PLACER SANGRIENTO/1967/EMILIO VIEYRA
I actually had searched for some time online for a good Bittorrent or Rapidshare file before finding this on one of my secret sites. This film originally played as a double feature with Rene Cardona’s Night of the Bloody Apes and both are available as a double feature DVD by Seattle’s infamous Something Weird Video. I had originally intended to do a double feature post on Night of the Bloody Apes and Feast of Flesh but nixed the idea when the first version of Feast of Flesh I downloaded was in Spanish with no subs. I finally got a nifty English dubbed version that is pretty watchable if you’re the type of person that can watch a film like this in the first place regardless of the print quality. It seems to be that while the film is pretty spacey and downright incoherent most of the time it is the type of movie I like watching at about two in the morning on the sofa when my mind is half in this world and the next anyway and the effects of such a film act like a psycho-tropic drug on what few brain cells are still functioning.
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The movie is easy to pan and deride, as it usually is to extreme degrees, but it has some really interesting moments and is a creepy stalker film that seems to be working with a psycho-stalker formula that is more derived from the Italian style Giallo style films than of the suspense thrillers from America or Britain at the time. The film was made in 1965, but not released in the States until ’67, and while shot in some small but swanky coastal town in Argentina the dubbed version I watched infers the action takes place in Los Angeles. Actually what happens is a police officer mentions that the character Betsy, played by Beltran, is from a small town south of LA but the tone of the conversations seems to imply that they are all near LA themselves. Beltran’s character is nameless at IMDB but credited as Luisa, not Betsy, at a Spanish language film site called Cineconional
I will assume this is the name of the original character before being dubbed. Furthermore she is confusingly nicknamed Bebe or Beba in the film-her real name sounding like Besty Lou or something as out of place- but Gloria Prat’s character (Prat plays a small supporting role in this film actually) is listed at IMDB as Laura ‘Beba’ Villegas. More confusing is the fact that it is after one in the morning and I am actually researching this mess as if in the end I will have cleared up some arcane and yet profound mystery. In any case I am certain the lead character is Susana Beltran and she is called something that sounds like Beba in the film, regardless of what it says at IMDB.
Whoever she is and where ever she is from does not really matter one way or the other since this story seems to take place in another world altogether anyway. For example, if Beba grew up south of LA why does she have a thick Blanche Dubois style southern drawl? The actors use hip lingo, calling each other “cat”, and act mod and liberated but look like the typical thirty or over adult that is the norm for movie teenagers of this time period it seems. The camera work and lighting is not really too bad and the scenes are usually shot in a sharp contrast that I prefer to something grainy, washed out and gray looking. The outdoor night shots are done well enough and there is well controlled back lighting through mist effects in many of the night scenes. Of course the film has plenty of problems and I am certain most people will just not get it (if there is in fact anything to get other than vertigo) but connoisseurs of unintentionally bad films will eat this baby up. And speaking of eating it up the US title of Feast of Flesh is pretty misleading as there is no gore in the film and while there are some sexy moments (including some over the sweater boob groping and girls rubbing other girl’s breasts over bikini tops) you could hardly say there is anything overtly lewd in the film. The original title of Placer Sangriento seems to translate as Pleasures of Blood or Bloody Pleasures and even that is not doing the film justice. The other US title is the double entendre loaded The Deadly Organ and that too is a tad goofy in my opinion. While there is some trance inducing music in the film, except for a couple scenes, it is not really a solo organ for the most part but rather some slow, spacey lounge music that seems pretty innocuous for the most part. I used the original Spanish title for the post since it sounded mysterious and foreign.
The story is a simple enough Giallo inspired whodunit type thriller with a masked killer luring pretty young girls to their deaths with the above mentioned “deadly organ” bossa nova tune. They become entranced somehow from the music and wander with a zombie like stare in their eyes to their seductions and eventual deaths at the hand of the guy with not only a rubber mask but matching rubber gloves as well. It s never explained how it is the music gains this effect over the girls. The means of death is a lethal injection of heroin that is rammed into the victim’s chest with a huge hypodermic needle. There seems to be a period of seduction and courting between the killer and victim and they all speak longingly of him during subsequent police interviews. And that brings me to the topic of the cops and particular lead detective Inspector Ernesto Lauria who has arrived to assist in the investigation of the recent murder of a girl on the beach. We are treated to the murder in the opening moments of the film along with a couple of clueless and hip talking locals. We also get to see a swinging party where Beltran’s character does a topless go go dance to some wild bongo laden pop music. I guess no swinging party was complete without bongos back then. The camera also pans over the faces of spaced out party revelers, any who could be the killer I guess. The film really tries to juggle way to many characters and Inspector Lauria quickly only seems interested in juggling Beba’s bountiful assets. In one scene she is actually in the process of being raped by the beach victim’s fiancée and Lauria only watches from a distance and not only does not intervene but chastises her for being a tease. He does turn his back while she gets dressed so he is okay. In another scene he somehow concludes he must use “lysergic acid” (LSD) as a truth serum on a girl who is one of the killer’s hypnotized concubines. Does not seem to help much.
I have to be honest I really could not always follow what was going on and who was who. Almost every minor female character, and one male, introduced in the beginning of the film is killed off by the masked man who seems to have little trouble getting away with one brutal homicide after another within walking distance of his beachside bungalow. I mentioned above that the film is similar to the influential Italian Giallo (yellow) films that were still in their infancy after Mario Bava’s groundbreaking Blood and Black Lace and while some people reject this comparison I feel it is accurate enough. You have a masked and mysterious killer who will no doubt be reveled in the films final moments to be either some major character you who you are not supposed to suspect but usually do or some minor character who had two lines of dialog in the first twenty minutes of the films and then vanishes until the end when their mask is pulled off. The killer may or may not use a specialized weapon in the murders but usually they do. The camera often focuses on the hands of the killer with the weapon and the death scenes can focuses on the lurid aspects of the death and its details to a gratuitous degree. The stories are often too complex for their own good and atmosphere plays more of a role than does cogent narrative. All those elements are here and while the storyline is mostly vague and even downright goofy at times there is a strange and surreal quality to the film that I enjoyed at times. I never found myself disliking the film. Beltran is great to look at and the scenes of the cops playing the 45 rpm record looking for clues and significance and suddenly all but exclaiming “eureka” are some classic bad movie police moments, but far from the worst I have seen. And how bad can these cops be? they give innocent, potential witnesses free LSD. The killer winds up being a less than minor character in the film but it is no surprise really. Beba becomes a target for the psycho after her new cop boyfriend Detective Lauria decides to use her as bait. Gives witnesses LSD, watches passively as Beba is molested and blames her then uses as untrained bait in a homicide case. This guy is a keeper in my book. She winds up wandering in a hypnotic daze as the not really that strange music plays on the beach on a quaint little portable record player. The killer gets blasted and his mask is removed as we are treated to flashbacks of dialog that tie it all together as Beba and Luisa walk off into the night arm in arm.