Inspired If Slow Debut by "Vixen Highway" Director John Ervin
It's a shame this little known debut by "Vixen Highway" director John Ervin did not get more attention. It's slow-paced and crude, but definitely an inspired little gem that in some ways is superior to "Vixen Highway." Instead of paying tribute to an obvious target like Russ Meyer, Ervin here chose the more original source of German expressionist films of the 1920's and early 1930's ("Blue Angel", "Metropolis", "Nosferatu").
The film, mind you, does not take place in this period or in Germany - pretty impossible for a low-budget 16mm feature shot in Minneapolis - but instead takes place in contemporary times. It concerns a Senator from Michigan, staying at a hotel in Minneapolis (1997 Minneapolis, that is), who is visited by a woman he believes is Satan and hounded by a desk clerk he thinks is spying on him. The "Berlin" aspect is shown through
the exquisite black-and-white photography and stark contrasty lighting. It's also shown through endless references to Germany - everyone has a classically "German" name and various products (shaving razors and household cleansers) and other names (sports teams, venues) also have names which in many cases are references to German silent cinema heroes.
The acting in the film varies quite a bit. By the far the best of the lot are Tom Nordyke as the Senator - sort of a cross between Michael Douglas and Bill Clinton - and Shyla Weaver as Ilsa - who, in turn, is a cross between Monica Lewinsky and Tura Satana! The character of the desk clerk is a lot of fun as written - a supposed temp who turns out to be the head of a clean-freak cult and constantly rails against the "whore" up in the politician's room. However, as played by Patrick Metzdorff, the character comes off as less funny than it could have been. John Ervin's direction also bears all the marks of a first-timer who did not give enough input to his actors.
Nonetheless, the film is worth checking out for those who love silent films, not just German ones, and want to see a perverted new twist on them. And it's definitely a treat for those who long for the days when low-budget indies were actually shot on FILM and not DIGITAL VIDEO (like, for instance, "Vixen Highway!")!
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