Feb 26, 2017

The Devil’s Cleavage

Although I have somewhat mixed feelings, I have to concur with many of his fans that Slavic-American sod auteur George Kuchar (Hold Me While I'm Naked, Symphony for a Sinner)—arguably the most lovably degenerate filmmaker that has ever lived—created most of his greatest and most idiosyncratic cinematic works before he left his hometown the Bronx and relocated to San Francisco and became a perennial professor at San Francisco Art Institute where he would stay for the rest of his relatively singular life. Indeed, one might assume that relocating to the virtual homo capital of the world would have been artistically beneficial to a homosexual filmmaker, yet Kuchar’s early keenly kaleidoscopic no-budget masterpieces like Hold Me While I'm Naked (1966), Eclipse Of The Sun Virgin (1967), and Pagan Rhapsody (1970), among various others, certainly demonstrate otherwise. Still, Kuchar did manage to direct a couple of unequivocal classics during his first decade or so again in SF, including the masterful The Devil's Cleavage (1973), A Reason To Live (1976), the rather underrated Forever And Always (1978), and The Nocturnal Immaculation (1980). In fact, it was not until his one-time-student turned great-love, hyper hedonistic queer filmmaker Curt McDowell (Loads, Sparkle's Tavern), died of AIDS in 1987 that Kuchar’s artistic evolution seemed to end and that he got lazy and satisfied making relatively generic shot-on-video student films. While one could certainly argue that the digital dioramas featured in one of Kuchar's later works like Secrets of the Shadow World (1999) have a certain anachronistic schlock appeal, the film seems like a lethally kitschy piece of grating aesthetic autism compared to something as visually alluring and strikingly hermetic as Eclipse Of The Sun Virgin.

In terms of sheer ambitiousness and intrinsic cinematic insanity, Kuchar’s rare feature-length film The Devil's Cleavage is arguably the filmmaker’s magnum opus and certainly one of the great unhinged masterpieces of the American underground.  Indeed, it is hard to argue that Hold Me While I'm Naked is superior to the fecal-flavored tragedy and chiaroscuro-laden doom and gloom of Kuchar's bizarrely ballsy black-and-white feature.  Modestly described by Kuchar himself as “an impressionistic series of romantic set pieces filmed in seedy interiors,” the innately fucked feature reeks of perverse pulchritude and grotesque glamor, as if the aberrant auteur was attempted to direct something as ethereally beauteous as an avant-garde flick directed by French auteur Marcel Hanoun like L'été (1968) meets Josef von Sternberg's Shanghai Express (1932) for morally retarded John Waters fans and Troma turds. A sort of all-the-more-eccentric big sister film to the Kuchar penned and McDowell directed black-and-white pornographic cult horror classic Thundercrack! (1975), the film is equally grotesque as it is gorgeous as an unrelenting scatological farce that satirizes classic Hollywood melodramas by European-born filmmakers like Douglas Sirk and Josef von Sternberg and gritty film noir flicks by Nicholas Ray and Sam Fuller. Hopelessly convoluted in terms of plot and storyline as a cinematic work that feels like it is set in some alternate unhinged universe where time and place are dictated by the wayward whims of the mostly mentally unstable and sexually insatiable characters, The Devil's Cleavage is, in many ways, not much more than the psychosis-ridden fantasy of an obsessive cinephile that demonstrates more interest in golden age Hollywood than the sort of avant-garde and experimental cinema that Kuchar was loosely connected to. In other words, the film was not made with the intent of giving experimental cinema gatekeeper Jonas Mekas a hard-on. 

 Upon doing as much research I could on the film due to my suspicion that it would offend the outstandingly anally retentive and politically correct sensibilities of respectable bourgeois faggots and morally righteous white liberal wimps, I discovered that The Devil's Cleavage was not exactly beloved among many film critics, including bitchy gay ones, when it was original released. Indeed, in a 11/27/1975 review featured in Soho Weekly News, the nameless reviewer bitched regarding the film and his belief that Kuchar had totally degenerated as a filmmaker, “With HOLD ME WHILE I’M NAKED (1966), he made a kind of breakthrough into home-movie big time, and I can remember lines of Lower East Side patrons (mainly dirty old men) eager to suffer through the heights of a New American Cinema program just for 15 minutes of Technicolor Kuchar and of his star Donna Kerness wetting her magnificent breasts behind a shower curtain. We all thought someone had arrived capable of saving even independent cinema. But a lot of bathtub water has flowed down the drainhole, and I don’t see that Kuchar has gone anywhere except he has moved from the Bronx to San Francisco and—as a friend pointed out—he has advanced from color to black-and-white.”  Additionally, in a slightly less scathing review featured in the Chicago Daily News, Christine Nieland complained, “Unfortunately, THE DEVIL’S CLEAVAGE looks a lot funnier on paper than it does on film. For one thing, Kuchar makes no concessions to technical competence. The dialog is scratchily recorded, while the black-and-white visuals are harsh and ugly. Secondly, once we get the idea, we realize that we’re laughing at a one-joke movie. The level of parody remains consistent, which is to say the film never really tops itself. When you’ve seen one of Kuchar’s grotesque housewives, you’ve seen them all.”  To his great credit, experimental filmmaker Warren Sonbert (Short Fuse, Carriage Trade)—a somewhat tragic auteur who is best known for cinematic works dealing with his own frail mortality and losing battle with AIDS—certainly seemed to have a better grasp of the film when he wrote in an article for the Bay Area Reporter entitled An American Treasure, “This uproarious romp through the fleshpot dumps of San Francisco is a relentless exploration of sin, greed, lust and various inviting body parts – like Douglas Sirk on Ecstasy.”  Of course, it is ultimately impossible to articulate the singular majesty of the film in mere words, especially when describing an abstract (anti)melodrama directed by a man that was not very verbally articulate himself.

 Undoubtedly, what virtually all of the reviews that I encountered in regard to The Devil's Cleavage have in common is that the reviewers seem incapable of accurately describing even the most rudimentary elements of the film’s plot, which is certainly no surprise to anyone that has seen the flick. Indeed, the film is a hot and steamy mess of the nicely (and sometimes nefariously) nasty sort where logic and rationality are nowhere to be found.  Indeed, Pacific Film Archive director Edith Kramer was not exaggerating when she stated, “I don’t think anybody can copy or imitate George’s style. His whole career has shown an independent spirit in the best sense—he’s applied a very personal, unique style to an enormous body of work that’s like a fountain, never running out of wit, energy, or inspiration,” as the filmmaker’s many and oftentimes quite blatant technical fuck-ups and plot inconsistencies are even part of his own charmingly preternatural auteur stamp. In short, it is quite obvious while watching The Devil's Cleavage that it was directed by a uniquely uncompromising lost soul that only creates films for himself and is imprisoned in his own scatological universe where common everyday human wants and needs, especially of the sexual and romantic sort, are the butt of one big perennial joke that seems to be at the expense at humanity as a whole, especially that portion of humanity that was born and bred on the delusional dreams of Hollywood.  Directed by a homosexual man that mostly rejected the label of being a gay filmmaker that makes gay films as clearly indicated by remarks like, “I don't see myself as a gay filmmaker. . . . I don't think other people see me as a gay filmmaker either because certain of my films don't deal with that—and because I don't grab my student audience and fondle them on the side,” the film is only queer in the sense that the auteur sees heterosexual romance as a patent absurdity that he has nil nature intrinsic understanding of, hence is depiction of it as the height of irrationality and insanity (but then again, he depicts gay romance as equally absurd). Indeed, in a Kuchar flick, love can only end in death, despair, sexual and social dysfunction, and/or abject delirium. Somewhat strangely (or maybe not so since Kuchar would subsequently pen Thundercrack!), the viewer can only conclude after watching The Devil's Cleavage a bisexual ménage à trois is the only reasonable antidote to heartbreak and lovesickness.

When Josef von Sternberg said, “Shadow conceals—light reveals. To know what to reveal and what to conceal, and in what degrees to do this, is all there is to art,” it seems that Kuchar tooks these words of cinematic wisdom more seriously than most.  Indeed, there is probably not one single shot in The Devil's Cleavage where a character is not at least partly lurking the shadows, as Kuchar wants you to know these sad and mostly sexually depraved individuals are shameful slaves of their lustful longings.  As many of his films rather hilariously reveals, Kuchar, quite unlike his sex-saluting cocksucker comrade Curt McDowell, was a sexual neurotic of sorts.  In The Devil's Cleavage, the viewer is treated to what might be best described as low-budget neurotic erotic neo-Expressionism where carnal crimes are mostly boldly highlighted via the lack of lighting.

 Divided into three equally debauched chapters that chronicle the romantic decline of the less the glamorous female protagonist, The Devil's Cleavage is a farcically forsaken film where madness is the method. Featuring a naughty nurse named Ginger (Ainslie Pryor) that lives in the seedy suburbs of San Francisco, the film could be described in literal terms as a cautionary tale about the perils of being a nymphomaniac that is married to a lazy and seemingly sexually impotent Hawaiian man that falls to deliver regular dick injections (as any honest lady will tell you, every healthy woman needs their hole to be filled every once and a while lest they go insane and become feminists or something). Indeed, Ginger’s somewhat literally lethally lethargic hubby Edmund (Al Wong) is such a lazy loser that she is forced to search for new cock each day because he simply will not fuck her, let alone work or pretend to act like anything resembling a respectable husband. When Edmund briefly wakes up from his eternal slumber to beg “I want an egg,” Ginger prepares a lavish breakfast and then feeds it to her beloved dog ‘Bocko’ instead of her yellow bedridden spouse.  Aside from resenting her husband, Ginger hates the grotesque old fart patients that she takes care of so much that she regularly creates fake vomit and throws it at these poor helpless souls. A hopeless hawaiiphile that seems to be attracted to men that most women simply ignore, Ginger married Edmund because he is a Hawaiian aristocrat and she expected it to be an immaculate storybook marriage, but as she complains in terms of her grand disillusionment in regard to her somnambulist-like spouse, “He was the ancestor of some fat Hawaiian monarch […] He promised me a pineapple plantation and a necklace from the teeth of a tiger shark. Well, as it turned out, he became the pineapple and the necklace became nothing more than the collar of the leash.”  Of course, since her hubby sleeps all day, Ginger has no problem cheating on Edmund and getting away with it, at least at first until a couple busybody bitches decide to ruin her marriage with an anonymous letter.

 On top of everything else, Ginger is violently mocked and ridiculed by her slutty ghetto skank neighbors. Indeed, when one of the neighbors asks Ginger how her husband is and she nonchalantly retorts “not so good,” a haggard bimbo (Kathleen Hohalek) hatefully remarks, “Maybe if you both slept in the same bed, he’d feel a lot better.” At this point, Ginger gets in a brutal literal bitch-fight with the two neighbors that involves exposed panties and rabid bitching but seemingly nil landed punches. An unbelievably cruel and craven bitch, the haggard bimbo neighbor regularly tortures her own bedridden ghoul-like mother, who bears a striking resemblance to Leatherface of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (notably, the film was apparently completed in 1973, which was one year before the release of TCM), by dumping her own full turd-packed bedpan on her. When a tall, not-so-dark, and slightly handsome handyman named Marvin (musician and Curt McDowell regular Mark Ellinger) swings by the haggard bimbo’s humble abode to fix her dishwasher, she opts to drug the unwitting prole’s coffee so that she can rape him. Unfortunately for her, instead of successfully molesting Marvin, the sexually predatory haggard bimbo gets disgusted, runs out of the room, and is subsequently suffocated to death with a plastic bag during a brutal display of much-needed Filicide in what is indubitably one of the most potently perverse Schadenfreude-inducing moments in all of cinema history. As for Marvin, he luckily manages rob the haggard bimbo and then escape without even noticing that his would-be-rapist his being brutally murdered by her own progenitor. 

 When Edmund somehow wakes up long enough to receive and read an anonymous letter that reads, “Your wife is a tramp,” it more or less spells the end of Ginger’s horrible marriage. Indeed, while Edmund is reading the letter, Ginger is flirting with a sleazy Swedish beatnik doctor named Dave. A shameless slut that likes to pretend she has something resembling dignity despite the fact that she has downed about half-a-dozen dicks in the last seven days, Ginger cynically remarks to Dave, “Do you expect me to commit adultery for the sixth time this week? What sort of woman do you take me for?” and he reveals his sexual desperation by retorting, “I’ll take you in sickness and in health until death do us part.” Ginger also reveals her bizarre flirting techniques with Dave by telling him that she knew he was “Swedish” because, as she pretentiously states, “I could tell by the cold light burning in your eyes. Northern Lights . . . always shifting.” Ultimately, poor Edmund dies under dubious circumstances and Ginger exposes how much of a self-obsessed bitch she is by complaining, “Oh, why is he always gone when I need him most.” Not surprisingly considering her less than ideal circumstances, the death of her husband proves to be a blessing in disguise for Ginger as it affords her the opportunity of being able to relocate to wholesome Blessed Prairie, Oklahoma and begin a new life that is free of savage slut neighbors and worthless men that don't know how to treat a woman, or so she initially believes before she receives a rude awakening that involves a hunky yet less than faithful Midwestern mensch with a Cruising-esque mustache. 

 Upon relocating to Blessed Prairie, Ginger checks into a seedy motel where she meets a nice but morally feeble and sexually promiscuous motel manager named Frank (Curt McDowell), who hits on her by asking her, “Would you like some assistance to that Stairway to Heaven?” and then somberly telling her the abridged version of his hilariously tragic life story, stating that he is, “The only son of Mary and William. Mom died six years ago. She fell into a wheat-thrashing machine and became hamburger for the crows. My father’s in a mental institution near Tulsa. He was driving the machine.” As for Ginger, she explains that she is nervous about identifying her dead husband’s corpse because she is afraid she will laugh and that the morgue attendant will realize that she is “just black inside” like “the gates of hell.” When Ginger complains of the degeneracy of Hollywood Hills, Frank retorts, “Debauchery here is limited to tilting pinball machines on the Sabbath” and recommends that they drink a local alcoholic mix known as the “Devil’s Latrine” in symbolic moment that seems to seal the fate of what ultimately proves to be a disastrously aborted romance. Completely shocked at his inordinate warmth and kindness and seemingly enticed by his boyish good-looks and pervert mustache, Ginger asks the motel manager, “Why are you so good to me, Frank?” and he autistically replies with not even the slightest hint of irony, “Once, about two years ago, in an Oklahoma City restaurant on Main Street, I read a saying by the owner of the place. It was written on the menu, right beneath the beverage section. It said, and I quote, ‘Be good and you’ll be happy.’ I’ve never forgot that, Ginger.” Unfortunately for the two new love birds, Ginger has to go identify her dead hubby’s corpse and the two must temporarily part company, so Frank makes her promise to come back to him during an extremely cheesy yet somehow foreboding moment of melodrama where the viewer immediately realizes that things will end terribly for both the nurse and her new gentleman suitor.  Despite making Ginger promise to come back to him, Frank has not forgotten two of his ex-lovers and he makes the rather ridiculous mistake of attempting to reconnect with both of them after the naughty nurse leaves, thus ultimately eventually leading to tremendous soul-shattering heartbreak for all those involved.

 After Ginger leaves, Frank totally loses his mind and literally treads snowy mountains and examines caves while yelling “Ginger, where are you?” in the hope of finding his new lover, as if he suffers from amnesia and has forgotten that she has promised to promptly come back to him. A self-destructively neurotic romantic hysteric with a feeble mind and all the more feeble heart, Frank cannot even bear being without Ginger for a couple days and soon finds himself getting into contact with two of his ex-flames, including a lecherous good-for-nothing slut named Loretta that he looks for in a sleazy bar. On top of hunting down Loretta, Franks calls his devoted ex-girlfriend Angie (Virginia Giritlian) and attempts to coerce her into leaving her abusive homosexual boyfriend Ronald to come back to him. Frank’s old flame Angie loves him so much that she confesses to him over the phone upon agreeing to leave Ronald and come back to him, “Why? . . . Why after so long do you stand in the way of the torrent I call my life? You’re the only dike I cannot crumble; the only wall of sandbags immune to my treacherous tides. You have only to say the words and I’ll head back north.” As a pretentious woman-beating prick that cares more about his “war buddies” (translation: fuck buddies) than her, Ronald is practically begging to be dumped by Angie, who ultimately uses a gun to make her way out of the door. As a man that proudly brags that her once picked her off the street and fed her “caviar and Ritz crackers,” Ronald refuses to let Angie go in peace and defiantly declares to her when she walks out the door, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.”  Of course, as a sexually confused mad man, Ronald naturally follows through with his pernicious promise.  While on the journey to get back to her beau Frank, Angie passes a strange nighttime parade featuring unintentionally grotesque giant floats of Charlie Brown, Batman, and various other cartoon figures that seem like a bad omen. Needless to say, the perturbing parade is nothing compared to the hell that awaits her at Frank’s dilapidated motel. 

While Angie is traveling across the country to desperately get back to him so that they can reignite their hot and steamy love affair, Frank hooks up with another ex-flame named Loretta at a trashy party, though he initially does not recognize her because she has become a militant Girl Scouts supremacist of sorts. Frank agrees to go with Loretta “into the darkness” and initially seems quite adamant about jumping her bones, but when she attempts to fuck him, he bitches like a retarded prude, “A Girl Scout doesn’t act like this, Loretta” and then curls up into a fetal position and pathetically whines, “I hurt all over.” Disturbed that Frank seems to have nil interest in her nice nubile body, Loretta asks him, “who has crippled you in mind and body?” and then bitches, “Strange . . . I brought you in here to help me become a woman and, instead, I find myself wanting you to accept your manhood.” Meanwhile, Ginger eventually gets back to the motel and happily declares while in the company of her large mutt Bocko, “I’ve comeback, Darling, like I said I would, only I brought a friend with me this time,” but is perturbed to find Angie instead of Frank. When Ginger asks Angie who she is, she replies in a somberly poetic fashion, “A dead memory that someone dug up from the past” and then promptly points at gun at her somewhat less attractive rival. After complaining about Frank, “I must have been insane to believe that telephone call,” Angie attempts to shoot Ginger, but it is ultimately the former that dies in the struggle (or so the viewer assumes). When Frank finally gets back to the motel, he discovers a grisly crime scene and immediately emotionally breaks down during a much deserved moment of self-loathing (after all, he acted as an unwitting catalyst to the deadly estrogen-driven encounter). To his slight chagrin, Frank also discovers Angie's ambiguously gay (ex)boyfriend Ronald, who states to him in a somewhat sinisterly sadistic fashion while curiously rubbing his rival’s back in an aggressively homoerotic fashion, “Why don’t you go out and lay in some meadow. The dew is already falling and it may rain later on. If it does rain, don’t run. There’s nothing like a little bit of god’s water to wash away the dirt to collect the Devil’s Cleavage.” 

 After losing Ginger, Angie, and Loretta, Frank somehow finds himself in an ultra sleazy bisexual ménage à trios with San Francisco handyman Marvin and Ginger’s slutty ex-neighbor Stella (Michelle Gross-Napolitano). As Frank mournfully declares to his new lovers, “six-dollar-a-night-key” is a “small price to pay for twelve hours for merciful amnesia,” especially when you manage to lose three different lovers in a single day despite all of the three lovers being hopelessly in love with you. Stella is an even more hopeless and sexually nihilistic case after breaking up with his abusive beau (overrated Judaic cartoonist Art Spiegelman in a rare acting role), as she longs for, “an eternity of forgetfulness,” which she attempts to achieve via cheap alcohol and dirty loveless sex.  Apparently, Stella was enticed by Frank because she could tell he was “one of the lost” just like her and Marvin. Not surprisingly, lovesick loser Frank bitches of his love for the nurse from the “city by the bay” while in the ludicrously lusty company of Stella and Marvin, though that does not stop him from partaking in a threesome. Eventually, Frank seems to accept his new sorry lot in life and declares to his new lovers before embracing them, “Do you think there could be happiness for us? Not individually, but as a threesome? I mean, perhaps there is some truth in that theory of three being a sacred number.”

Meanwhile, a seemingly severely wounded Ginger is coerced into following a slutty pseudo-blonde home where the female protagonist is more or less raped by the pseudo-blonde’s hyper horny sleazebag husband. While being sexually savaged by the sleazy scumbag husband, Ginger sees her beloved dog Bocko outside and cries out for him, but he does not even respond.  Indeed, it seems that even Ginger's beloved canine Bocko no longer wants anything to do with her. When Ginger complains, “I’m afraid. I’m so afraid” while symbolically bent over in a doggy style position, the sexually sadistic husband replies in a stern matter-of-fact fashion, “We’re all afraid” and then proceeds to penetrate her puss in a relatively savage manner. Upon being forcibly fucked, Ginger seems to finally accept her pathetically perverse plight in life as an unlovable slut that is not even loyal enough to be a dog owner.  As one can expect from a Kuchar flick, love destroys all in the end and virtually all of the characters are left completely emotionally wounded.  Undoubtedly, if there is any special insight that The Devil's Cleavage reveals, it is that everyone is foredoomed to live in isolation and emotional solitude and that love can only end in devastating heartbreak and, in some special cases, a very ugly death.

 As a somewhat quirky (although not quite queer) chap with a similarly perverse sense of cinephilia and bizarre affinity for classic melodrama and film noir movies from golden age Hollywood, Canadian auteur Guy Maddin (Tales from the Gimli Hospital, My Winnipeg)—a romantic cynic with a fierce fetish for anachronistic filmmaking techniques—is naturally a huge Kuchar fan and even regards The Devil’s Cleavage as one of his favorite films. In fact, Maddin would lovingly state regarding the film in the documentary It Came from Kuchar (2009), “The movie I really want to be able to quote but I have to be able to see it again and again and again to do it is George's THE DEVIL'S CLEAVAGE. I just remember it having one line after another, each one eclipsing the previous one. And you could just tell it was just so much fun, and because they're at the dawn of my adult film viewing experience, they might as well have been my earliest childhood memories. But when I'm on the filmmaking road, trying to reach my own version of perfection, I still see THE DEVIL'S CLEAVAGE floating there.”  Notably, as an extremely modest and humble man, Kuchar rarely boasted about his own films and their importance and once even summed his artistic contributions to cinema history by stating, “I just, um, made pictures,” yet he seems to have also regarded his black-and-white melodrama as one of his favorite films as indicated by his remark in It Came from Kuchar, “THE DEVIL’S CLEAVAGE played in England. I made it with the school’s camera, which was sync sound. I got letters…people really enjoyed it, so I felt so much better, you know. I was happy I made it. It’s a big, turbulent drama about a big city nurse and stuff.” Additionally, in an interview with Scott MacDonald featured in the book A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers (1988), Kuchar remarked, “DEVIL’S CLEAVAGE has a revival now because of the punk thing. They like the heavy make-up and the costumes, and they like the subject matter. It’s real loud. When it first came out, some people liked it, some didn’t. Then it hit a period where everyone thought it was a grotesque horror. And now it looks good.”

Indeed, for a film that is well over 40 years old, The Devil’s Cleavage is still shockingly subversive and, aesthetically speaking, nothing short of an otherworldly celluloid orgy of delectable obscenity and blissful odiousness, among other things.  Certainly, in no other film will you find such a seemingly aesthetically schizophrenic mix of trashy toilet humor and chiaroscuro-heavy celluloid majesty.  Indeed, Kuchar is probably the only filmmaker that has ever lived that has managed to so blatantly blur the line between excrement and ecstasy, dementedness and deliciousness, and pathology and poetry. In other words, The Devil’s Cleavage offers unwavering happiness in a steamy and fiercely fecal fly-ridden filmic form that is seductively shadowy as Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr (1932) yet as scatological and schlocky as the most shamelessly morally bankrupt of Troma turds.  Undoubtedly, the fact that the film has never been released in any home media format is a crime against cinephilia and a sure sign that American cineaste oriented companies like the Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber Films are run by uptight prudes that rather peddle communist poverty porn and senseless feminist dribble than authentic American cinematic art.

 Notably, in his book Desperate Visions: The Films of John Waters & the Kuchar Brothers (1996), trash film historian Jack Stevenson revealed in regard to the imperative relation between Kuchar and McDowell, “In return for Curt’s help on THE DEVIL’S CLEAVAGE, George assisted Curt on his 1975 feature, THUNDERCRACK! This would be their glorious gift to posterity – the world’s only underground porno horror movie. George titled and wrote the film, did lighting, made up and costumed lead actress, Marion Eaton, and acted in the role of ‘Bling’ – the psychosexually troubled gorilla keeper who attempts suicide by crashing his circus truck in a thunderstorm.” Indeed, in terms of aesthetics and the people behind it, The Devil’s Cleavage is certainly a big sister film to the more pornographic Thundercrack!, which also notably features McDowell’s jumbo jugged sister Melinda McDowell and a number of the other same superstars, including Michelle Gross, Virginia Giritlian, Mark Ellinger, and of course Mr. McDowell himself.  Additionally, Kuchar's A Reason To Live starring McDowell is a sort of little sister film to the other two  While technically a melodrama of sorts, I would most certainly argue that The Devil’s Cleavage is easily the most bizarre, horrifying, and decidedly disturbing of these three films, even if it is not technically a horror film and lacks the oftentimes downright unsexy pornographic imagery of Thundercrack! (though it does feature a couple limp dicks and large saggy tits).  In short, I imagine the film would be nothing short of audio-visual torture to the majority of humanity, but for me The Devil's Cleavage is a healthy reminder why I love the art of cinema and why it sometimes takes the morbidly mirthful wisdom of a weird gay guy to realize the absurdity of getting all lovesick and melancholy over any one chick when there are so many other equally hysterical hymen-less harpies in the world.  Indeed, as a guru of the cinematically grotesque, Kuchar might have been a literal cocksucker but he was no loathsome faggot and his films reveal more testicular fortitude than the majority of action and superhero films.

-Ty E

Feb 17, 2017

The Nature of the Beast

Judeocentric cultural Marxist moral bankruptcy is quite obvious in many ways in Tinseltown, but in no way is it more apparent than the fact that pedophiliac rapists and sex criminals have no problem continuing to work in the industry yet people that say slightly naughty things about Hebrews, homos, and/or leftists are oftentimes blacklisted and viciously attacked by the yellow press. Indeed, Judaic auteurs like Roman Polanski and Woody Allen did not allow certain rather unsavory sex scandals result in them serving prison sentences, let alone ruin their careers.  Likewise, mainstream leftist journalists and film critics are shockingly sympathetic when it comes to writing about these degenerates, as if their Hebraicness gives them a perennial pass (of course, Polanski's shoah survivor status does not hurt). Maybe it is due to the fact that he was a wily wop instead of a member of god’s chosen tribe, but gay guido Victor Salva found himself serving 15 months of a three year sentence after he got busted boning the 12-year-old star Nathan Forrest Winters of his debut feature Clownhouse (1989). In fact, aside from molesting Winters over a four year period that started when the young boy appeared in the softspoken sexual predator's Spielberg-esque debut horror short Something in the Basement (1986), Salva was arrogant enough in terms of his craven carnality that he actually dared to film himself engaging with mutual oral molestation with the little lad, thus giving the authorities all the evidence they needed to certify his guilt (apparently, the cops also discovered that Salva had a massive collection of child porn).

Of course, Salva’s affinity for little boy buggery did not stop him from eventually continuing his career in Hollywood, as his fellow Sicilian-American filmmaker buddy Francis Ford Coppola was eventually able to help him relaunch his filmmaking career and he would go on to direct relatively mainstream turds like the Disney distributed celluloid self-pity party Powder (1995) starring Jeff Goldblum and the rather commercially successful horror franchise flicks Jeepers Creepers (2001) and Jeepers Creepers II (2003). As revealed in the article Can Victor Salva Move On? by Glenn Lovell, Salva once even bragged in regard to his relatively disturbing ability to work and flourish in Hollywood despite being a convinced child molester, “I’m not sure people are comfortable being seen with me…. But I think [studio execs] saying, ‘He’ll never work again’ was all for show. My God, if they were to take the [arrest] records of every filmmaker or actor, they’d have to shut this town down . . . Let’s face it [hollow laugh] anybody can work here who makes money.” Indeed, as Salva, Allen, and Polanski have confirmed, you can commit the most ungodly of crimes against children and continue to work in Hollywood, so long as you’re not suspected of blaming Jews for deicide or starting eternal wars in the Middle East.

Despite making fairly lame mainstream movies for the most part, Salva, unlike Polanski and Allen, has somewhat utilized his prison experience and dubious reputation as a sexual predator to his artistic advantage, at least when it comes to two of his lesser know films, including The Nature of the Beast (1995) aka Bad Company aka Hatchet Man and Rites of Passage (1999).  In fact, Salva wrote the scripts for both of these films while he was still in prison and Rites of Passage is actually a semi-autobiographical movie that was inspired by the fact that the filmmaker's abusive alcoholic stepfather disowned him for being a faggot long before he was ever busted for molesting the child star of his debut feature Clownhouse.  Not unlike American arthouse auteur Jon Jost—a pacifistic white liberal who spent over two years in prison for draft-dodging—with his arguable magnum opus Last Chants for a Slow Dance (1977), Salva utilized his personal experience interacting with dangerous criminals in the slammer as crucial inspiration in terms of constructing characters for these two very morally ambiguous yet nonetheless strangely insightful and unforgettable films that test the bounds of social and cinematic acceptability. Unlike Jost’s film(s), Salva’s movies naturally focus on rough and tough homos and criminally-inclined perverts.  While Salva might have been busted for preying on preteen boys, these two films clearly indicate that the filmmaker also has a fetish for butch alpha-male types and antisocial rebels.  Somewhat ironically but not surprisingly considering the auteur’s somewhat laughable talent when it comes to directing serious melodrama, the least overtly gay yet most sexually-charged of these two films, The Nature of the Beast, is also the superior cinematic effort and arguably the filmmaker’s greatest film yet.  In short, you can really sense while watching the film that Salva has spent a lot of time thinking about the sort of guys that would love nothing more than to rape, rob, and/or beat him to death.  Not unsurprisingly, the film utilizes the classic LGBT canard of hinting that the source of a serial killer character's homicidal tendencies are sexual repression and self-internalized homophobia, which is somewhat ironic considering that Salva exercised his own personal sexual demons by molesting a boy.

A horror-thriller-slasher-drama-mystery road flick that involves a sort of covertly gay disharmonious romance between a middle-aged alcoholic bourgeois serial killer and a somewhat younger junky ex-con crook-cum-hitchhiker, The Nature of the Beast is a film that is nearly impossible to discuss and analyze without revealing crucial spoilers (in fact, I recommend watching the film first before reading this if you don’t want it ruined for you). Arguably one of the most innately fucked up and depraved depictions of ‘opposites attracting’ in quasi-mainstream American cinema history, Salva’s film is like a more overtly homoerotic take on The Hitcher (1986) and Spielberg's made-for-TV thriller Duel (1971) with elements of road movies as diverse as Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973), and Rainer Erler’s kraut cult horror flick Fleisch (1979) aka Spare Parts, albeit sans any sort of genuine artistic value. In terms of its homoerotic subtext and psychopathic character(s), Salva's film can also certainly be compared to Pasquale Festa Campanile's beauteously brutal anti-bourgeois cross-country chiller Autostop rosso sangue (1977) aka Hitch-Hike starring Franco Nero and David Hess. Additionally, I don't doubt that Salva, who apparently adores golden age Hollywood, is a fan of Ida Lupino's film noir classic The Hitch-Hiker (1953).

Undoubtedly, one of the most, if not the most, potent aspect of the film is the rather intense chemistry between perennial boy bimbo Eric Roberts and unrivaled Übermensch of silverscreen stoicism Lance Henriksen in what is indubitably one of the most superlatively sick unrequited love stories ever committed to celluloid. Indeed, when it really comes down to it, The Nature of the Beast is the sad and pathetic story of an ostensibly rough and tough lost gay boy and the murderously repressed suburban family man that is too uptight and impenetrable to embrace the lonely lad and engage in In flagrante delicto with him. In its depiction of a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks with serious pathological daddy issues, the film follows in the pleasantly politically incorrect tradition of William Friedkin’s Cruising (1980), which is notable for pissing off mainstream gay authoritarian groups due to its rather unflattering depiction of a sod serial killer with a sort of gay Oedipus complex who incessantly writes letters to his long dead father. In terms of depicting a gay lumpenprole rebel that tries in vain to be loved and respected by an anally retentive bourgeois prick, the film somewhat strangely shares similar themes to Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Fox and His Friends (1975) aka Faustrecht der Freiheit. As demonstrated by the fact that virtually none of the murders are depicted onscreen and the overall film is relatively bloodless, I think that it is fairly safe to say that Salva merely uses generic genre conventions as a means to trick straight viewers into watching a patently perverse poof (anti)love story. Still, despite being a crypto-cocksucker film that was never released in theaters, the film proved to be New Line Cinema's biggest direct-to-video title of 1995.  Undoubtedly, leads Henriksen and Roberts certainly deserve credit for molding an otherwise mostly banally constructed film into bizarrely delectable piece of raw psychosexual intensity where bloodlust replaces love and murder acts as a substitute for sex.

As a virtual lifelong fan of The X-Files, I am also naturally a fan of Chris Carter’s somewhat more esoteric and occult oriented Fox television series Millennium (1996-1999) starring Lance Henriksen as a terminally sullen ex-FBI agent named Frank Black that has a keen talent for catching serial killer by using a special genetic gift that allows him to be able to ‘empathize’ with the criminally perverted and see the world through their warped eyes. In Millennium, Henriksen—a man who, in terms of appearance and demeanor, is not surprisingly the son of a Norwegian sailor-cum-boxer with the nickname ‘Icewater’—plays a stoically melancholic man who seems like he has all the pain and misery of all of humanity bearing down on his supremely forlorn soul. Undoubtedly, one of the things that makes The Nature of the Beast so intensely intriguing is that Henriksen portrays a decidedly depraved dude that his character Frank Black would have obsessively hunted on Millennium. As for Eric Roberts, he portrays a rawer yet somewhat deconstructed version of the rebel-without-a-cause archetype as exemplified by legends like Marlon Brando and James Dean, as well as real-life copycats like American teenaged spree killer Charles Starkweather. Naturally, as a homo with a softspot for cute and charming conmen that are probably desperate enough and/or morally bankrupt to do gay-for-pay even if they aren’t actually faggots, Salva clearly empathizes with Roberts’ character while attacking Henriksen’s character for his supposed sexual repression. In fact, it can certainly be argued that The Nature of the Beast goes as far as to portray Roberts’ hustler-like character as a victim of sort uptight bourgeois gay self-loathing, with the film somewhat hinting that if Henriksen’s embraced his inner-homo by sucking cocks and reaming rectums, he might not be a hyper hypocritical homicidal maniac that enjoys cutting people into little pieces.  Needless to say, the film also has an extra hidden layer of truly unnerving psychosexual horror when one considers that it is a cinematic that critiques sexual repression yet was directed by a perverted fellow with a pederastic predilection.  Indeed, one of the things that makes The Nature of the Beast so awfully engulfing is that watching the film has more or less the same appeal as witnessing a uniquely unsavory crime that has to be seen to believed.  In other words, it is indubitably the sort of film that you would hope to see from a real-life sex criminal, even if Salva demonstrates the legitimacy of Heidegger's Jewess mistress Hannah Arendt's ‘the banality of evil’ theory as far as genuine artistry is concerned (indeed, like his hero Spielberg, Salva is not an artist but an artisan).

Like virtually all of Salva’s films, The Nature of the Beast is, in terms of sheer direction and construction, hopelessly contrived and screams of mechanically constructed pre-processed celluloid product (in this sense, one can certainly see why Spielberg is one of the director's biggest influences), but thankfully Mr. Henriksen and Mr. Roberts and their borderline shockingly believable savage homoerotic chemistry make this film worth viewing, even if you have nil interest in smoking poles or pursuing the exotic art of bugchasing. Indeed, it seems that in every single scene in the entire film, a tumbleweed conspicuously passes by, including the opening scene where a faceless serial killer known as the ‘Hatchet Man’ emerges from the backseat of a vintage Chrysler and kills a poor fat wop in a desolate motel desert parking lot in the middle of the night. The next day, protagonist Jack Powell (Henriksen)—an extremely uptight looking businessman with a family who seems like he is hiding some deep dark secret—drives by the crime scene and is told by a cop, “Keep going, straight through. At least until you get to the interstate. Don’t stop to make any new friends” due to a “homicide.” Jack seems somewhat surprised when he sees tiny pieces of body parts being removed from the trunk of the Chrysler. Before driving away, Jack sees ‘Hatchet Man’ written in blood on the trunk of the car.  As the viewer will soon learn, Jack has much more important things to worry about than a deranged serial killer that enjoys turning people into mincemeat.

While driving on the highway, Jack spots an inordinately handsome hitchhiker (Roberts) with a cool strut who he seems to want to pick up, but decides to pass. Unfortunately for Jack, he opts to stop at a pink diner called ‘Cadillac Jacks’ where, upon entering the bathroom, he is soon intimidated by the boorishly charismatic hitcher, who says to him while pissing in a urinal,“You’re not too neighborly, are you?...You got a kink about watching people fry in the desert?” From there, Jack makes the mistake of apologizing and offers to buy the hitchhiker, who introduces himself as Adrian aka ‘Dusty,’ lunch. One of the first things Adrian does to shock and provoke Jack is to ask him, “Are you a fag? I don’t mean any offense if you are. I mean, if it weren’t for homos…none of us fellas would ever get a ride. I’ve thumbed enough miles to know that.” Somewhat strangely, Jack does not even bother to deny he’s a homo and one gets the sense that Adrian is no novice when it comes to the timeless art of hustling, as he seems like he could be the meth-addled redneck half-brother of Joe Dallesandro. A sort of sleazily suave bisexual take on the ‘Hawksian woman’ archetype, Adrian might be a total piece of self-destructive human excrement, but he is undeniably likeable. Of course, Jack is even more disturbed when Adrian states to him while figuratively peering into his soul, “You know, Jack, I can usually tell in about two minutes…all I need to know about a person.” When a less than sophisticated waitress named Patsy (Roberts' real-life wife Eliza Roberts) comes to the table, it becomes obvious why Jack is terrified, as she casually mentions how over $1 million was stolen from a local casino. As hinted by a snazzy suitcase he is constantly carrying around, the viewer assumes that Jack stole the money, hence his anxiety.  Before the day is over, Patsy is dead and Adrian, who the viewer assumes has managed to use his hustler charms to seduce her, was one of the last people to see her alive.  While the viewer suspects that Jack is a thief, one also assumes that Adrian is the mysterious killer, but by the end of the film the filmgoer will learn that first impressions can be seriously misleading and that you never really know what is going on in people's heads.

For virtually the entire film, Jack makes every desperate attempt he can to flee Adrian’s aggressively charming company, but the too-cool-for-school hitchhiker blackmails the lame old bourgeois businessman and constantly reaffirms his intent to place an anonymous call to the local cops with his license plate number if he dares to attempt to abandon him in the scorching deserts of Southern California.  Adrian is certainly the sort of shameless charmer that never takes no for an answer and he is totally determined to establish a bizarre close relationship with Jack.  When it comes down to it, Adrian just wants to simply have some good honest dangerous fun with the old man and earn his respect, but Jack is too hopelessly repressed and finds the young stud’s dirty little heroin addiction to be quite disgusting as revealed by rather self-righteous things he says to him like, “That stuff is disgusting. You put enough of that in you and you’re going to goddamn fall apart.” Of course, as an angry dipsomaniac that incessantly has Jack Daniels pumping through his veins and who seems to bask in stewing in his own deeply hidden angry and hatred, Jack is no less of an addict than Adrian is and he is in complete denial about that fact. In fact, Adrian attempts to callout Jack on his flagrant hypocrisy by stating, “You know all about it, don’t you, Jack? Yeah, people scream evil like a motherfucker…unless it’s their own—then it’s cool.” Naturally, Adrian also hints that he is interested in more things than just drugs and that he desires Jack sexually by stating somewhat ambiguous things like, “Repression is a deadly thing. It’s deadly.” Unfortunately for poor Adrian, his words will prove to be quite literally true, but before he kicks the bucket in a seriously savage fashion he gets to go on a strange road trip with the world’s angriest suburban family man.

Since Jack is too much of an anally retentive pussy to fuck him (or get fucked by him), Adrian gets focused on a dope-dealing hippie couple named Gerald (Sasha Jenson) and Dahlia (Ana Gabriel) from Boston that are driving across country in a van full of drugs in the stereotypical hope to, “checkout the rainforest before they cut it all down.” Needless to say, Jack is not happy to see the two hippies and forces Adrian to abandon his new friends only a couple minutes after meeting them at a secluded gas station.  Of course, Adrian is at least partly interested in these hapless braindead hippie morons because he so desperately wants to make Jack jealous. In fact, Jack gets so jealous of Adrian’s new friends that he flips out, pulls over the car, and yells, “We don’t look right together, get it? Everyone within a hundred miles…knows about the Hatchet Man and the goddamn money. Do you understand? What, do you think I’m some dumb ass old man…that you can drag around on your psycho circle jerk?”  To Jack's credit, Gerald and Dahlia did question whether or not he and Adrian were lovers, as they certainly make for quite the striking odd couples. Unfortunately, for Jack, insatiable dope fiend Adrian is “looking to do a little business” since Gerald and Dahlia have a magical “traveling pharmacy” and he needs some of Cocteau's kick lest he suffer from a seriously hellish bout of junk withdrawal in the desert. While Jack gets a little bit unhinged at this point and repeatedly screams, “get out of my car” like a violent tyrannical toddler that does not want to share his toys, he finally cools down and gives Adrian the following ultimatum: “If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this my way.” Needless to say, Adrian refuses to play nice and subsequently petrifies Jack by dropping a highly poisonous Gila Monster in his lap that he bought from a mischievous guido midget named Harliss at a bizarre pet store called Creepy Crawly Zoo. While Jack is growing increasingly hysterical about the reptile in his crotch, Adrian more or less confesses his dark and twisted lust for him by boldly declaring, “Don’t play me, Jack. You know what I am, and I know what you are. That’s ain’t never gonna change. Now get us out of here before you kill the both of us.” Of course, when the two anti-buddies pull into a campground and discover Gerald and Dahlia are already there, Jack cannot stop Adrian from hanging out with the hippies.

Undoubtedly, during the campground segment of the film Jack’s true repressed gay feelings for Adrian are revealed in a couple of strange yet not all too surprising ways. Indeed, almost immediately, Jack decides to go pout by himself in the woods like a little crybaby because he is jealous of Adrian’s new friends, even though he has spent the last couple days desperately attempting to get away from the young punk. When Dahlia makes the misguided mistake of attempting to talk to Jack by telling him some hippie pseudo-metaphysical bullshit about how he has a “purple aura” and that he “has some kind of terrible trouble,” he gets somewhat physically aggressive, warns her, “You take Gerald, and you get the hell away,” and ultimately scares her away so badly that she attempts to talk her beau into fleeing the park for good. After Dahlia runs away, Adrian confronts Jack and more or less declares his love for him by passionately state, “You think this is coincidence, our paths crossing like this? We attracted each other. We were like magnets, Jack. The two of us colliding in time…bound together by our little secrets.”  Indeed, Adrian seems to think Jack is his special soul mate, but the nearly emotionally impenetrable old fart does not want to believe it, as he is a man of immense hatred and glacial impenetrability who just does not know how to let himself be emotionally vulnerable.  After accusing him of being “afraid of partying” because he “might like it,” Adrian also makes a point of mocking Jack’s hypocrisy by stating, “You think you know right from wrong? You think you know what that is? You got as much right to moralize as Jack the fucking Ripper.”

Rather revealing, it is only when Adrian catches Jack engaged in ménage à trois of sorts with Gerald and Dahlia that he completely loses it and goes completely berserk in what amounts to a pathetic emotional breakdown of sorts. Even more revealingly, before actually catching them engaging in drug-fueled carnal indulgences, Jack bangs on the van while Adrian is inside and pathetically pleads to him during a rare moment of tactless vulnerability, “Adrian, don’t do this” and “we need to talk,” as if he wants to declare his love and affection for him, but is just too plain socially and sexually ill-equipped to do so. After getting done fucking and doing dope with the hippies, Adrian comes back to the hotel room to find Jack lying in bed and looking quite morbidly depressed, as if his lover cheated on him white cheap white trash.  In short, Jack looks like a completely broke man and hustler Adrian naturally decides to take advantage of the situation. In the hope of cheering Jack up, Adrian encourages him to pay Gerald and Dahlia a special unannounced visit, stating in a mischievous fashion, “Why don’t you go to the van? You know you want to,” which he does. At this point, it becomes fairly obvious that it might be Jack and not Adrian that is the Hatchet Man, as the serial killer’s bloody signature is inscribed on the hippie van the next day.  One could also certainly argue that, as a present and gesture of love and affection to his new comrade, Adrian lured in the two hippies so that Jack could have a little fun with them.

In the final and arguably most melodramatic act of the film, Jack follows his original plan before meeting Adrian by driving the two to a secluded forest cabin that he inherited. In the first scene where the stolen casino money is actually revealed to the viewer, dumb ass ‘Dusty’ carelessly loses $250,000 during a drunken game of poker, so he quite predictably decides to cheer herself up by shooting some junk into this arm, thus predictably disgusting Jack, who bitches, “Oh, you’re just a slow-motion suicide. If you want to kill yourself…why don’t you just get it over with instead of waiting for somebody else to do it?” When Jack further remarks, “Well, you don’t look like a junkie,” as if to pay him a mild compliment in a backhanded sort of way, Adrian suavely retorts, “You could look like a prince and still be white trash” and then goes on a nihilistic rant about how everyone has “a hole” that “can’t be filled,” life is filled with “nothingness,” and how every self-destructive impulse is “just the nature of the beast.” When Adrian dares to call him out on his flagrant hypocrisy and knocks a glass of liquor out of his hand, Jack decides to sneak up to him from behind and knock him out unconscious by repeatedly beating him over the head and body with his metal briefcase in what is ultimately a quite cowardly act that really highlights the mean bourgeois bastard's inner volcanic hostility and overall lack of humanity.  Indeed, Jack decides that hardhearted homicide is the most adequate antidote to Adrian's rather reasonable complaints of hypocrisy.

After firmly taping him to a chair, Jack gives Adrian a self-described “lesson in life” by declaring “The monkey doesn’t shit where the crocodile sleeps. You’re the one with the needle in his arm looking for a new daddy, right? What’s he supposed to come along and do? Finish what the first one started? Well, here he is. Father knows best.” While creating a seemingly deadly cocktail that includes a bunch of heroin and Jack Daniels, Jack gets on his high horse and remarks, “He goes by many names—crank, crack, croak. I bet you there’s not even a name for this. But you can think of one on your last trip to Never Never Land. Maybe, by rights, you should end up in little pieces. Maybe that’s all you really want. I don’t know. I’m not a shrink. But this is exactly how you should go out.” Before injecting the deadly dope in his compatriot's neck, Jack sadistically states, “It’s just a shot, little boy,” thus causing Adrian to lose his cool for the first time in the entire movie and meekly beg while on the verge of tears, “Please don’t kill me, Jack.” Of course, gentleman Jack is hardly a forgiving man and even seems to derive sadistic glee from seeing Adrian squirm. Indeed, after shooting the bad batch into Adrian's rather red neck, Jack declares, “Off to see the wizard.”  Needless to say, Jack watches intently from only a couple feet away as Adrian jerks and convulses in an erratic fashion as he succumbs to a drug overdose.

While Jack is sure Adrian is dead and buries his corpse before it gets dark, things get a little strange later that night when the ostensibly dead hitchhiker begins to rise from the grave during a less than auspicious moment involving local law enforcement. Indeed, shortly after Jack’s old cop pal Sheriff Gordon (Brion James) and his young partner ‘Little David’ (Tom Tarantini) randomly arrive at the cabin to warn the psychopathic businessman of possible crooks and criminals in the area, Adrian slowly but surely digs himself out of his relatively shallow grave whilst his would-be-killer looks on in terror that he might be caught and ultimately recognized for the murderous monster that he really is. Luckily for Jack, Sheriff Gordon and his partner leave abruptly due to a call regarding a domestic disturbance, so Jack only has to worry about just finishing off Adrian for once and all instead of going to jail. Needless to say, Adrian decides to taunt Jack after unearthing himself and does so by writing “Hatchet Man” on his car. As for Jack, he whips out a shotgun and immediately attempts to gun down Adrian while he lurks in the shadows. When Adrian eventually reveals himself, he does so in a super suave fashion by lighting a match, coolly declaring, “You can’t kill the devil, Jack. You ought to know that,” and then kicking Jack his suitcase in what ultimately proves to be a poetically suicidal act.

Terminally heartbroken after being rebuffed by the brutal old man, Adrian reasonably complains to Jack, “You know, you really are a sick man, Jack. Here I am…the one single body…on the face of this shit-eating planet…who would accept you…for what you really are. And you try to kill…and bury me.”  Ultimately, Adrian seems so emotionally wounded as a result of being so ruthlessly rejected that he more or less allows Jack to finish him off.  As for Jack, he finally expresses his truly twisted psycho killer Weltanschauung by coldly yet confidently declaring, “People spend their whole lives thinking that someone is going to come along and take away all their misery. For a precious few, I am that someone” and then reveals a large hatchet that he had stored in his beloved suitcase, thus confirming beyond any doubt that he is indeed the infamous “Hatchet Man” serial killer, which Adrian clearly knew all along. With his last bit of gall, Adrian asks Jack, “Why do you cut them up into little pieces,” and the suburban serial killer replies with a notable hint of visceral hatred “For the fuck of it” and then proceeds to kill the poor lovelorn junky off-screen. In the end, Jack goes back to his bourgeois family in the suburbs where he greets a paperboy and states in a phony jolly fashion “say, hey, Billy.” Before the final credits appear, the following Jeremiah 17:9 appears: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?

As far as homoerotic thrillers are concerned, The Nature of the Beast is, in terms of sheer sexual an emotional tension, the ultimate bloody and badly botched anti-orgasm as the two male leads never put aside their differences and fuck like the sick Sturmabteilung-esque sods that they are, but then again one could argue that the real sexual climax is when Jack murders Adrian in what ultimately proves to be an amazingly aberrant act of perverse poofter poetry in a film where a queer filmmaker reveals in a somewhat covert fashion the darker side of fagdom à la Armin Meiwes and John Wayne Gacy. Undoubtedly, the film is also notable for featuring a potent example of a failed Folie à deux, as Adrian so desperately desires to be on the same wavelength as Jack in terms of perverse pathology, but really the two men are total opposites, even if they are both fairly morally bankrupt in their own ways. Of course, it is ultimately bourgeois businessman Jack that is the sickest of the two as a sociopathic serial killer of the innately impenetrable sort who has his head so far up his own ass that he cannot even accept the inordinately tender Kameradschaft of a charming junky crook, even though he actually accepts him for who he is a sadistic killer with a fiercely foul fetish for savagely dismembering strangers. Of course, the film seems to be a pathetic projection of auteur Salva’s own feelings of rejection, as if he had a crush on some big mean murderer in prison, but the guy rejected him and/or found it impossible to respect him because he is a soft and weak pedo. After all, The Nature of the Beast was adapted from one of the five scripts that he wrote while in prison where he had a lot of time to personally confront and think about the criminal mind. Apparently, prison was, not surprisingly, a nightmarish experience for Salva, or as he told Glenn Lovell in an interview, “I was never more scared or closer to death than I was in prison. I received no therapy there. Prisons are not places for rehabilitation or learning to understand yourself or your actions. They’re monster factories.” Not unlike many gay men, Salva seems to be a major masochist, as he certainly delights in sexualizing the criminals and killers in his films.  Of course, like many child molesters, Salva was very quite possibly the victim of child molestation himself, so it is only natural that he would depict the worst sort of human predator as a sort of perennially intangible sex object that is devoid of empathy and compassion.  Thankfully, Salva simply subtly proposes questions and refuses to offer answers.

Not unlike Moors murderer Ian Brady’s book The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and Its Analysis by the Moors Murderer Ian Brady (2001) published by the fine folks at Feral House, The Nature of the Beast might be best described as an obscenely odious piece of criminal outsider art where the creator’s own criminal passions and experiences are an intrinsic ingredient of the work. Don’t get me wrong, Sicilian sod Salva is far from a great cinematic auteur, but his films, especially The Nature of the Beast (1995) and Rites of Passage, open a window into the mind of a degenerate criminal that, at the very least, seems to be hardly ridden of his despicable desires and has no problem expressing them cinematically, even if in a semi-hermetic fashion.  Surely, I would file most of Salva's films under the ‘true crime’ section despite being fictional features, as they say just as much about the filmmaker as the paintings of frog cannibal Nicolas Claux reveal about him. Indeed, even in his ostensibly non-gay films like Powder and the Jeepers Creepers franchise, Salva could not help but include barley-legal shirtless twinks and seemingly subconscious gay subtexts that are nothing if not incriminating. Once describing his arrest and imprisonment for molesting a 12-year-old boy as nothing more than a mere “little hiatus,” Salva hardly seems sincere when he makes generic anti-pedo declarations to journalists like, “I do not advocate inappropriate sexual behavior with children.” In short, Salva says one thing but his films certainly say another. Certainly, one cannot get through watching The Nature of the Beast or Rites of Passage without coming to the conclusion that the writer/director is a conscious sexual outlaw that looks down on men that repress their sexual perversions. After all, Salva more than hints that Henriksen character’s hateful murderous impulses are the direct result of sexual repression. Of course, one could argue that making bloody horror is Salva’s only outlet for his pedo tendencies and that if he was not making such sickly salacious films he might have become a re-offender and/or cheerleader for NAMBLA. Either way, there is no denying the captivating carnal criminal perversity of a film like The Nature of the Beast where the viewer is forced to sympathize with the sick and sexually depraved.

As a marvelous male bimbo with certain glaring white trash qualities (e.g. wife-beating), Eric Roberts hardly seems like he is easy to offend, yet apparently he deeply regrets appearing in The Nature of the Beast.  Indeed, in an interview featured in the February 6, 1996 issue of the mainstream gay magazine The Advocate, Roberts remarked, “I made a movie with Victor just before POWDER called THE NATURE OF THE BEAST [...] I'll say that had I known Victor was a pedophile, I would not have made that movie. Victor didn't lie, but he lied by omission [...] If a man is going to videotape his sex life with a boy, it makes me nauseous. It makes me feel very vulnerable, and I"m not a vulnerable guy.”  Of course, Salva is the real monster of his films and a perfect case study when it comes to proving the auteur theory, but I doubt he was born that way.  Abandoned by his biological father and abuse and gay-bashed by the alcoholic stepfather that raised him, Salva undoubtedly longs for a “daddy” just like Adrian in The Nature of the Beast, so I think it is only fitting to conclude this review with Mr. Roberts' eloquent words from his Advocate interview, “The behavior that is abusive comes out of a child in us that feels frightened or scared. But the problem is, it doesn't translate: A big grown man, when he's in that child state, is a big grown man doing it; he's not a hurt child. I realized I was hurting myself. You don't mean to abuse anybody around you. But as you hurt yourself, you hurt other people.”  If there is anything that the viewer truly learns while watching the film, it is that Salva truly believes that he, like most people, is a victim of the nature of the beast and that the act of boy-buggering reveals an extra advanced degree of this spiritually necrotizing eponymous affliction.

-Ty E