70s movies

Don’t Go Near the Park

Don’t be fooled by Don’t Go Near the Park. While it sounds like the other “don’t” films, don’cha know* (many of which we’ve covered here, including Don’t Go in the Woods, Don’t Answer the Phone!, Don’t Look in the Basement) it’s actually far from being a straight-ahead stalk ‘n’ slash. In fact, it’s far from being straight-ahead.

You see, Don’t Go Near the Park features immortal cannibal cave people, with a story so byzantine it makes Finnegans Wake look like Ten Little Indians.

Like its slasher brethren, DGNTP features an insane prologue. However, instead of merely going back a generation to explain how being forced to put on a dress turned Little Johnny into a wide-eyed campground Stabby McGee 15 years later, this film takes us back 12,000 years ago.

Picture it: humans lived by torchlight. In caves. Wearing loin-cloths. And they spoke English (who knew?)

We are introduced to cave-siblings, (Patty and Gar) who are somehow cursed to drink human blood in order to quell sped-up aging (ten years for every one). And in order to speed up the plot, the viewer is catapulted to the present, and then vaulted 16 years ahead after that.

Gar rents a room from a landlady (played by horror icon Linnea Quigley, best known for being antler bait in Silent Night, Deadly Night) in the time-honored fashion: walking in on her in the shower (!). Despite this breach of etiquette, he isn’t immediately sent packing in favor of another prospective tenant, but actually is allowed to rent the place (after which, they become a couple).

The 16-year narrative jump is for their teen daughter, the hilariously named Bondi (that’s “Bond-ee,” not like the beach, dear Aussie readers) who’s the apple of daddy’s eye. She’s ostensibly birthed so that Gar and his sister can feast on a virgin. Possibly. This requires a second and maybe a third viewing for further clarification, as the two seem to feast just fine on random people.

To plug the narrative gaps, there’s some exposition aplenty, provided by a somewhat confused local historian, Mr. Taft (the legendary Aldo Ray) who regales an orphan boy with tales of the “demons of Las Filas?” and who voices the film’s titular warning (odd, given there are two separate parks where Gar feasts on his victims, both of which don’t meet any definition of what most would consider a “park”).

With effects that wouldn’t pass muster at the HG Lewis School of Film-making, inappropriate nudity, head-scratching performances, and histrionic wailing like “You never gave me gold!” Don’t Go Near the Park is a bona-fide cult classic and a fascinating bit of gonzo cinema.

*** (out of 5)

[Listen to our podcast discussion of Don’t Go Near the Park]

[*Editor’s note: Many “Don’t” films were added to the Video Nasties list]

Psychomania

psychomania_poster

Death, transcendence, rebirth. Who would’ve thought such richly religious themes would inhabit Psychomania, on the surface, a corn-ball British biker exploitation flick?

That’s the beauty of genre cinema…

Directed with a keen eye by Don Sharp,  known for The Kiss of the Vampire (1962), Rasputin, the Mad Monk (1965) and The Face of Fu Manchu (1966), Psychomania was produced by Benmar Productions, who were also responsible for one of our site favorites, Horror Express.

Flaxen-haired Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) is the leader of a gang, not so much tough-as-railspikes bikers, but more juvenile delinquent types (they’re too good-looking to be 1%er outlaws, and living at home certainly cramps their style).

However, don’t let their looks deceive: they do get up to a bit of that ultra violence a la the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange, running over the elderly, and bowling over women pushing prams.

Tom heads up The Living Dead (yeah, we know) terrorizing Surrey and generally behaving like a nuisance.

They not only commit the carnage described above, but dabble in the Satanic arts. Mom, and family (including the mysterious butler Shadwell) hold séances in the home, and are part of some amphibian-worshiping cult.* Suffice it to say, the frog is a perfect metaphor for inhabiting two liminal realms, in the case of the slimy critters, water, but also land.

With the help of Mom, Tom comes back to the land of the living after committing suicide, returning, much to the surprise of his colleagues, as a member of the “undead.”

George Sanders is the odd-ball Butler Shadwell, and is perhaps best known for his turn as Jack Favell in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Rebecca.

Bottom line: With its quirk, psychedelia, and rich 70s score, Psychomania is a weird gem and endlessly fascinating.

*** (out of 5)

[CHECK OUT OUR PSYCHOMANIA PODCAST!]

[Editor’s note: For an interesting discussion about frog metaphysics (!), check out this chat with the University of Toronto’s Dr. Jordan Peterson].