Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wicked, Wicked (1973) - Odd Murder Spoof

Wicked, Wicked Duo-vision

A lot of brainpower went into odd horror spoof "Wicked, Wicked" (1973), 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.

Wicked, Wicked Duo-vision
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. As the old saying goes, a blind man with a cane could see how this turns out.

Wicked, Wicked Duo-vision Tiffany Bolling
I think this lounge singer character played by Tiffany Bolling looks amazingly like Liz Phair, 20 years in advance

The most striking thing about the film is its "anamorphic duovision," 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, one person doing nothing watching another singing, that sort of thing. At times the technique 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 run and do it). Is it really helping matters to have one side of the screen showing Tiffany Bolling singing an entire mediocre song while the other shows the killer watching her sing the song? You keep looking from one side of the screen to the other waiting for something significant to happen on either - but nothing does.

Wicked, Wicked Duo-vision
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 hides 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 not what was 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.

Wicked, Wicked Duo-vision
Imagine the entire movie looking like this. It is all about juxtapositions, but mainly meaningless ones.

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 just okay... for a tourist lounge. As a singer, she's a pretty girl, and that's about it, though she does vamp it up. If you're a fan, great, but she's not enough to carry this flick otherwise (I much preferred her in "Kingdom of the Spiders" with William Shatner).

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


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