Saturday, June 1, 2013

"Deadly Blessing"(1981) d/ Wes Craven

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The Hit(tite)s just keep a' comin as we'll kick off June and travel to root beer country in examining tonight's minor 1981 cult fave from genre director Wes Craven, an odd blend of religious zealotry and the supernatural with appearances from cult icon Michael Berryman, Sharon Stone, Maren Jensen, and most memorably of all,  perhaps, Ernest Borgnine-in-Pa. Dutch chin. The resulting affair is surprisingly moody and grim and one I sat through several times in the cable box era and re-watched several more on videotape as an aspiring horrorphile in the early eighties, until finally taping over it for some Saturday night MTV concert, you know, back when that channel actually played music? There I go, sounding like the neighborhood wallet-necks I used to get under the skin of back in the day again. Now, thanks to those diamond bastards at Shout Factory, who've lovingly re-released the film in a deluxe edition on dvd and Blu-ray with more extras than you can shake a scythe at,  you can discover this one for yourselves, as well...

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"I couldn't help my impure thoughts, father, did you see how plain she was??"
When Hittite leader Isaiah Schmidt's (Borgnine) son Jim is runneth over by his own tractor, things go from bad to worse for his pregnant widow, Martha (Maren Jensen), left to tend their farm alone and shunned by the simple religious townsfolk as a succubus(!),  for luring one of  their flock away in the first damned place. Now, Martha's attractive and all, but it's her buddy Lana (Stone) that's genuine sex vamp material here if you ask me. It turns out that Martha's not the only one the zealots dig pestering, as Louisa's daughter Faith (Lisa Hartman) is often chased around the fields and called a succubus herself by a scripture-spouting slowpoke named William (Berryman). Hold on one butter-churning minute, you Hittites, all these dames can't be succubi, can they?

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"I never get to churn the butter!" barks William (Michael Berryman).
When Lana and Vicky (Susan Buckner) show up to lend support to their girlfriend, it all goes to Hell in a horse-drawn buggy. Vicky develops designs on Isaiah's son John (Jeff East), and William mysteriously turns his toes up out in the barn as he's shivved in the back, adding more fuel to the Mennonites' manias. It gets weirder yet when Lana has vivid recurring dreams about being forced to swallow a live spider as it parachutes down into her mouth, held open by anonymous hands.An inquisitive snake turns up in Martha's bathwater, and John's roadside makeout sesh with the Vickster ends with bladed stabwound death for him, trapped gas tank explosion death for her. In the end, Louisa turns out to be nuttier than a Snickers, and Faith turns out to be a maaaan, baby, leading to a knock-out, drag down, ahem... finale.

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"Funny, this doesn't taste like a Haplopelma Albopilosum...."
Craven would follow this one up with Swamp Thing(1982), before scoring genre immortality two years later with A Nightmare on Elm Street. Hartman, who had a minor recording career of her own in the late seventies, ended up raising a family with country superstar Clint Black. Pennsylvania native/"Basic Instinct" muff shot, Sharon Stone is still hot, by God . Though Blessing is no masterpiece by anyone's standards, it's packed with enough flair and atmosphere to merit a respectable two big ones on the scale. Check it out.

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"Hey lady, why you wearing bikini bottoms in the bathtub??"
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