Monday, April 30, 2012

"The Possession of Joel Delaney"(1972)d/Waris Hussein

I hadn't seen this one since the days when staying up 'til eleven to catch the end of a horror movie on a school night was an effective bargaining chip towards my behavior for an entire afternoon, if the mood struck me, and apart from the dumb title and Shirley MacLaine, one of the hotter redheads of her day, for sure, I'd remembered practically nothing from it.Never a good omen when revisiting movies like these I've come to find out.Directed by Waris Hussein, who'd helmed the original Dr. Who serial in '63(I'm a Tom Baker/Jon Pertwee guy myself), oddly enough, and predating The Exorcist by a year, Delaney showcases the lush New York exteriors of yesteryear, some tame, phony gore, an outrageous Mex-orcism with flaming feet, cigars, and whiskey, and Perry "Riptide" King in his first role, as a rich white hippie who somehow manages to get himself possessed by a murderous piped-in hispanic stereotype that causes him to cut the heads off of the women in his life.King says the role, where he forces his own niece's face into dog food and nephew to dance around in his birthday suit, was the best he's ever gotten.Don't expect the usual projectile vomiting, appearance of stigmata, levitation, or readable welts in this take, instead,  look for a leather jacket, slicked-back hair, and a stiletto as signs that gringo Delaney has undergone la posesión, in one of the hokiest Indio portrayals on film since West Side Story.I was half-expecting Perry to appear in an oversized sombrero and droopy moustache for the finale, leaning against Port Authority, too siesta-ed out to terrorize much of any-Juan, errr, anyone, sorry.Two Mules for Sister Sara(1970), it ain't.
You know it was a real ballbuster of a party last night, when...
A party full of well-to-do Manhattan snobs is attended by recent divorcee Norah Benson(Shirley MacLaine) and her younger brother, Joel Delaney(Perry King), a Bohemian from the East Village who's just returned from Tangiers.The parvenus mistake Joel for Nora's new lover, and judging by the looks she fires at Joel's ex, Sherry(Barbara Trentham), they might not be that far off with their assumptions.Days later, after he fails to attend a dinner she's planned for him and a phone call to his Spanish Harlem apartment nets her only strange music and choking sounds, she pays him a visit, only to arrive just in time to see him being led from his stoop in cuffs, having just made an attempt on his landlord's life.After learning that her brother is being evaluated in Bellvue's psych ward from her ex-husband, a prominent surgeon, she enters Joel's pad, finding symbolism used in Santeria painted on the wall, and...a switchblade(insert 50's sci-fi theremin here).At the squirrel farm, she tells her sibling, who remembers nothing of the incident that led to his incarceration, to admit to having been on drugs so he can be released into her care.Dr. Lorenz(Lovelady Powell), Joel's former shrink, asks him why someone of such affluence would want to live where he does, to which, he explains his shared wavelength with the locals and his friendship to one Tonio Pérez.Back at Norah's, the siblings' creepy repoire degenerates into sex questions before Joel can escape out a window to the discotheque, where he spots a pissed up Sherry, being chatted up by a host of male admirers.He gives it to her, hard style, afterwards at her high rise flat.At the juvenile birthday party Norah holds for him, he leads Sherry on a Peter Pan-styled wild goosechase for a missing earring, which he attaches to a helium balloon and sets into the atmosphere, before nearly setting her hair on fire with the cake candles as a dubbed voice insults her en Espanol.When Norah stops in on Sherry the next morning, she finds her decapitated body next to her blatantly phony head, which is suspended from a houseplant by the hair.A detective asks her if Joel has any Puerto Rican friends...dun dun DUN!It turns out there were three unsolved low profile murders of Puerto Rican girls last summer believed to have been committed by Tonio Pérez, who has since gone missing himself.
!!Matando Gueros!! Machete en mano y sangre india caliente!
After her maid up and quits, she sends Norah to Don Pedro (Edmundo Rivera Alvarez), a strange little guy who runs a witchcraft general store and arranges a crazy Santerian Mex-orcism with Norah and Tonio's mother in attendance.The woman admits that her son committed the murders, but that her husband had killed him for it shortly afterwards.Pedro explains that Tonio's evil soul now possesses Joel, and to remove it requires his dramatic barefooted prancing around with a sash tied around his head, spitting liquor, shouting, and smoking cigars.Of course, Tonio isn't interested in relinquishing power over Delaney, as evidenced by Joel's barricading himself in at home and shouting in Spanish, which leads Norah to snatch up the kids and take them to the family beach house far from the whole, troubling, supernatural enchilada.After a night of much needed rest, she awakens to find Lorenz's muy phony disembodied domepiece among the canned goods above the fridge, and even more troublingly, Joel, decked out in a leather jacket, with his hair slicked back, wielding a switchblade, and not looking or sounding the least bit hispanic, in her very midst.Ah, but this isn't Joel holding his niece and nephew at knifepoint as cops surround the property, aggressively gutting the fish they'd just caught, insulting them in Spanish, before forcing the girl's face into a bowl o' dog food, and ordering the boy to strip naked and dance.This is Tonio, pendejos, or what Perry King imagines such a homicidal hispanic would be like, anyway.When the kids run out of the house, Joel follows suit, and is abruptly plugged in the breadbasket by one of the officers.Norah cradles his dying body in her arms, puts on a "This place could use a StickUp!" face(this is what's known as 'conveying a soul transference' in the acting community, apparently), takes the stiletto from her brother's lifeless hand and turns upwards towards an attending cop nearby, now possessed herself.Freeze frame.Roll credits.
"Let's see...we've got some purple stuff, Sunny D, or your Uncle Joel's therapist's head??"
Hussein would feature prominently as one of the BBC's top directors over the next several decades.MacLaine has authored several books during her prolific acting career, while her real life brother, Warren Beatty, is nothing like her cinematic one, I would think.Ironically, she would be the basis for the Chris O'Neill character in The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, which would be released as a film a year later.King would go on to appear in tv-movie Deadly Visitor the following year, and score roles in Mandingo(1975), Lipstick(1976), and Bad(1977) before the decade was through.Veronica, Norah's maid, is played by Miriam Colon, who you'll remember as Tony Montana's mother in Scarface(1983).She looks pretty damned good here, too, if I might say so myself.Apparently, the dvd spares us the full sequence of the fully nude thirteen year old boy that's present in the theatrical cut and VHS release of the film.I dunno, what's left in was disturbing enough to me and I mean that in the least flattering way possible.Who shot this, Ulli Lommel? For most discerning horror fans, this thing gets long-winded in a hurry, with precious little action to keep them from D.T.F.O.-ing(dozing the fuck off) in the recliner, the sexy MacLaine, notwithstanding.Final Tally:No scares, no atmosphere, very little red stuff, and only One of these:
A stiletto, Shirley? How Latino of you...

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