Jul 9, 2014
While mainstream far-leftist ‘auteur’ Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street) has directed countless pieces of big budget agitprop trash, one might never suspect that he actually once directed a quasi-exploitation horror-thriller starring suicidal Filipino midgets and lapsed Warhol superstars, as such eccentric cinematic ingredients seem far too curious for a man who assembled a film as pathetically pandering and disgustingly pseudo-sentimental as World Trade Center (2006). Indeed, long before making a name for himself by penning screenplays for relatively successful Hollywood films like Midnight Express (1978), Conan the Barbarian (1982), and Scarface (1983) and developing the reputation he would need to direct imbecilic softcore commie celluloid polemics, Stone directed a goofy and even somewhat campy little known horror flick entitled Seizure! (1974) aka Queen of Evil aka Tango Macabre starring Jonathan ‘Barnabas Collins’ Frid of Dark Shadows (1967-1971) fame, Hervé ‘Tattoo’ Villechaize (who was apparently the director’s roommate at the time) of Fantasy Island (1977-1983), and Mary Woronov of Warhol’s/Morrissey’s Chelsea Girls (1966) and Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul (1982). An American-Canadian coproduction that was partly produced by Greek-American Mafioso Michael Thevis (a marvelously murderous man nicknamed the “Scarface of Porn” who once owned half of the hardcore porn industry), who used the film as a means to launder money due to the fact he was under investigation by the FBI, Stone’s debut feature is a discernibly amateurishly directed work of the totally tasteless and superlatively sloppy sort that could have been assembled by any random exploitation hack, yet it is still certainly more interesting than probably the majority of the director’s later films. Interestingly, Stone is so embarrassed by his first feature that he later bought the copyright for the work so it could never ever again be released (though, it is rather easy to obtain a bootleg DVD of the film). Stone probably also wants to forget the film as it proved to be a nightmarish production for the Hebraic frog filmmaker, or as Greg Merritt revealed in his work Celluloid Mavericks: A History of American Independent Film (2000): “Long before PLATOON or JFK, a cab driver and unsuccessful screenwriter named Oliver Stone co wrote and directed SEIZURE (1974), the disjointed tale of a horror novelist whose nightmares come to life. Stone had virtually no previous production experience; the movie had no money. In an effort to get paid, the crew mutinied, dwarf actor Hervé Villechaize threatened Stone with a knife, and the cinematographer held the film negative for ransom. SEIZURE played in only one theater.” Shot on a majorly meager budget of $150,000 using mostly uniquely untalented soap opera actors, Seizure somewhat follows in the cinematically sacrilegious tradition of Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972), which is a non-remake of The Virgin Spring (1960), in that it is more or less an exceedingly loose bastardization of Ingmar Bergman's Hour of the Wolf (1968) aka Vargtimmen. Unlike Bergman’s film, which follows the mental derangement of a painter, Stone’s quasi-metacinematic work revolves around a high-strung horror novelist, who incessantly dreams of a malefic multicultural trio of crazed bloodlusting freak characters in his mind, only for said malefic multicultural trio of crazed bloodlusting freaks to come to life and torture and slaughter the protagonist’s innately insufferable friends and family.
Hack horror novelist Edmund Blackstone (Jonathan Frid) is at a weekend getaway with his wife Nicole (Christina Pickles) and 10-year-old son Jackson (Timothy Ousey) and he is horribly stressed because he cannot think of an adequate ending for his upcoming novel. Luckily, a wicked weirdo threesome will ultimately provide him with the real-life experience he needs to create an authentically horrifying horror novel, though it is dubious as to whether or not he will live to read said novel. Indeed, Blackstone keeps having recurring dreams about a triad of nasty and noxious freaks, including a swarthy dwarf with a rather repugnant leather-fag mustache named ‘The Spider’ (Hervé Villechaize), an axe-wielding muscle-bound Mandingo-like negro named ‘Jackal’ (Henry Judd Baker), and a Goddess Kali/Vampira wannabe named ‘Queen’ aka ‘Queen of Evil’ (Martine Beswick). Despite seeming to have premonitions that these fatal freaks will soon appear at his home and wreck havoc upon his loved ones, Blackstone decides to invite a number of his friends to his country home for a vacation, including a manically materialistic businessman of the somewhat psychopathic sort named Charlie Hughes (Joseph Sirolian) and his butch bitch wife with nil tits named Mikki (Mary Woronov), as well as an exceedingly effete ‘European’ aristocrat named Count Serge Kahn (Roger De Koven) and his very vain trophy wife Eunice (Anne Meacham). Before arriving and taking Blackstone and his friends/family hostage, the nightmarish creatures lynch the family dog and leave it for the novelist to find. Meanwhile, Blackstone creates exact sketches of the three quasi-human murderers that will soon insidiously invade his quaint countryside crash pad. Noticeably shaken and agitated as demonstrated by his erratic and highly irritable behavior, Blackstone is asked by his sensitive son Jason what is bothering him, to which the novelist revealingly replies, “I’m scared of something inside me.” Indeed, as super sophisticated Semite Serge will eventually reveal after being taken hostage, the Spider, Jackal, and the Queen of Evil are all archetypal characters from ancient folklore, with the latter, who is the leader of the triumvirate of terror, being the Hindu Goddess Kali. The ancient archetypes of evil are inside Blackstone's mind and ultimately his loved one's will pay after he lets them out to play.
When the murderously mischievous ‘monsters’ arrive, Blackstone and his buds soon learn that they will be playing a deranged Darwinian game of survival of the fittest that only one of the house guests will survive. At this point, the large and in charge Queen of Evil declares, “We are without beginning and without end” and “Our purpose…our only purpose…is death.” While some characters are murdered after losing silly contrived games played against their comrades, others are talked into committing suicide during scenarios that ultimately reveal each character's foremost weaknesses. For example, Serge’s wife Eunice opts for self-slaughter after malevolent midget Spider besmirches her beauty and makes her look like the bastard sister of Freddy Krueger. Of course, when these characters are pit against each other by the tyrannical trio, they demonstrate their true ugly and oftentimes predatory characters. For example, the Queen of Evil offers to spare Mikki if she kills Blackstone. Of course, Blackstone defeats Mikki, though he refuses to finish her off, so the Queen does it for him. When Blackstone does the unthinkable by denying the Queen’s carnal advances, he is given two hours to be alone with his wife Nicole before she does. During their last moments together, Nicole stoically states to her cuckold of a husband, “You’re a coward, Edmund…I realized that tonight.” Meanwhile, old Count Serge has accepted his forsaken fate like a man and before being decapitated by big black buck Jackal, he confesses to Blackstone, “I’ve come to believe that god is both good and evil. Sometimes he speaks to us with terror…like Yahweh or Mithras…or Kali. I’ve learned something tonight… I lived through the Russian Revolution…The Nazi occupation of Europe, but tonight…tonight, I’m old. I’m like a little baby in the arms of a new world. I think death, true death, is a companion…not an enemy…to life.” After Serge dies, the Queen offers to spare Blackstone’s life if he tells her where his son is hiding. Rather pathetically, Blackstone, who ultimately proves to be a sickeningly self-centered psychopath of sorts (much like most of his friends), opts for sacrificing his own son and he rationalizes this decision by stating to himself, “I can start again, after all it was all a dream, my life, always…books, ideas, illusions…even the people around me—Nicole, my friends, Jason—my love for them was only an author’s love for his own creations, but he can create others…more and more. An artist is without end. He never dies. He is not allowed to die.” In the end, after a twist ending or two (or three), it is revealed that horror novelist Edmund Blackstone perished at the age of 47 via heart attack. Luckily, no one else will have to bear the misfortune of reading another one of his phony horror novels.
While a witless and largely prosaic pseudo-philosophical/pseudo-metaphysical work that flirts with going beyond good and evil yet ultimately cops out in the end, Seizure is nonetheless most certainly one of Oliver Stone’s most original, thoughtful, and shockingly idiosyncratic films to date, as a sort of misbegotten cinematic marriage between Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932), Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf, and Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life (1956), albeit minus the drug element. While Stone intended to, “use the horror genre to treat serious psychological and cultural idea,” the film ultimately falls as both exploitation horror and as a piece of intellectual wankery. Indeed, it is quite obvious while watching the film that Stone has little interest or understanding of the genre and only made a horror film as they tend to make for the best financial gambles for first time directors. In fact, the director more or less admitted such in 1991 when he stated regarding the film, “You have to stretch to like it. It wasn’t great. I felt back then the same as I do now, that I always wanted to direct, and the horror genre was easier to break in with.” The director would follow up Seizure with an even more forgettable quasi-horror flick entitled The Hand (1981) starring Michael Caine before directing his first big success Platoon (1986) and dedicating the rest of his filmmaking career to creating shamelessly cliché bourgeois liberal bollocks. In the book Oliver Stone's USA: Film, History, and Controversy (2000), which only mentions Seizure a single time in all of its 340 pages, Robert Brent Toplin wrote regarding Stone’s pre-fame days: “By mid-1976, he had written eleven scripts and even directed one, SEIZURE, on a shoestring budget in Canada but failed to attract much critical or popular attention. It seemed he was going nowhere at a frantic pace. His marriage fell apart, he quit one job after another, and success continued to elude him. As America celebrated its bicentennial, Oliver Stone was a marginally employed twenty-five-year-old living in a cheap apartment in New York City. Had Stone been a movie character, he would have been TAXI DRIVER’s Travis Bickle.” Personally, I see more artistic integrity in the Travis Bickle that directed Seizure than in the philistine commie conspiracy theorist that directed such ludicrously long agitprop pieces as JFK (1991), Nixon (1995) and W. (2008) that remind the viewer why American mainstream left-wingers make for the most shallow, soulless, and just plain stupid of filmmakers in all of cinema history.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 1:16 AM
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