Monday, June 22, 2009

review: a name for evil

Okay. I'm going to try not to freak out. It's only a movie.

A Name For Evil starts out like any of your favorite mid-70s made for TV movies (it'd fit real smooth in Damon Packard's Big Box of Evil, for instance), only it wasn't a made for TV movie, but it *feels* like a made for TV movie. This is probably because writer/director Bernard Girard cut his teeth in the 50s on stuff like The Lone Wolf and M Squad and later went on to do a good chunk of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Kraft Suspense Theatre. MST3K fans know him as the guy who wrote The Rebel Set ("In the hole!") and in the mid 60s he did a film called Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round you might have seen if you're a big James Coburn fan, but all that seems a long ways away in 1973. Girard even puts TV powerhouse Robert Culp (a perfect candidate for Jemiah's "Hey! It's that guy!" -- you probably know him as the government agent who helped out The Greatest American Hero) to play a Guccione-style swinger architect trying to get it together with his high-maintenence upscale wife while wearing lots of Mr. Furley style outfits. They inherit a cabin and he figures they can really get with it if they renovate the place, but of course there's a curse! The Colonel built it, and no one will live there but the Colonel! This puts us squarely into the haunted house as an excuse for a married couple to bust each other's chops genre. In fact, I seriously think all this haunted house stuff was added on after the fact to help repackage an Updike-style middle age crisis film as a horror flick, as the only even vaguely supernatural stuff going on up until this point is an incredibly unconvincing "GET OUT!" whispered by the Colonel which no one pays any attention to whatsoever. Oh, and there's a tunnel in the basement.

Here we take an abrupt turn away from made for tv status -- the clever viewer will have been tipped off by the fact that it was produced by Penthouse, but you can't read too much into that, I mean, keep in mind Penthouse co-produced Chinatown. Needless to say, there's gonna be some nudity at some point. But what happens is know what, I'm not ready to talk about this. I'll try to finish this one later, it's still too horrifying.

Well, okay, I guess if you've read anything else about this movie you know the score: Robert Culp gets fed up with his wife and goes to the bar, where all of a sudden we take a right turn toward Summerisle and a bit of drunken dancing with some hippie girl turns into a pagan fertility rite where we see ROBERT CULP'S PENIS. And not just a quick flash, either, where you think "Did I just see Robert Culp's penis?", oh no, you'll have time to think "I can't believe I'm still looking at Robert Culp's penis!". Culp wakes up in the woods with his floozie and wipes the dirt out of his ass and at this point the movie really just goes batshit insane, and normally that's a big plus but not here. I seriously think the producers deicded the film should go in a different direction three or four times, and they just tacked more junk onto the film and in a coke-jitter frenzy they figured fuck it, we'll just leave it in. For obvious reasons I'm not going to add any screen captures for this film, and you'll thank me.

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