Feb 9, 2014
The older I get, the less tolerant I am of exploitation cinema, so it takes a film with a rather bizarre and/or ugly reputation for me to even considering viewing something from that celluloid ghetto. The innately culturally and morally confused West German-Italian-French-Canadian co-production Born For Hell (1976) aka Naked Massacre aka Die Hinrichtung directed by French-Canadian quasi-pornographer/producer Denis Héroux (Virgin Lovers, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris) was one of those rare innately idiosyncratic exploitation flicks that managed to catch my attention. An international exploitation film set in terrorism-ridden Belfast, Ireland and starring European and Canadian arthouse superstars like Mathieu Carrière (Young Törless, Egon Schiele – Exzess und Bestrafung), Eva Mattes (Stroszek, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant), Carole Laure (Sweet Movie, Get Out Your Handkerchiefs), Myriam Boyer (Shadow of a Chance, Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000), Leonora Fani (Percy Is Killed, Nenè) and Christine Boisson (Identification of a Woman, Jenatsch), Naked Massacre is a totally tasteless horror-thriller based on the crimes of sexually confused American serial killer Richard Speck about a misogynist Vietnam vet of the decidedly deranged sort who suffers from impotence and decides to take his erotic frustration out on a house full of nubile young nurses. A curious product of a time when Canada had very liberal tax shelter laws (apparently, investors could write-off as much as 200%) for international co-productions with Europe and Israel, Naked Massacre is probably the finest and most aesthetically contemptible example of what happens when serious and singularly talented arthouse actors are degraded for the sake of a dubious investment. Part of the requirement for Canadian-European co-productions was that stars from the respective nations that funded the film would have to appear in the film, so Naked Massacre features great kraut actors like Mathieu Carrière and Eva Mattes giving unintentionally inept and sometimes hilarious performances due to poor dubbing. Of course, seeing a talent like Carrière portraying a wack-job American woman-killer also makes for a rather absurd experience. Still, with its against-type cast, gratuitous psychosexual ultra-violence, superlatively silly yet nonetheless striking setting, and innately insincere ‘anti-terrorist’ message, Naked Massacre makes for a welcome exception to the sort of contrived exploitation films typical of the 1970s. Mostly shot in Hamburg and Studio Bendestorf (Lower Saxony) in West Germany, Naked Massacre also has a beauteously bizarre atmosphere due to its various scenes shot in apocalyptic Belfast in the age of terrorism and globalization. Simultaneously anti-American yet pro-Israel (the film closes with a news report on a terrorist bombing in the unholy Holy land), Naked Massacre is essentially liberal capitalist trash meant to capitalize on human tragedy and for that reason alone makes the film have a certain crude essence that is much more palatable than the latest ‘socially conscious’ celluloid con from the likes of mainstream liberal horror icons like George A. Romero, Wes Craven, and Tobe Hooper.
Beginning with the conspicuously contrived introductory warning, “Harbor town in Northern Ireland, where after centuries the religious dispute flamed up again and where – like everywhere nowadays – undeclared wars, bloody terror and blind rage are the cause for pointless deaths of countless innocents. The personal fates are fictitious, merely the analysis of the offender and the acts are based on authentic events,” Naked Massacre depicts a war-torn Belfast where buildings, churches, and people are being blown up around the clock in terrorist bombings and brainwashed Irish Catholic grade school children practice executing English soldiers. Morally retarded war vet Cain Adamson (Mathieu Carrière) does not know why he decided to travel to Belfast or why he decided to fight in the Vietnam War (he figures it was either to kill people and/or kill himself), but he is certainly in his element and sure of the fact that, “I only knew one hooker that was a human being…but she killed herself at 18. Nobody knows why.” The dead hooker killer Cain is speaking of his sister who, among other things, he apparently had sexual relations with. A bum-like drifter without a cent to his name, Cain sleeps in homeless shelters and begs bartenders for free beer. Upon meeting a young Vietnamese refugee, Cain shows the young man a medal he won and proudly states, “See this…it means I’m a hero…I had to grease a lot of gooks to get this.” After questioning Cain’s sanity (the war vet proudly proclaims, “The army doctor declared me perfectly normal”), the young gook, who is no more savory than his new American friend, makes the ex-GI the following proposition regarding opening up a whorehouse, “I know a place in London… English people have very special tastes. With your accent and looks we could pick a fortune over there.” Of course, Cain is more interested in blood than bucks and declines the yellow man’s offer and instead decides to humiliate an over-the-hill prostitute who brags about the fact she turned her son queer after having incestuous relations with him one-too-many times. When the fat old cow of a hooker also accuses Cain of being a pansy cocksucker, he ultimately decides to take his bitter revenge against the fairer sex.
Eventually, Cain finally finds what he has been subconsciously looking for in the form of a house full of international European nurses, including a couple German gals, as well as a pregnant chick and a lipstick lesbian or two (indeed, the film features a couple cheap sub-softcore lesbo scenes). With “Born For Hell” (hence the film’s alternate titles) tattooed on his arm that he brags to the nurses he paid a mere $10 bucks for at the age of 14, Cain proceeds to emotionally, physically, and sexually terrorize all the girls in various ways, starting with a chick named Amy (Carole Laure) who resembles his beloved dead sister. When Amy won’t put out, Cain gets sexually frustrated and strangles her to death. An ostensible proponent of lesbianism, the mad misogynist forces one nurse to perform cunnilingus on her friend for the mere cultivated pleasure. In what is probably the most equally ‘penetrating’ and peculiar scene of Naked Massacre, Cain begins to act sweet to one of the surviving nurses, Catherine (Eva Mattes), but she has lost her mind and decides to commit seppuku via driving a large knife into her stomach. In the end, Cain gets away but one of the girls manages to survive that fateful night by hiding under a bed. Supposedly guilt-ridden by his crimes and fearing he might get caught, Cain decides to commit suicide (apparently, he also tried to kill himself while in the army) in a public bathroom stall, but fails and while being stitched up, the doctor notices he has the same “Born For Hell” tattoo that has been reported on the news in regard to an identifiable trait of the mystery man who committed the Belfast nurse massacre.
A mind-numbingly mean-spirited and even misanthropic work, Naked Massacre is certainly worthy of being just as revered as similar exploitation classics like The Last House on the Left (1972), Hitch-Hike (1977), I Spit on Your Grave (1978), and The House on the Edge of the Park (1980), but the film’s sometimes pseudo-arthouse essence is probably too off-putting to the average philistine gorehound. It is also doubtful that auteur Denis Héroux cares about the legacy of Naked Massacre as he would go on to be given the prestigious title of ‘Officer of the Order of Canada’ in 1983, so a proto-torture-porn flick about the nihilistic nurse killing of a sexually warped serial killer like Richard Speck would probably not be the best thing for the filmmaker to list on his resume. Additionally, as a serious actor/director who has worked with Volker Schlöndorff, Harry Kümel, and Paul Morrissey, and who has also dedicated his life to fighting for fathers' rights, it is doubtful that lead Mathieu Carrière looks back on the film fondly. Although it probably does not say much, Naked Massacre is easily the best film ever made about Speck and a somewhat inventive take on the gynophobic killer’s crimes. A film that seems like it was directed by a jaded ex-hippie anti-war protestor turned hateful capitalist smut-peddler, Naked Massacre can in no way be taken seriously as an anti-war/anti-terrorism work but instead more resembles a petty agitprop piece assembled by unsophisticated mainstream left-wingers who knows the right ass to kiss (i.e. Zionists, feminists, etc.). That being said, Naked Massacre ultimately makes for a quasi-interesting sub-cult item for proudly Eurocentric cinephiles that demonstrates how a hack director can degrade Fassbinder superstars and French divas to the point where they are virtually indiscernible from the no-name actors featured in worthless slasher franchises like the Friday the 13th and Halloween series.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 12:27 AM
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