Nov 26, 2013

Madness (1980)




As far I am concerned, there is no such thing as a bad Joe Dallesandro film aside from possibly Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club (1984) and a couple of his later works where he only has cameo roles, so naturally I will watch just about anything featuring the lapsed Warhol superstar. Of course, I jumped at the chance to see little Joe play a psychopathic fugitive killer in the Guido crime-thriller Madness (1980) aka Vacanze per un massacre aka Vacation for a Massacre directed by mafia movie maestro Fernando Di Leo (The Italian Connection, Rulers of the City). Personally, when it comes to the films of dirty dago director Di Leo, I prefer his more obscure and unconventional works like Avere vent'anni (1978) aka To Be Twenty to his much more popular Cosa Nostra-themed flicks, so Madness instantly grabbed my attention when I first discovered it, even if it seemed like a stereotypically sleazy exploitation flick with softcore sex scenes. Indeed, Madness is essentially like The Last House on the Left (1972) Italian style, albeit with Joe Dallesandro and a curiously cynical anti-bourgeois message where the ‘victims’ of killer Joe are almost less sympathetic than the killer himself. A wicked and biting celluloid work featuring misanthropy and misogyny that depicts young jet-set middle-class Hightalians as the most unscrupulous of money and cock-grubbing whores, Madness is certainly far from the ‘victim power’/’rightful revenge’ message of Craven’s The Last House on the Left, which is certainly one of the reasons the film is still provocative and outrageous today. Largely taking place in a country home decorated with posters of strangely creepy Hollywood icons like Marlon Brando, James Dean, and John Travolta, Madness portrays a decidedly degenerate and proudly decadent goombah bourgeois brainwashed by American trash culture and dedicated to then-vogue post-WWII politics like feminism and sexual liberation of the quasi-incestuous. Featuring a totally tasteless bizarre love triangle between a wop preppy, his girlfriend, and her sister, Madness indeed wallows in ‘madness,’ albeit more of the Cultural Marxist variety. Although director Di Leo suffered hostility from his fans and monetary failure for branching out to the urban crime-thriller ghetto with To Be Twenty, he had the great gall to follow it with Madness, a superlatively sleazy genre-less hybrid featuring elements of action, horror, thriller, mediocre melodrama, and good old exploitation excess. Like To Be Twenty, Madness was also a commercial failure that did not even receive an American distributor (thankfully RaroVideo released a dvd of it in 2012) and thus is virtually totally unknown, even amongst Dallesandro fans. Not exactly up to par with his performances in prestigious European arthouse works like Louis Malle’s Black Moon (1975), Serge Gainsbourg’s I Love You, I Don't (1976) aka Je t'aime moi non plus, Walerian Borowczyk ‘s The Streetwalker (1976) aka La marge nor Jacques Rivette’s Merry-Go-Round (1981), Madness is still mandatory viewing for Dallesandro fans, even if the Italian-American actor’s blue-collar Brooklyn accent has been slaughtered via classically absurd Guido dubbing. 




 Joe Brezzi (Little Joe D) has just escaped prison and to celebrate, he kills two farmers, steals their car, and makes his way to a quaint cottage in the Italian countryside to dig up the 300 million lire that he hid in a fireplace hearth five years ago before he was locked up. Unfortunately, Joe B runs into a seemingly minor problem when he discovers that a lecherous good-for-nothing middle-class 'family' is staying there, thus thwarting his chances of swiftly collecting his well earned cash and making his way to some sort of paradise. From there, Madness evolves into a mildly idiosyncratic and totally tasteless and classless chamber piece where four completely calculating and corrupt degenerates do their damnedest to survive, or at least die trying. While snooping around at night around the country home, Joe learns that its occupants are cheaters and liars unworthy of sympathy, let alone mercy, so he has a pretty good idea how to deal with these debauched folks. The ‘man’ of the house is a would-be-macho preppy outdoors-man named Sergio (Gianni Macchia) who is married to Liliana (Patrizia Behn), but is screwing her pseudo-feminist sister Paola (Lorraine De Selle) under the same roof! Of course, Paola, who seduces her sister’s husband Sergio, is the true femme fatale of the humble abode and naturally she puts up the greatest fight when the mayhem begins. If any character is even remotely redeemable, it is Liliana as she at least genuinely loves her hubby, though she is too weak and vapid of a character to have any real sympathy for. After spying on them at night, Joe makes his first move the next morning and savagely seduces Paola whilst she is all by her lonesome. A born whore that knows all the tricks of the trade when it comes to seduction, Paola does everything she can to make Joe think she genuinely wants his cock, even flashing her furry bush at him while sitting in an unlady manner in a chair. Paola eventually attempts a great escape while totally unclad, but Joe soon catches her and no long after he also captures Sergio and Liliana. For his own sadistic enjoyment, but also to demonstrate to poor Liliana that her sister and husband are having an affair, Joe forces Sergio and Paola to have sex at gunpoint, which they do with the utmost gusto and sensuality despite hostile onlookers watching them in a viciously voyeuristic manner. After Joe demonstrates that he is the undisputed alpha-male of the home, but also to spite her sister and husband, Liliana has sex with the violent psychopathic fugitive. Meanwhile, Paola plots to steal Joe’s small fortune. In the end, everyone dies except one bitter bitch who has been screwed over by everyone she loves (minus a murderous madman, who she screws over!)




 Featuring a psychedelic soundtrack that sounds like Jimi Hendrix farting in a Whammy pedal created by maestro Luis Bacalov (Django, City of Women) and typically radically repellant 1970s wardrobes and home décor, Madness is not exactly an unsung masterpiece of Italian celluloid art but it is certainly a suave and sleazy way to waste 90 minutes or so. Probably best compared to Hitch-Hike (1977) aka Autostop rosso sangue starring Franco Nero and David Hess in terms of its glittery Guido grade psychosexual tensions and culture cringe in regard to trendy counter-culture/sexual liberation politics of the time, Madness is certainly nasty and naughty cinematic nihilism at its most unwavering yet preposterously wanton. Although a couple more of his European era films, including Merry-Go-Round, were released after the Fernando Di Leo flick, Madness was apparently the last film Joe Dallesandro worked on in the old continent and I would not be surprised if he felt the experience was a negative one, thus leading to his return to the United States, yet his understated and naturalistic performance in the film is indubitably one of the most strikingly stoic and macho of his singular career. Of course, out of all the actors featured in Madness, Patrizia Behn, who only starred in a total of three films during her marginal acting career, would only appear in one more film, the hardcore porn flick La gemella erotica (1980) directed by great Guido sleaze-surrealist Alberto Cavallone (whose career had also declined and was forced to make porn flicks out of financial necessity, so he made rather unsavory and unhinged fuck flicks that would turn virtually no one on!) and later apparently completed by Luigi Cozzi. Director Fernando Di Leo’s anteultimate feature film before his filmmaking career ended in 1985 (despite the fact he did not die until 2003) with Killer vs Killers, Madness, not unlike To Be Twenty, demonstrates the filmmaker was getting much more angry and aesthetically malicious as the years passed, as if he could foresee his own downfall.  A tragic yet trashy celluloid work offering nil redemption for its characters nor solace to its viewers, Madness is how all exploitation films should be as a work that, unlike the films of Wes Craven, never reaches the cheap and intolerable level of espousing humanistic ideals, liberal lunacy, or moral relativism.  In other words, Madness is not an exploitation flick for brainwashed p.c. pussies, frigid feminists, mainstream film critics, nor most Quentin Tarantino fans.



-Ty E

10 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Well, at least this is an Italian movie called "Madness" which is one small mercy to be thankful for. For one hideous mo-girl-t when i arrived here today i thought you`d done some kind of reveiw of that truly horrifying British punk band called "Madness", that would`ve been so unbearable and unendurable ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

In the last picture Joe looks as though hes buggering the 17 year-old version of Pauline Hickey from 1985.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I like that naked chick, i`d like to bugger that bird senseless (as the bird was at the time this movie was made, not as the slag is now obviously)

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I bet Joe buggered all the gorgeous birds in this movie during filming, the fucking lucky bastard.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, doesn`t 'moral relativism' make a total nonsense of morality itself ! ?, why should one generation have to waste its time being supposedly offended by something that the next generation isn`t going to be offended by ! ! !, like i said, its absurd.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

In the picture of Joe firing the shotgun i like to think hes shooting Warhol and saying: "take that, you bloody disgusting faggot".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

In the picture of Joe pointing the gun at the naked couple in bed i like to think hes saying: "i`m a great admirer of heterosexuality, its makes such a nice change from all the hideous and loathsome faggotry i had to endure when i was around that obnoxious queer scum Warhol".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

In the picture of Joe peering around the side of the rock i like to think hes saying: "COR...WOW...WEY-HEY...look at all those naked Pauline Hickey and Heather O`Rourke lookalikes, i cant wait to bugger them all".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

In the picture of Joe in bed with the incredible naked chick i like to think hes saying: "and now my dear i`m going to bugger you, and then i`m going to sodomize you, but dont you worry, i`m not going to fuck you, thats for your husband to do on your wedding night ! ! !.

Phantom of Pulp said...

Great dissection and appraisal of this terrific film, Ty E.

Raro have been released a lot of great stuff lately, including PLOT OF FEAR, too.