Mardi Gras Massacre 1978 Review
Mardi Gras Massacre 1978
Directed by: Jack Weis
Starring: Curt Dawson, Gwen Arment, William Metzo
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Of all the films that were banned in the United Kingdom during the Video-Nasty era of the eighties, Mardi Gras Massacre is probably the least notorious. It’s also one of the few that has remained on the rejection list, which isn’t because it’s extremely sickening or shockingly gory like so many of the titles that it shares its status with. It’s just that I doubt any distributor has had the heart (or the balls) to admit to wanting to resubmit it. The fact that it truly is a cinematic nightmare that’s so bad – well, It’s just bad – probably has quite a lot to do with the on-going abandonment.
Despite the somewhat suggestive title, a cover picture showing a hooded killer about to murder a bikini-clad bimbo and various misleading plot summaries that describe a masked maniac stalking the Mardi Gras festival, surprisingly this isn’t a traditional stalk and slash flick and instead plays like a rip-off of Blood Feast from 1962. It does however have enough platitudes to be considered a proto-slasher, which is why I have included it here. This would signal director Jack Weis’ last attempt at box office success and watching it through just once leaves it not too difficult to understand why. I’m betting – although I don’t know for sure – that this one emptied drive in theatres quicker than a terrorist bomb threat, creating a similar amount of disgust and animosity towards those responsible for the sudden evacuation.
For readers that still find themselves mysteriously allured to learning more about this long-erased from existence exploitation offering, let me tell you exactly what was going on over at the festival that particular year…
After a seemingly never-ending black screen displaying the title in what looks like Times New Roman fonts, the camera pans into a nightclub. That’s right, there’s no credit sequence or any kind of opening, it just dives straight into the, err, action. A smartly dressed guy enters a club and approaches two cheery hookers. He begins flashing a few bucks and tells them that he’s looking for something ‘special’. He asks them who they think is the most ‘evil’ woman in the bar tonight and they point out Shirley, a dark haired strumpet that’s seated at the opposite end of the dance-floor. He heads on over and asks her, ‘I have heard that you are the most evil woman in this room?’ To which she replies cheekily, ‘Listen honey, I could probably take first prize in any evil contest!’ So with that, a sale has been made and the two of them head back to the Gentleman’s apartment. I should make it clear now that we never learn this mysterious stranger’s name, but he looks like Robert Mitchum might have done if he’d been smashed in the face with a shovel repeatedly, so I’ll call him Bob.
Bob seems like a polite sort of guy, kind of like a bizarre throwback from the cinema era of the forties – complete with three piece suit, Bogart-worthy dialogue and even a dodgy brylcream-laden side-parting. (Or was it a toupee?)
Once inside his bachelor pad, he proposes that the couple retire to the next room to engage in something ‘special’. Although cinematically they’re only meant to be crossing the hallway, in reality, they must have hurried along to the nearest soundstage, (it was in fact a warehouse) because the room’s the size of a five-a-side football pitch.
The hooker doesn’t bat a fluttering eyelid to the fact that the décor resembles a satanic mausoleum and she’s even less concerned when Bob re-appears dressed from head-to-toe in traditional psycho garb, which includes a striking copper-mask. She strips naked and lies down on the bed, whilst the soon-to-become murderer gives her a massage to get her in the mood. Shirley’s clearly enjoying herself at this moment in time, so much so that she even remarks, ‘Maybe I should pay YOU for this.’
By now, I was rather scratching my head and considering re-evaluating this particular movie viewing experience. I mean, here I am watching a psychopath in full killer-costume massaging a hooker in her skin suit with her legs spread like a tonne of margarine. Eventually the tone is set, when Bob finally reveals his less than erotic motives. He ties the escort down and again begins asking her if she’s truly a naughty girl. (Kinky, eh?) Then he grabs a dagger and stabs her in the hand, remarking, ‘This hand accepted the money for evil.’ Next up, it’s her feet, presumably for transporting her to the place where she committed such…oh, you know… Finally, the masked menace performs a cack-handed autopsy, in order to remove the part of her that she uses for all this apparent wrongdoing. This sequence is undeniably the film’s gory highlight, which most probably single handedly got it added to the DPP list quicker than a moggy flees a rabies-ravaged Rottweiler. And no, it isn’t the ‘body part’ that you’re thinking of by the way – it’s her heart, actually.
Cue some chop-socky editing as we switch scenes and we see that poor old Shirley’s corpse is being loaded into an ambulance for her last journey in an automobile. Kudos to Bob – the artistic maniac, who tried to disguise his work by dumping her body in the middle of a set of train tracks. Whether the 10.30 to New Orleans Central splattered her across the landscape we’ll never know, but still, ten out of ten for creativity.
We then head over to the morgue, where we meet the town coroner and the two nincompoop detectives that are soon to be on the case of the bizarre ritualistic killer. Seeing how this was released during the ‘do you feel lucky’ era of grizzled lawmen on the edge like Dirty Harry, Serpico and Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle, we explore the notion that cop and killer are two sides of a similar jaded coin. This particular psychopath may not be the kind of guy that women would want to spend too much time alone with and he may not possess the warmest of intentions towards naughty natured hookers, but at least he’s not a woman-bashing light-fingered alcoholic, which is more than can be said for our male-protagonist. Just to think, he was supposed to be on the righteous side of the law. Anyway, he heads out to interview a few of Shirley’s buddies, which results in him meeting Sherry (Shirley, Sherry – all we need is a Shelly and we could have an alternative to the Three Degrees.) Sherry is yet another of the town’s down and out sex-sales-women, and she arouses more than just the suspicions of Sergeant Mike Abraham – our very own Dirty Harry. The two begin a relationship, which punctures the plot of Bob and his sacrificial slaughters. It also results in a bad movie moment straight from the abyss of the largest cheese dairy in the universe. After the two have a heated argument, Sherry heads down to the local discotheque to drown her sorrows the old fashioned way. Among other things, she fights with a couple of bimbos, shows John Travolta how it is really done by clearing the dance-floor and boogieing like a Bee Gee on speed and then ends up getting dragged away by the local constabulary. A good night all round then!
Meanwhile, Bob is busy working his way through the Mardi Gras band of gold, repeating the same gore effect ad naseum. At one point, he even makes one naked hooker do a ballet routine in her patterned knickers. After he’s watched her performance and come to the conclusion that this particular youngster was two cans short of a six-pack, he feels a tad of sympathy and tells her to get out of his house. She almost becomes the one that got away, but at the last moment, he changes his mind and she ends up becoming just another hokey gore effect to add to the collection.
Next we finally learn the true motives for this sacrificial killing spree. Apparently, he offers the victims to an Aztec goddess in order to receive super-human powers, which brought me to the conclusion that he possesses all these exceptional abilities, but acting is still something that he hasn’t quite got to grips with. The festival comes around and if you hadn’t already guessed, Dirty Harry ends up chasing the Aztec warrior through the carnival, while passers-by stare blankly into the camera, completely unaware that they were unpaid extras in the biggest pile of cheese that was released during horror’s heyday. Does the lawman prevent any re-occurrence or sequels from emerging years down the line? Well now, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
On the surface at least, Mardi Gras Massacre offers everything the fans of exploitation find so immensely appealing. Graphic gore, excessive nudity, a masked maniac and the added bonus of a ‘video-nasty’ disqualification – it’s all here for the taking baby! But scratch beneath that glossy veneer and what you’re left with is a vial of tedium-drenched campiness that is so beguilingly awful that it almost defies description.
Now I’m the last one to stand up for political correctness and often I wonder how stringent our ancestors will be forced to live their day to day lives in years to come. The problem is that MGM is so shamefully misogynistic that if it were released today, I’m sure it would cause women’s rights activists to bend over backwards in disgust. The lowlights of all this anti-feminism include: A heavy-handed detective with a fetish for call-girls, a maniac that enjoys spending his time disemboweling them and a lowlife hooker as the film’s female protagonist. Come to think of it, every woman in the damn thing was classed as either a) a dishonest slapper or b) an under achiever worthy only of an autopsy by dagger. Does anyone get the feeling that Jack Weis had something deep-rooted against the fairer sex of the species?
One thing that I noticed about this stinker is the fact that it tries to include everything that was in demand around the mid to late seventies. There’s disco music and THAT hilarious scene to tickle fans of Saturday Night Fever. Then there is the grizzled cop I told you about earlier and of course the satanic references to stay in vogue with The Omen et al. But Weis is such a shamelessly poor director, that he fails to make use of any of the clichés that he steals and to be honest, the film is so tedious that even the copious amount of gore scenes don’t salvage it
If heinous acting, a soundtrack straight from a seventies porno and a director that must’ve been absent from the entire shoot add up to your idea of a great movie, then there’s no doubt that Mardi Gras Massacre will be like the winning lottery ticket for you. But if like me, you value your movie-viewing experiences, leave this one nestling in the suburbs of obscurity until the end of time. It really doesn’t deserve to be kept anywhere else.
Mardi Gras Massacre is a cheesetastic Grindhouse rarity that will have you gobsmacked at its ineptness, but in fits of laughter at some of its attempts at being a sinister horror effort. I cannot really recommend it to anyone seriously but for those that like a laugh it needs to be seen to be believed.
Final Girl √