Friday, January 23, 2009
THE GREAT HOLLYWOOD RAPE-SLAUGHTER (1977)
Another porn-related exploitation movie from the early 1970s, THE GREAT HOLLYWOOD RAPE-SLAUGHTER isn’t as well made or compelling as HOLLYWOOD 90028 but I’m willing to bet its production history is even more intriguing. Bulk of the film appears to have been shot around 1971 but a finished version wasn't submitted to the MPAA until 1974 (receiving an incredible R rating), with a sneak preview in Burlington, Vermont in September of that year under the moniker HARD CORE BLUES. By 1976 it was touring some territories with a self-imposed X as SUPER BALL. The RAPE-SLAUGHTER rebirth apparently took place the next year.
Stuffy film school graduate Steve Ford (associate producer and co-writer Michael Plamondon) searches for work as a director in Hollywood, and after one of those two-minute montages in which crash-and-burn Variety headlines are intercut with shots of the protagonist dejectedly leaving every studio lot in town, he gets called in for an interview with porn mini-mogul Mr. Burns (John Dennis). Steve has an aversion to porn -- even though his pretentious senior project includes footage from a Rene Bond-Rick Lutze stag reel! -- but he agrees to slum through a quickie hardcore flick, much to the dismay of his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend. Reeling from the sleaze around him, and horrified to learn that he doesn’t even have the talent to make a halfway decent smoker, Steve-o suffers a nervous breakdown and… wellllll, what happens after that is open for debate, but we'll get to that in a couple of paragraphs.
Questions abound, beginning with the running time of the print reviewed here (61 minutes). The actual rape-slaughter is present and sex scenes appear to be intact -- to the point where I question the MPAA rating of R that some other version may have earned but surely not this one (with a Serena/Alice Fredlund lesbian scene that also looks like it's from another movie) -- no, it’s story and exposition that must’ve hit the cutting room floor, judging from the mind-shattering incoherency of the third act that had me convinced I lost 15 minutes of consciousness to a laudanum-spiked mug of Swiss Miss or one of those flashguns from LOOKER.
So I stagger over to the computer, turn it on, get the Commodores spinning, start to write a review…and all I can type is “What. The. Hell. Did. I. Just. Watch.” I go back to the couch. Press play. Watch again. Warning bells go off right from the opening as the first three credits appear onscreen in three different typefaces: title card in one (see also HARD CORE BLUES, TEENAGE STARLETS and SUPER BALL), followed by executive producer Frank Scheraldi in a second, then the rest of the credits consistent to the end in a third. Scheraldi’s name is nowhere else on the film and absent entirely from the IMDb, raising more suspicion. Scheraldi. Scheraldi. I trip over stacks of books and fanzines and videotapes -- “I haven’t cleaned this place in years” I think as a cassette of Robert Klein’s Child of the Fifties cracks under my bare feet and I let out a yelp, limping over to my files, half-crazed, feverishly flipping through folders from two decades earlier, thinking “Christ, I live like an animal” -- Scheraldi, Scheraldi, Scheraldi -- the Commodores commanding me to squeeze the fruit, give up the juice, squeeze the fruit, give up the juice -- Scheraldi, Scheraldi, Scheraldi -- "Give up the juice, goddammit!!"
Ah-ha! I pull out a photocopied ad from a 1977 issue of Boxoffice -- THE MODEL KILLER -- "Starring super rock star Linda Ronstadt in her film debut.”
Linda Ronstadt! Where is she? Not in THE GREAT HOLLYWOOD RAPE-SLAUGHTER, despite what the trailer and the newspaper ad would lead you to believe (she's not billed in the opening credits and is nowhere to be seen in the actual movie). THE MODEL KILLER was “soon to be released” in April ’77, a few months before THE GREAT HOLLYWOOD RAPE-SLAUGHTER’s first known theatrical bookings. Sniff sniff -- what's that smell? -- could it be another SNUFF job? Titular assault is confined to the last five minutes, something that could’ve easily been tacked on at the end as the prints went out the door. Dunno, folks -- looks to me like footage from another movie with a completely different cast. Some guy doing a Tom-Laughlin-as-Billy-Jack impersonation rides up on a motorcycle, loads a shotgun, and calmly blows away a bunch of zonked-out hippies who are hanging out in a motel room. He then confronts his girlfriend Suzy, who’s apparently cheating on him with one of the burnouts he just shot, and accuses her of aborting their child. At gunpoint he forces the bloody burnout to rape Suzy, then shoots them both in the head and rides off on his motorcycle with Suzy's corpse strapped behind him. Final shot is of the cinematographer who's filming it all from the back of a camera truck smiling and giving Billy an a-ok.
What I find more disturbing than this stupid left-field ending is the fact that so many people online are claiming it’s a mentally deranged Steve who dresses up as Billy Jack and commits the great Hollywood rape-slaughter at the end! I cleaned my glasses, I freeze-framed Billy’s close-ups, I rewound the scene a dozen times, went back and looked at Steve again -- it’s not the same actor. Not even close. And I'm pretty sure the cameraman at the end isn't Steve's film school buddy Charlie (Jay Neale) either, as one website asserts. I'm convinced none of the performers shown during the actual rape-slaughter have anything to do with HARD CORE BLUES or whatever this thing was originally called before it was rape-slaughtered itself SNUFF-style, possibly by the mysterious Mr. Scheraldi.