10 April 2006

Joe Dallesandro's Dirty Laundry

Double Feature:
The Gardener (a.k.a. Seeds of Evil) - dir. James H. Kay - 1975 - USA
Killer Nun (Suor Omicidi) - dir. Giulio Berruti - 1978 - Italy

No one ever thought Joe Dallesandro's appeal (namely that of being a rugged Warhol tough-guy with a chiseled body) could really work outside of the Warhol world. Well, contrary to that thought, he made a number of other films, from Steven Soderbergh's The Limey to Serge Gainsbourg's film adapatation of his song Je t'aime moi non plus. And, of course, a couple of sleazy-sounding horror films, like the two I've selected for this post's double feature. To quote Travis Crawford in his review of the deplorable Let Me Die a Woman:

"One of the defining characteristics of many classic exploitation films was that they often “sold the sizzle, not the steak” – in other words, thrill-hungry audiences were frequently tantalized and tempted into theatres with promises of more than what would ultimately be delivered on screen."

Both The Gardener and Killer Nun fall into the selling-the-sizzle category. The Gardener has Dallesandro as the hunky title character whose garden feeds on the flesh of humans; Killer Nun has him as a doctor (you read that right) who's trying to help the sex-hungry, heroin-addicted, possible-murdereress, likely-lesbian Sister Gertrude (played by Anita Ekberg, immortalized in La Dolce vita, sleazed and heaved up here, some eighteen years later). Strange that with such promising descriptions, neither film comes close to getting the steak on our, the hungry viewer's, plates. Both are remarkably skimpy on the nudity and rather dull on the gore. We never actually see any of the flowers kill people... instead, we have daunting music accompany the close-ups of the flowers, followed by a frightened look on the face of the victim, another shot of the flower (this time closer!), and then the victim on the ground with a puddle of blood (yes, it's always a puddle, never pool-sized). The deaths in Killer Nun all manage to be surprisingly unthrilling (I think most would consider this a lesser entry in the nunsploitation genre, for better suggestions go here: the reviewer strongly suggests to have a good porno ready for afterwards.) It's telling how far we've come. Someone who's seen a Catherine Breillat film or even the Hills Have Eyes remake won't even blink, as neither films packs a memorable tawdriness or gruesomeness. Have we come so far as to yawn during films that may have grossly offended audiences thirty years ago? Or are these just two meager entires into the exploitation genre? I guess when you really think back... nothing Joe Dallesandro ever did was truly shocking, except for maybe his nonchalant attitude toward being (constantly) naked. I don't care what your sexual leaning is, Dallesandro's incesant nudity got to the point of simply existing outside of a sexual nature (I opted not to include a naked photo... but if you're so inclined, google image search it), like when the family quit saying anything whenever grandma's boob fell out of her shirt. Though Killer Nun scores higher on the blasphemy meter than it does on the sleaze one and although The Gardener never delivers the revolting deaths you might expect, knowing these crucial details may ensure for a more enjoyable viewing.

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