Monday, 29 August 2011

Video Nasty #31 - Mardi Gras Massacre

"Un film trouvé à la ferraille" as Jean-Luc Godard might have said...

The UK VHS tape of Mardi Gras Massacre sports one of the great sleeves of the Video Nasties - a bikini clad busty blonde menaced by a shadowy, hooded maniac with a switchblade. Sadly, this fabulous piece of Exploitation artwork is the best thing about the film, but if you like wooden acting, a nonsensical storyline, porno-style production values and ultra cheap splatter, this 1978 abomination might be just for you.


Mardi Gras Massacre is less a film than a crime scene, the ritual sacrifice storyline stolen from Blood Feast, and relentlessly murdered by absurd plotting. At least HG Lewis devised a somewhat plausible set-up for Connie Mason to fall into the maniac's hands, in Mardi Gras Massacre, logic is casually discarded when the prostitute who's already met the killer, later goes with him seemingly oblivious to his identity - incredible considering actor William Metzo couldn't be anything but a killer, oozing Boris Karloff creepiness from every pore. Even a scene where he orders some take away for his next victim sounds sinister, the order delivered in a deathly tone. The killer's penchant for sacrificing harlots offers up some real howlers - at one point the killer inquires "Of all the ladies in this bar tonight which one do you think is the most...evil ?" and in another exchange one unwitting victim seals her fate with "Listen honey, I could probably take first prize in any evil contest"


In its favour Mardi Gras Massacre is rarely boring, the film is busy enough with the exploits of the bonehead cops assigned to catch the killer, but between the gore sequences much of the films seems completely pointless - at one point there's a disco-dancing sequence thrown in for no good reason other than to riff on Saturday Night Fever, and in another moment the cops are seen shaking down a nutty tap-dancing street man. There's also a bizarre scene where the killer negotiates with an unlikely pimp named Catfish (?) for a new victim, the pimp speaking entirely in rhyme between bouts of scat singing - I'm the Fish, what is your wish ? Be-bop da-dee-da You're a rude dude, it will take more than talk or I'll take a walk, Be-bop da-dee-da". Worth mentioning also is Mardi Gras Massacre's eccentric soundtrack - for the most part sounding like a Blaxpoitation film, but the sacrificial scenes are accompanied by a weird ominous synthesizer piece that mutates into an avant-funk workout not dissimilar to something found on a Cabaret Voltaire album.


It's been said that the film makers have recycled the same gore effect for the murder set pieces which is not quite true - the prosthetic torso that the killer scoops around in, differs from scene to scene but director Jack Weis lazily films each of the sacrifices using almost the exact same sequence of shots, the camera positioned in the exact same spot every time. Another clumsy aspect of the film is the editing, which at times defies basic cinematic rules - take for instance the scene where the killer spikes some hookers' drinks. We see a shot of the women drinking the sedative laced potion, then it jump cuts to the same women conked out on the floor, with no dissolve in between to signal a time-shift has occurred. Perhaps it was the work of a scissor happy distributor, but the film does have it's fair share of fractured chronology.


There is a DVD of Mardi Gras Massacre available in the US but this is to be avoided, ridicolously overpriced, the transfer is strictly VHS-level and a bad one at that. Fortunately Code Red are releasing the film in September with superior picture quality and among the extras announced is an interview with William Metzo. You have been warned !

2 comments:

  1. Too late! I saw this on an American VHS with the same sleeve picture after visiting New Orleans and wanting to see any depictions of the city on film. I think that VHS was cut to add to its murky non-appeal. I would watch this again with a proper presentation - but I'm not itching to.

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  2. I don't think anyone is itching to see this one again Craig, and this like Forest of Fear (although not quite to that degree) should have slipped into obscurity it so richly deserves... For anyone else looking for vistas of New Orleans try Angel Heart, Herzog's Bad Lieutenant, Panic In the Streets, to name but a few !

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