here is the basic plot from the Cheezy Flicks website:
Nicky, Shirley, Marie, and two others from NYC travel deep into upstate New York for a long weekend vacation. Once at their destination they mix with Otis, Mac Macauley, and some locals who offer supplies, lumber, eggs, erotic cow-milking lessons, and they even like to tell strange tales. While the weekend vacationers have their fun with fishing, boating, nude sunbathing, relieving their sexual frustrations, and throwing costume dinner parties, there also marks the appearance of a masked killer who is dead set on ruining this weekend with whatever weapons are handy.
Ok, so maybe there is a reason I didn't know about this one. Any film that involving "erotic cow-milking" probably isn't going to be a mainstream Horror film. This is probably one of the strangest Horror films I have ever seen. Does that make it bad? No. Does that make it good? Well, No. This films falls somewhere in between. I have always liked weird films. Slasher flicks that follow the same plot line can get pretty boring, so at least this one changes things up a bit. Overall, compared to other slasher films this is pretty tame in terms of the killings. There are only a few kills and there is very little blood overall. This is a not a film for gore hounds. This almost reminds me of an old Italian Giallo film mixed with a slasher in the woods film. I think after watching this film, that will make more sense.
Now, that being said, there are a few memorable scenes, one involving a chainsaw, and the other is a scene of a woman being branded with a red hot branding iron. While most films would cut away and just show the end result, this film shows you the entire thing. This was a very good effect and looked very realistic for an older, low budget film. Congrats to the special effects crew on that shot alone.
The masked killer was another highlight....although he only shows up in the last half of the film, I really enjoyed the scenes he was involved in. The killers mask is very creepy looking, sort of a cross between Leatherface and Michael Myers.
With a larger budget and some more kills, this could have been a classic, unfortunately it falls a little short overall. While I don't think most mainstream Horror fans will like this one, I think there is a section of Horror fans out there looking for something different, and who like weird, off the wall films. This definitely falls into that latter category, and fans of obscure 70's Horror films should give this one a try.
NOVEMBER 18 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SAVAGE WEEKEND (1979)
A pair of couples & a flamboyant friend from NYC take in a relaxing weekend watching a boat being built by one of the locals. The weekend takes a turn for the worse when a masked killer shows up to ruin the fun.
I didn’t know what to expect when I turned this on. When I saw William Sanderson, my hope this movie turned out better than expected went through the roof. All is not what it seems here as the filmmaker tries to present one angle and fool the audience with another. You know how this goes…a whack job is set up as the primary evil, but then other cards are turned and it gets you to start thinking. That’s the premise of good suspense. Now, though, the movie must deliver. Let’s take for instance one of my favorite Mario Bava films, Blood & Black Lace. The movie leads you down one path & when you’re sure of your convictions, something pops up & makes you change your mind. Does this movie do the same? Well, this is no Blood & Black Lace, but it took me by surprise nonetheless.
Sanderson plays Otis, a local nutjob who’s building a boat for a stockbroker who not too recently purchased a house in the upstate area. Otis is a strange bird who procrastinates on the job at hand and said stockbroker brings in a friend who is going to help move the project forward. Otis objects & the killing begins. One by one the friends take their final bow until only one is left, well two actually, and the killer unmasks himself to reveal… There are a couple interesting kills here and are done in an implied sense as opposed to on screen gore. The true identity of the killer came as a surprise, but it came with a small chunk of running time left in the movie. This indicates that there must be more surprises to come. There are, but I’m not going to divulge. I think one of the biggest surprises is that William Sanderson is not the star. He plays a rather small part here, but he may easily be the most recognizable of the bunch.
Extra-wise, this disc contains trailers for no less than 12 other movies & has your standard chapter selections. Not a bad watch. Even with an appearance by the boom mic in a few scenes. From what I’ve read, this is a cut version of the film. Now whether that hinders or helps remains to be seen, but let’s face it, this movie is probably not going to be released any other way. It’s not a slasher so much as a suspense movie either. So don’t let anybody tell you any different. I’m sure it was marketed to capitalize on the string of slasher movies that hit in the late 70s/early 80s.
NOVEMBER 18 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SAVAGE WEEKEND (1979)
What the hell is this? Is this even a horror film? You don't actually get to see any real horror 'till 50 minutes into the flick. Most of the film is just the couples going at it. Like I said to a friend earlier, I feel as though I've lost brain cells having watched this crap. It basically starts off with couples going off to the country-side to watch some dumbass friend of theirs show off his boat and fix it up a bit. Besides the lame plot, there's crappy acting and directing too. The thing that kept me watching was spotting the boom mic in every shot. I don't see how they could just leave that in there. The director must have been on the brink of going blind because the mic was so easy to spot. It was actually kind of fun spotting it.
There's obviously a lot of pointless nudity in the film since I mentioned the couples go at it a lot in the film. That's basically most of the movie right there. When the killings do start there's nothing special. Just some lame hanging and a few more wasted deaths. The killer was so predictable, in fact, the whole movie is predictable. I was so freakin' confused when I was watching the film, because I kept wondering where the hell they were going and why people would get mad for no apparent reason. There are so many plot holes and things that confuse you that you spend 15 minutes of your time trying to figure out what the hell just happened 15 minutes ago.
The mask the killer used for the film was some cheap-ass mask that I assumed was the only mask left that the prop guy could get his hands on. It's like one of those masks that are left behind in stores the day before Halloween, because all the good masks are already taken. If I could give this film a lower rating I would. I'm gonna add this sucka to my worst films list. Can't believe I wasted my time on this.
One of the crappiest films I've ever seen. A waste of a slasher film, and you don't even realize it's a slasher until 50 minutes into the film. Don't waste your time on this unless you're an aspiring director that wants to make sure not to make the same mistakes the director for this film did. Try to keep the boom mics outta the shot people.
NOVEMBER 18 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SAVAGE WEEKEND (1979)
Cheapo banjo music is for lovers of b-movies what the distant tinkling of the ice-cream truck is for children or what the shaking of a can of Pounce is for cats: An idiotic calling we are helpless to resist. As those first few notes are strummed, we find ourselves eagerly anticipating the menacing, slack-jawed yokels to come, the thirty-something yuppies traveling into the backwoods, the farm implements used as weapons, the chase through the forest, the ponderous dialogue about the true nature of man.
The opening credits of Savage Weekend, infused as they are with cheapo banjo music, would seem to promise all of these things. And indeed, the set-up is classic pseudo-_Deliverance_: Marie (Marilyn Hamlin), Shirley (Caitlin O’Heaney), Robert (Jim Doerr), Jay (Devin Goldenberg), and Nicky (Christopher Allport) leave the Big Apple and head to rural, upstate New York to spend the weekend at Robert’s cabin and check up on the progress of Robert’s half-built boat. When they arrive they find a dead bat nailed to the door-frame of the cabin, as if in ominous warning. They also encounter Mac (David Gale), who leers over his thick, ’70s-mustache at the women, and Otis, local handyman, weirdo, voyeur and obvious red herring. Otis, Mac tells the gang, was in love with his cousin and brutally attacked her and her lover. By the time the killer, wearing a creepy Halloween mask, shows up, Savage Weekend seems to have moved beyond Deliverance into the territory of Friday the 13th and other slasher flicks.
And yet the film isn’t quite so straightforward. Take the character of Nicky. At first he seems like a stereotypical gay man, a lazy, sashaying punch-line. He walks into one of the local bars, winks and smiles at the burly lumberjacks and mill workers playing pool, and orders a martini.
“What the hell is that?” asks the bartender. Men in trucker hats stare threateningly at him. The viewer expects something terribly homophobic and un-PC to happen. Then suddenly, Nicky grabs a beer bottle, smashes it on the bar and holds the shard up to the neck of one of the men.
“You come one step closer,” he tells the others, “and I’ll make a bloody Mary out of his face. I was brought up in the South Bronx, sweetheart.”
After pummeling some of the mill workers, Nicky leaves, no longer the prancing stereotype he was when he entered the bar. Then there’s Otis, played by the great character actor William Sanderson in one of his earliest screen appearances. He’s impossibly young in Savage Weekend, yet as greasy, twitchy and shifty-eyed as ever. Like Nicky, Otis should be a bad, possibly embarrassing stereotype, yet Sanderson brings a near-Method level of authenticity to his mentally disturbed hick, as well as something else—poignancy, maybe. He transcends the one-dimensional—something Sanderson has done in everything from Newhart to Deadwood to brief appearances on Lost and Life. We see Otis, early in the film, crouched over a grave, mumbling to his dead buddy Clarence. Robert’s half-built boat, it turns out, once belonged to Clarence.
“But that son of a bitch don’t care nothing about your boat,” Otis tells Clarence. Otis has been hired by Robert to work on the boat, but he can’t seem to bring himself to finish the project, as if in deference to Clarence’s memory. It’s a surprisingly touching moment in the film—strange, but touching.
Savage Weekend is fascinating for other reasons as well. There’s the long, slow buildup to the killing, which might recall the suspenseful but relatively subdued first half of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre if didn’t feature so many scenes of characters wandering around and speaking about oblique, existential matters. In some ways, it’s like Last Year At Marienbad performed by a community theater—and with more brutal slayings. There’s also the simple fact that Savage Weekend predates the slasher movies it occasionally seems to be knocking off. The film, after all, was originally made in 1976 as The Killer Behind the Mask, a full two years before Halloween and four years before the unlucky camp counselors of Camp Crystal Lake; it was first released in 1979, then re-released on video in 1981 to cash in on the popularity of the genre. There’s also a lengthy seduction scene involving cow udders, though the less said about that the better.
No discussion of Savage Weekend, however, would be complete without mention of its boom mics. Nearly every scene has at least one mic bopping down into frame over the actors’ heads. At one point we even catch a glimpse of the boom mic operator‘s hairy forearm in the corner of the frame. Later, we see some crew members in the background of one shot, looking over what seems to be a copy of the script. Is it amateurish? Sure. This was, after all, director David Paulsen’s first movie. Should all the obvious gaffes detract from the film? Probably. But somehow it doesn’t. You, the viewer, are actually witnessing the creation of this film as it happens. It’s as if you are there, with the cast and crew, trying desperately to piece together something, anything. Savage Weekend is, in many ways, an unclassifiable movie—tedious, scary, pretentious and low-rent all at once. There’s no real genre for it. The cheapo banjo music sets up certain expectations and the movie itself delivers something else entirely. Is it a work of art? Maybe not. Call it a work in progress, never to be complete.
NOVEMBER 18 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SAVAGE WEEKEND (1979)
Five city folk head out to the country so that Robert (played by Jim Doerr) can check on the status of his boat being built for him by some local yokels. With him is freshly divorced Marie (Marilyn Hamilton) who is bringing along two kinds of baggage: emotional and her friends slutty Shirley (Caitlin O’Heaney) and gay Nicky (Christopher Allport). Their fun in hickville is spoiled by a deranged masked killer who starts taking them out with sharp objects.
Take a little bit of Deliverance and a little bit of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a little bit of “Days Of Our Lives” and what do you have? Well? This fine piece of trash is an absolute must-see for fans of sleazy crap. Impending doom is painfully obvious to everyone except the character it’s about to befall and everyone has some crybaby hang-ups of one kind or another. Gritty camerawork, funky locations, and boom mikes in the shot just add to the charm. Did I mention that legendary character actor William Sanderson plays local weirdo and suspect number one, Otis? Well, he does.
All of the actors in Savage Weekend do their job which is to try and make the screen explode with their hammy performances. Easily the cheesiest emoting comes from Marilyn Hamlin. Her character, Marie, delivers some of the funniest and most melodramatic gobbledygook I’ve ever heard. She, like the other unlikable protagonists, is blissfully unaware of the practically telegraphed foreboding and the plain-as-day animosity all around her. She might as well have “Me Generation” tattooed on her forehead.
My favorite character in the film is Nicky played by Christopher Allport (Dead & Buried). This very angry and confused gay man is anything but a stereotype. He has some strange issues with his friend Shirley who he is frighteningly overprotective of and/or totally in love with. And he will kick your ass! Watch with delight as Nicky gets into a bar fight and mops up the place with some inbred good ole boys. The scene is priceless.
This is exactly what a grindhouse film should be. It’s bloody, pointlessly cruel, and features sleazy sex and gratuitous nudity. Geez, you’d think this was Italian! The title of the film makes me think of a hair metal festival. And I especially like how the VHS cover art claims that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is “kid stuff” compared to Savage Weekend. Whether or not you choose to believe that (trust me, you don’t!), this flick is still an excellent piece of trash for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
“Jesus, you think my life is easy? I can’t even escape from my lovers in the men’s room.”