Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wicked, Wicked (1973) - Odd Murder Spoof

A lot of brainpower went into this odd horror spoof, but that doesn't make this a great film. It is predictable, full of absolutely atrocious acting, and has unaccountably drab cinematography for a film set at one of the most scenic spots in California, the historic Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. You may still like it, just be aware that the film is difficult to enjoy due to its distracting gimmicks and lack of suspense.

This is ... Anamorphic Duovision!

David Bailey stars as a sort of Matt Helm playboy type, Rick Stewart, who is down on his luck and reduced to working as a hotel detective. It's not hard to see why he's down on his luck, as it turns out there is a homicidal maniac running around unnoticed while Rick beds down every cashier he can seduce. Eventually, though, the killer becomes too obvious and Rick has to tear himself (temporarily) away from the arms of his latest conquest. There isn't any suspense, the killer is revealed practically from the start, but in any event the killer is probably the most obvious suspect in the hotel.

I think this lounge singer looks amazingly like Liz Phair, 20 years in advance

The most striking thing about the film is its duo-vision, a split-screen format that is used throughout, which must have been an absolute bear to edit into a coherent whole. This involves showing both ends of a telephone conversation, two different angles of people having a chat, that sort of thing. At times it is slyly humorous, as when the killer (Randolph Roberts) states on one half of the screen to the hotel's lounge singer and his intended prey (Tiffany Bolling) that he studies chemistry, while the other side shows him reading "The Chemistry of Embalming." Mostly, though, it is redundant and irritating ("Call the police," the helpful hotel engineer played by spry old Arthur O'Connell is told, then we have to watch him actually do it).

Well, I know that I am scared....

There is a running gag, if you can call it that, of having an organist playing the theme to 1925's "Phantom of the Opera" throughout. (A headline at the conclusion calls the killer, who hid out in unknown spots in the hotel, the "Phantom of the Attic," in case anyone misses the point.) The organist bit also is humorous at moments (the music swells uncontrollably when Tiffany starts undressing, for example), though the effect is probably less than intended. In fact, that's the problem with the entire film, for all the thought that went into this production, the end result is much, much less than the sum of the parts. It's as if it were a comedy created by scientists, the concept is great, the execution is dreadful.

Imagine the entire movie looking like this.

This is an interesting curiosity piece. Tiffany sings with the husky, sexy breathy quality that was popular in the early 1970s, but the tunes she is given are awful. As a singer, she's a pretty girl, and that's about it. If you're a fan, great, but she's not pretty enough to carry this flick otherwise.

It's a gimmick film, worth seeing once perhaps for curiosity's sake.

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