6/2/09

Terrifying Tuesday: Mardi Gras Massacre (1978)

When I was looking at New Orleans based horror features for this week there were several I considered, Hatchet, Deadly Bees, and Zombies vs. Mardi Gras to name a few. Ultimately I settled on one because not only did the title intrigue me, but also it’s also a hard to find little gem (although you can get your own copy from our friends at Cinema de Bizarre). As I was saying the other day, there are certain things one can always expect in a film set in New Orleans, and today’s film is definitely no exception. It revolves around one of those tried and true formulas, but with some unexpected twists. So while it may be Terrifying Tuesday and not Fat Tuesday, I think we can all still enjoy….
Mardi Gras Massacre (1978) starring William Metzo, Curt Dawson, and Lisa Misch. Directed by Jack Weis. 

A series of bodies is being found in the streets of New Orleans. They belong to several of the prettiest, and most evil, hookers on Bourbon Street. Each of them has been ritually slain, and their hearts removed. It’s up to a couple of New Orleans cops to track down the killer who's making sacrifices to a South American goddess of evil. That is if they can stop him before he can make his final sacrifice on Mardi Gras. 

The Bugg Speaks

If the plot synopsis sounds weak and skimpy, that’s because this film is pretty light on the stuff to tell you the truth. However, if you like a cheesefest of a slasher, then it won’t take away from your enjoyment one bit. Mardi Gras Massacre will never be known for its scintillating dialog, but it will forever be remembered for being included in the infamous Video Nasties list. Yes, listed there alongside films like Zombi 2 and Cannibal Holocaust, is a film where the gore amounts to nothing more than a horribly fake disembowelment. Now believe you me you’ll see the same (or strikingly similar shots ) of gore repeated time and time again in MGM, but it never failed to amuse me each time to throw on a British accent and say something like, “No, no govn’r. We must not have the children watching this filth.” What can I say, I’m easily amused. 

Getting back to the film, while the ritual murders become somewhat repetitive, although pretty funny once you start anticipating the killer’s lines, there’s a fair amount here to like. Now when I say like, I do mean like in the kind of way you like a movie on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This flick begs you to invite some friends over, pop it in, and get ready to talk smack about the crap floating by on your TV screen.  I got a chance to watch this one with Ms. Directed and Fran Groia, and we had a hell of a time watching it. If I had watched it on my own, well, I’m not so sure if I would have felt the same. 

There are laughs a plenty to be had here. Take for example William Metzo who played the killer. It is deliciously hilarious as he goes out to find his victims. In each of the bars and Gentlemen’s Clubs that he stops in, he stiffly enquires of the pimps or bartenders which girls are “evil”. His speech almost has a British accent, and is full of so many pauses that it would make Shatner jealous. Then you have Curt Dawson as the mustachioed cop on the killer’s trail. Let me tell you this guy is a winner. He’s started dating a hooker, and mere moments after their love montage, Dawson’s cop is smacking her around the room. To say that the character’s motivations make no sense is an understatement, but to say that Dawson’s acting made it even worse is probably fair. I wish I could talk about the other actors in the film, but seeing as Mardi Gras Massacre was practically devoid of any credits other than the hastily made title card, there are only a few people I could identify.

One person I could identify was the director. Mardi Gras Massacre was helmed by Jack Weis who got his start in the movie industry by working as a regional distributor for B- grade films and nudie flicks. Weis thought he’d try his hand at directing and churned out a pair of southern dramas with a 1972 Mandingo style film called Quadroon and 1974’s Storyville. The in 1976 Weis made his first horror flick with The Crypt of Dark Secrets. It was first envisioned as a PG rated kiddy scare flick, but then it was re-edited with nudity and gore added. For his last feature, Weis turned to pure exploitation and ramped up the violence and nudity. He even got Lisa Misch, the 1975 Playmate of the Year, to take a small role as the killer’s first victim. Weis never made another film, and there is even some dispute as to what happened to Jack in the years that followed. While Mardi Gras Massacre is a thoroughly bad film, I still would have liked to know where Weis’ career might have taken him next. 

Proving to be one of my favorite parts of the film was the soundtrack provided by Westbound Records Entertainment, the label that was home for Funkadelic and the Ohio Players. While there are so many great variations on disco that I lost count, sadly, none of the tracks comes from either of those esteemed groups. Instead we get a collection of odd and rather interesting tracks. My two favorites had to be a song called “Big Booty” which crops up in a club scene, and then there’s the disco song that plays every time the killer  wants to get his sacrifice on. However the soundtrack’s low point also involves the killer. Anytime he was just being creepy in his apartment, it was accompanied by a swirling atmospheric track that would have felt more at home in a supernatural Italian tale. That being said, I would take up sacrifices of my own if it meant that I could get my hands on a copy of the soundtrack. It really was the perfect icing on cake (or more appropriately the baby in the King Cake). 

While the film is primarily relegated to a series of static shots in various interiors, Mardi Gras Massacre does manage to work in some nice exterior footage. The cop and his girlfriend take a stroll in Jackson Square, and then they sit down for some lunch in the Napoleon House. You also see some nighttime shots of Bourbon Street as the police canvas the area for the killer, and all in all not much has changed since the seventies. The street still seems to be lined with bars. Strip clubs, and the ever ubiquitous t-shirt shops. If you look closely while they are on Bourbon, you can even catch a glimpse of Big Daddy’s Gentleman’s Club and the swinging feet above the doorway. Plus they thankfully even give an exact location when the coppers lose their suspect at the corner of Charters and Madison. (Needless to say, look for a shot of that intersection on I Got the Ways and Means.) 

As far as horror films go, even with its reputation as a video nasty, there is very little that could be qualified as either graphic or scary in modern times. So if you want to be scared, then this is not the film for you. If you’d like to see a cheap, late ‘70’s slasher with a nonsensical plot, poor acting, and bad special effects, then this is the film for you, and let me tell you what, this is a film for me. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the film, so don’t let the Bugg Rating scare you. I’m going to give this an objective grade, but at the same time, let me say that for pure enjoyment, especially if you’ve got a couple of friends over, then Mardi Gras Massacre should be tops of your list. 

Bugg Rating



3 comments:

  1. Man, this sounds like a hoot! I've always wondered about this one, but never checked it out. I may have to hit up Cinema De Bizarre for this baby.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's good stuff. I had a blast watching it, and it is surely one I will go back to again.

    ReplyDelete
  3. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobJune 2, 2009 at 7:29 PM

    a superb reveiw of a film i`d never heard of (let alone seen), but what i liked most of course was the shot of the gorgeous naked chick posing on the table, i love images of gorgeous naked chicks.

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