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Wayne Crawford went on to become a successful producer, films like Valley Girl, Night of the Comet and others, even though he wasn't too terrific in this little Gem. And little known Abe Zwick should have gotten tons of work from this film but didn't. Filmed at Moberly Studios in Hollywood Florida, on the same lot the early Tarzan movies were filmed. This film is definitely for those who appreciate the abstract. The movie was originally shot with much more bloody graphic slasher scenes. For reasons only known to Tom Casey the Director, the bloody slasher scenes were given a tab of LSD, and replaced by Flash Editing. Even though this version is worthy of a look for those so inclined, in my opinion the original version would have packed the punch needed to make this a full on Slasher 70's Cult Classic.
Delightfully off-hand weirdness, AUNT MARTHA is archetypal of the anything-goes craziness of low-budget 70s cinema...a film so abstractly imagined and impulsively realized, it alights with a desultory otherness so reverently sincere that it steals a place in your heart usually reserved for awkwardly cross-bred puppies. Forgivable of its general inelegance, this is a fine specimen of a most exiguous film species.
Two small-time Baltimore crooks flee to Miami to hide out in a rented home in the suburbs - only, they aren't your ordinary petty thieves! No, sir! Instead, director/writer Thomas Casey has masterfully cast them as a gay couple, Paul (aka Aunt Martha) being the domineering, cross-dressing chief-boot-knocker, with Stanley as the callow, somewhat-submissive teen-hippie. Stanley (played by Wayne Crawford) is a child-like idiot (just turning nineteen) who, despite being wanted for murder, drives a colorful attention-grabbing van around (that actually has the word `door' painted on the door). And while he may indeed have a few character inconsistencies (a homosexual, coke-snorting hippie with hang-ups who knows how to deliver babies via C-section?), Paul (played beautifully by Abe Zwick in his only known role) is simply killer! He's got that over-the-top delivery that sometimes sounds ad-libbed, reminiscent of the many memorable characters of John Barrymore and Gene Wilder - mixing deadpan humor with over-enunciated words and psychotic facial expressions.
Partly to throw off the heat, Paul dons the guise of Stanley's "Aunt Martha," dressing in drag and doing the cooking and cleaning while Stanley jacks around with the Woodstock generation (drugged-out dudes in leather vests and skanky nude chicks). Extremely jealous (and tipping a hat to Hitchcock's `Psycho'), Aunt Martha then attempts to slice-and-dice any girls (referred to as whore, sluts, or bitches) trying to get in Stanley's snakeskin pants (which he never takes off throughout the film's entirety). Zwick's performance is a joy to watch and his dialogue is absolutely hilarious. He embodies elements of Vaudevillian slapstick, making even the subtle act of smoking a cigar a work of art! And the scene where Martha yells at the phone then throws darts at a poster of a girl's ass while swigging beer is priceless!
Another character, Hubert (Don Craig), shows up toward the end to make things even more baffling - he's a double-crossing heroin junkie in his 60s who once worked in a drug-store in Baltimore but, for some unknown reason, has followed our dynamic duo all the way to Miami (through the power of the Zodiac) because he has nowhere else to go (in reality, he's just another petty thief with horrible rationalization skills after some jewels). And, to make things even more bizarre, he's a junior astrologist bordering on analytical psychology.
The film drags on a little at the end (really, what's with that Caesarian section scene?) -- and should have been edited down a bit or reinforced with more crucial scenes, but director Thomas Casey has essentially (and effectively) crossed Truman Capote's `In Cold Blood' and `Psycho' with TV fare like `Bosom Buddies,' `The Odd Couple,' and `That '70s Show.' Now, he needs to turn this into a weekly series for HBO, or make a prequel that explains the whole odd arrangement. Or he could make a sequel that finds Paul surviving the gunshot wound and being released from prison thirty years later as a rehabilitated man (or so you'd think). The possibilities are endless!
`Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things' is easily one of the most interesting B-movies I've ever seen!
I dug up last year during a period of time when I was fascinated by "star" Wayne Crawford (here billed under his pseudonym Scott Lawrence), a maestro of what can only be called regional film-making, usually of the B grade variety. He's a writer, producer, director, and actor all in one, probably best known for the 80s teen apocalyptic favorite NIGHT OF THE COMET. Here he plays Stanley, the pants wearing half of a couple of truly marvelous characters, apparently homosexual spree killers on the lam after knocking off some old lady in Baltimore for her jewelry. Unsung screen legend Abe Zwick is completely convincing as Paul, who poses as Stanley's Aunt Martha, the cross dressing brains of the outfit who has conned Stanley into thinking he's committed murder to ensure his loyalty. Martha looks about as feminine as the sailors from SOUTH PACIFIC's supporting choir in their coconut bikini tops, yet somehow nobody seems to notice -- or care? -- that she is a he, has no visible means of income, seems to spend all day fretting about where Stanley is, and scurries around the neighborhood in her bathrobe carrying a butcher's knife. Only in America ...
As the film opens the two of them have just arrived in Florida and set up residence in what looks like Ward Cleaver's old house, a garishly lit & designed television home that is so cliché as to be surreal. During one memorable scene Martha and an unwelcome house guest sit on the couch, talk problems and drink cans of Budweiser in what is one of the most mesmerizing, subversively ordinary sequences I've ever seen outside of a John Waters movie. Then there's Stanley, always getting into trouble as he is a mop topped hippie with an STP patch on his vest who drives a psychedelic painted van that's about as subtle as the Batmobile, drinks his milk straight from the carton, snorts drugs with blond bombshell bimbos, and hoards donuts in an old cigar box for a quick snack. Opposites attract, I guess.
But Stanley also has a thing about not liking it when the young ladies he gets stoned with try to remove his pants, and it always seems to be up to Aunt Martha to get him out of the trouble that inevitably results. The bodies pile up, a nosy junkie blackmails them into using their house as a flop, Stanley's birthday cake gets squashed, and everybody meets down at the local pizza shop before heading to the wood shed on the back property for a hookah hash party where the girls dance in their underwear. Things get out of hand when one of the neighbors tries to get a bit too chummy with Martha, who naturally prefers to keep people at an arm's length when they rudely invite themselves over for a nice chat. And this is a woman who carries not just a butcher knife but a loaded .38 in her slip. Eventually the strange duo find themselves stuck with a body, a baby, and no place to go, and end up taking refuge at an abandoned movie studio where no doubt the technical crew borrowed the equipment used to make the film. I just hope they politely asked for permission first and cleaned up after themselves.
A word of course must be said about Stanley and Martha/Paul's relationship, since to dance around the fact that the two are at least suggested to be a homosexual couple would be to miss the primary gist of the plot. We never see the two of them get intimate and indeed even though Stanley mockingly refers to being "balled" in one scene, their relationship is more symbiotic than sexual. It certainly isn't a "gay" movie, with abundant female nudity and an air of 70s misogyny that cannot be denied either. Stanley & Paul never consummating their implied sexuality on screen, even though the movie certainly would have had the guts to do so if it were important. It isn't, the story isn't about their sex, it's about the bond they share, and how weird it is. Not their being gay, but their being the distinct individuals they are, who are two of the strangest movie creations ever to inhabit my TV set.
The film is unique. It was made for only a few thousand dollars on what look like borrowed studio sets, the occasional location work, and an couple of public locations they managed to sneak a camera crew into when nobody was looking. The dialog is completely bizarre, mundane and delightfully esoteric. It's a movie that will take you by surprise, not everyone will like it but for those with a taste for low budget American horror/thrillers like THE NIGHT GOD SCREAMED, HELP ME! I'M POSSESSED, BLOOD & LACE and CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, you've got yourself a winner here.
8/10: Usually I'd say something like "Deserves a DVD restoration" but somehow I think doing so would ruin the movie's tacky ambiance. And Wayne Crawford, you, sir, rule.
Writer/director Thomas Casey concocts an arrestingly off-kilter plot that offers a jarring and peculiar, yet still absorbing and enjoyable unholy mix of raw sudden violence, seething homo-eroticism (domineering homosexual Paul is clearly carrying a torch for the hopelessly awkward and inept Stanley), raging jealousy, freaky cross-dressing, and even some tasty gratuitous female nudity tossed in for trashy good measure. The fraught relationship between Paul and Stanley gives this picture an extra deliciously demented kick; the scenes with an enraged Paul scolding Stanley for being such a dope-addled screw-up are positively hysterical. Zwick and Crawford do sterling work in the leads; they receive sound support from Don Craig as bothersome down his luck junkie Hubert, Robin Hughes as alluring brunette Vicki, and Yanka Mann as pesky neighbor Mrs. Adams. Edmund Gibson's stark cinematography boasts a few funky psychedelic visual flourishes. The groovy film library score hits the sweet far-out spot. A delightfully singular doozy.
The film is about a couple of guys who may or may not be homosexuals. One of them likes to fool around with girls in endless nude and would-be sex scenes while the other dresses up as a woman and looks on resentfully. The horror comes from the post-coitus scenes in which the vulnerable women are subsequently stalked and slashed by the transvestite killer. Shades of PSYCHO are present in that premise, but the lousy execution and unfunny, over the top acting styles turned me right off. Things just sort of bumble along until the climax which is a joke by anybody's standards.