Monday, March 28, 2016

"Symptoms" (1974) d/ Jose Ramon Larraz

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Of the two genre films that cult director Jose' Ramon Larraz completed in 1974, the sapphic and graphic Vampyres is more well known, and thus, easier to come by, but it's his other, more subdued effort that year that we'll focus upon tonight here at the Wop. As the story goes, Symptoms was entered into the Cannes Film Festival that year, vanished and showed back up on British television very briefly in the eighties, and lived on as washed out-looking bootleg rips from the VHS days, with all original source materials allegedly missing or destroyed, at least until the folks at Mondo Macabro announced that they'd secured the negatives and a remastered special edition Blu-ray was scheduled for release this coming spring. The film stars Angela Pleasance, the eldest of Donald's five daughters, who has appeared in things like Hitler: His Last Ten Days (1973), From Beyond the Grave (1974), and The Godsend (1980), all while being a dead ringer for her father, a man who brought many memorable antagonists to the big screen during his own career.

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In his new female disguise, Blofeld has taken to stroking a different type of pussy, indeed.
Anne (Lorna Heilbron) is invited to spend some time at a decaying, remote, old estate in the English countryside by her timid, reclusive friend, Helen (Angela Pleasence), an odd bird with an affinity for horticulture and paper doll cutting. She fancies burning them in the fireplace, directly afterwards. Might want to take note of that. The pixie-coiffed, chain smoking Anne has had a recent row with her beau, and volunteers to help rehabilitate her sheltered mate, despite her ambiguity towards the current whereabouts of her last live-in partner, Cora (Marie-Paule Mailleux), who may or may not be the spectral dame intently flitting around the swampy grounds in wisps of mysterious fog. The groundskeeper, Grady (Peter Vaughn), offers very little in the way of calming reassurance, creeping about and eyeballing the troubled woman from a distance.

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Anne (Lorna Heilbron) brings Former Lee Warmer a midnight snack.
Extended periods of tedium lead Anne to venture out of her quarters after dark, seeking the source for eerie late night moans of despair, only to find the delicate mouse double-clicking her own mouse in her own chambers. Masturbation aside,  there's still the matter of a mysterious locked door in said bedroom, that inevitably leads to attic filled with dark secrets. Don't they all, really? Her curiosity peaked, she investigates further, after a secret reconciliation with her boyfriend in town, which Helen has taken to look upon with disdain, having developed a bit of a crush on the old girl, in the process. She ascends to the attic, finding Cora's luggage neatly stored away in a corner. Didn't she leave earlier? If she's gone, why has she left her belongings behind...oh boy. I can see where this is all leading, and you can too, now, very soon,  thanks to the thorough chappies at Mondo Macabro.

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Making late night jam sandwiches leads to the arrival of jam sandwiches (see: slang). 
I should also mention Angela has shown up more recently in Scorsese's Gangs of New York (2002), though I haven't picked her out in all the times I've viewed it yet, sadly. Giovanni Lombardo Radice, I singled out immediately. Go figure. You've probably noticed Peter Vaughn in things like Ken Russell's Savage Messiah (1972), Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971), and more recently, BBC's Doc Martin series. I look forward to revisiting this one when the new release drops, as I'm sure the improved quality will intensify an impactful feeling of claustrophobia and atmosphere that one can only hint upon in a ghosty, washed out vhs dub like mine. The shitty print and sometimes painfully slow build to this effort force me to lay a median deuce upon it, though I surely enjoyed it, already a fan of the Larraz films I've seen to date. Check it out!

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No need to drive this one crazy, she's already there.
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