American Nightmare (1983)

directed by don mcbrearty
mano films limited/manesco films ltd.

Like the preceding selection, this movie features a lot of footage of strippers, but this Canadian picture manages to do so without it feeling particularly sleazy or exploitative. (Of course, the synopsis “mysterious killer preys on strippers” probably didn’t hurt with potential investors.) There’s more of a working-class focus, really, but portrayed within usually seedy locales. This viewpoint may be especially evident in contrast with the moneyed interests represented across a wide family divide. Our moody pianist protagonist doggedly pursues faint clues until he uncovers a terrible secret, which ultimately serves to mask a sociopathy masquerading as altruism. Along the way, two damaged people learn a little bit about love. WILL they survive the experience.

why did i watch this movie?

I wanted to throw another ’80s picture into the mix, and I’d been putting this one off.

should you watch this movie?

It doesn’t especially stand out, though its sociological perspective on affluence (or the lack of same) is pretty interesting, given that it actually was produced in 1981. Plus its disdain for the American ruse, of course.

highlight and low point

As is often the case in this genre, after the big reveal, you’d be best served not to think about any of the ramifications of what you’ve learned. Canadian film fans might enjoy another pairing of Michael Ironside and Lenore Zann, though the former’s role is surprisingly unimportant in the long run and the latter’s only serves to propel a plot device. And for a flick in which the main character inquires, “Did your reports tell you that she’s living in a SLUM? Surrounded by DEGENERATES?” the treatment of its sex workers and other assorted misfits or marginal types is in large part nonjudgmental.

rating from outer space: C

Daddy’s Deadly Darling (1984) aka Pigs (1973), etc., etc.

produced and directed (and likely written) by marc lawrence
safia s.a.

Untangling which of the many edits or releases this particular edition represented of what was intended to be called “The 13th Pig” took me some sleuthing, as this oft-rejiggered should-be cult classic’s tangle of different owners and distributors practically redefines the term “exploitation.” The picture itself wasn’t what I’d expected, either, even if I’d be hard-pressed to explicate exactly what that might have been; instead, this little oddity is a somewhat insightful meditation on mental illness, child sex abuse, codependency, and other fun, happy stuff. Oh, yeah, and multiple bodies get fed to (or are “turned into”) pigs, hence the ostensible original title. Nothing terribly graphic occurs herein until just before this version’s tacked-on coda, but a creepy, unsettling vibe sustains itself via many little details. One big detail: the two main actors were father and daughter, only enhancing the oddity. Ah, the movie business.

why did i watch this movie?

The title – “Pigs,” that is – and given year (which in this case was ’72), along with a brief synopsis, granted me visions of misbegotten bloody backwoods savagery, thematically aligning with whatever tangent I was pursuing.

should you watch this movie?

Well, now that I think I’ve tracked down the director’s preferred version of his movie, I’m planning to watch it again, if that tells you anything.

highlight and low point

As “Zambrini,” Lawrence portrays a cunning expediency in a manner suggesting a deranged hybrid of Michael Richards as Kramer and Christopher Lloyd’s Jim Ignatowski from Taxi. His daughter Toni seemingly perfected the oblivious affect of the dangerously disordered mind. Charles Bernstein’s ridiculous period-perfect pop ditty is a marvel.

And: “It seems as though dead people just don’t have any civil rights at all.”

rating from outer space: C+