Oct 14, 2019

10 to Midnight

While it can certainly be argued that an immaculate exploitation film is an innately oxymoronic concept, some fucked flicks, not unlike porn sluts or fast food joints, are certainly better than others, even those produced by the fine kosher smut-peddlers of Cannon Films. Indeed, despite my increasingly disillusionment with the value of virtually all forms of trash cinema, I recently saw two exploitation films, Gary Sherman’s Vice Squad (1982) and J. Lee Thompson’s 10 to Midnight (1983), that reminded me that sometimes you need the cinematic equivalent of a big sloppy juicy back-alley blowjob from a cheap worthless whore. While both films involve a deranged white villain that butchers wanton white bitches with a certain penetratingly uncanny tenacity, these sexually unsound murderers have quite different motivations and pathologies. Whereas Vice Squad features the grand delight of featuring Wings Hauser portraying a violently unhinged pimp that mutilates the genitals of mainly gutter-dwelling white whores (but also the occasional bumbling negro male), 10 to Midnight features a terminally pissed-off proto-incel of sorts that uses a knife as a sort of compensatory phallus against beauteous young babes that dared to make a mockery of his irreparably broken masculinity. Needless to say, the latter is easily the better of the two films, which largely has to do with Gene Davis’ performance as the killer and director J. Lee Thompson’s surprisingly competent directing abilities.

While surely a hack of sorts that was responsible for directing such lame franchise sequel films as Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), he also directed some quite notable cinematic works ranging from the WWII epic The Guns of Navarone (1961) to the campy Shirley MacLaine whore show What a Way to Go! (1964). Certainly more importantly, Thompson has demonstrated a talent for horror and thriller cinema with an inordinate sort of pathos and perversity, including the original Cape Fear (1962) starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, the spiritually incestuous The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), and the slightly underrated canuck slasher flick Happy Birthday to Me (1981), among others. While I am not sure if I would cite 10 to Midnight as the director’s single greatest achievement, it is unequivocally his most tasteless and, in turn, wildly entertaining film and surely a notable accomplishment in that the filmmaker only agree to direct the film the night before shooting began after the original director was apparently let go (notably, Thompson previously worked with lead Bronson on films like St. Ives (1976) and The White Buffalo (1977)). A sort of super sod slasher on steroids that is big on the sensual and sensational in a largely unabashedly morally retarded fashion, the film oftentimes feels like it is set in the same sexually sociopathic universe as William Friedkin’s killer cocksucker classic Cruising (1980) as both are pleasantly politically incorrect flicks featuring gay serial killers that never capitulate to bourgeois bitch taste. Additionally, both films star Eugene M. Davis—the somewhat lesser known (and seemingly gayer) younger brother of actor turned AIDS victim Brad Davis (Midnight Express, Querelle)—and surely benefit from it (notably, lapsed teen idol Leif Garrett also auditioned for the role in 10 to Midnight and luckily he did not get it). 

 While I am not sure if Davis was also sexually abused by both of his parents like his brother Brad apparently was, he certainly does demonstrate a seemingly innate proficiency for portraying patently perverse characters (which probably explains his fairly uneven and rather limited acting career that includes roles ranging from a virtual man-whore in Roger Vadim's obscure Night Games (1980) to Nicolas Winding Refn's somewhat underrated Fear X (2003)). Indeed, whereas Davis portrayed a bitchy leather-clad quasi-tranny hooker in Cruising that surely could never pass for a woman despite how unconventionally ‘pretty’ he is, he’s especially believable as an autistic psychopath that likes making dirty phone calls and killing bitchy cunts that won’t give up their cunt despite the fact that he seems about as straight as a circle. Made long before the LGBT monster shot its viral load on unholywood, the film features what might be described as an ‘ambiguously gay’ serial killer that not only leaves queer porno mags on his toilet but who was also clearly modeled after Richard Speck who infamously gleefully spent his prison years as the tranny whore of a negro cocaine dealer (notably, this was not the first film inspired by the Speck murders as indicated by the curious exploitation flick Naked Massacre (1976) directed by Denis Héroux and starring German arthouse stars Mathieu Carrière and Eva Mattes).  Just like Speck, the killer targets a group of nubile nurses.  Unlike Speck, the killer receives quick and swift justice for his less than gentlemanly crimes.

Despite being a reasonably handsome guy with a muscular body and sculpted physique, the killer is a glaring creep that could not smash a gash if he had a hundred horny ovulating hos begging to be banged standing before him as he lacks a certain organic masculine heterosexual assertiveness, hence his compensatory need to penetrate women with sharp inanimate objects while in the nude. Rather curiously, aside from the female lead, most of the ill-fated chicks that the psychosexual killer kills with his virtual metal prick are hardly likeable ladies, thus adding to his incel cred. Not surprisingly, the film was supposed to feature more homoerotic content, including a scene where the killer is hit on by a flaming fagola and another where Bronson was supposed to wrestle a very naked Gene Davis (also, not surprisingly, Bronson was apparently not up for grappling with an unclad pretty boy). While the film is not quite as hyper homoerotic as A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) as far as 1980s genre cinema goes, there is no doubt that the killer is an involuntary member of the pink team, hence his miserably misguided homo-cidal rage.

 Maybe it is simply because he has a less than aesthetically pleasing Asiatic appearance (he had Lipka Tatar roots), overall lack of martial charisma, and/or hardly intimidating stature/physique, but I have never been particularly fond of Charles Bronson, even if I can superficially appreciate the sentiments of a film like Death Wish (1974).  Since I can’t really back Bronson or the sort of philistine films he is best known for, I found it to the great benefit of 10 to Midnight that his shamelessly corrupt and callous cop character is fairly unlikable one. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the character is so intrinsically unlikable that, in the end, I found myself rooting for the psychotic serial killer in all of his ambiguously gay naked glory. In fact, it even somehow comes as a genuine great shock at the end of the film when Bronson gets so high on his own unhinged self-righteousness that he puts a bullet in the brain of the mad muscular twink when he is not threat after being apprehended shortly after he massacres some nurses à la Richard Speck. In short, 10 to Midnight is a surprisingly sick (not to mention simultaneously gritty yet aesthetically slick) flick that some lame spiritually castrated LGBT film theorist could fairly easily argue has an identifiable anti-sod subtext in a sort of subtly hysterical homo-hating fashion to the point where one might believe it inspired a brief trend of fag-bashing in Kentucky.  As a film drenched in gratuitous violence and nudity—and, quite nicely, combines the two—it is also the sort of the movie that would entice Gaspar Noé, even if it does not go quite as far as Gerald Kargl’s endlessly entrancing serial killer fever dream Angst (1983) in terms of plunging the viewer's mind into the deep dark abyss that is the psyche of a raging renegade aberrosexual. 

 Warren Stacy (Gene Davis) is an undeniably handsome yet strikingly autistic young man that is an abject failure when it comes to the ladies and he knows it, but now he has decided to take revenge against the wanton whores, sidewalk slags, and conniving cum-dumps that will not even give him a meager crumb of pussy. Indeed, pathologically obsessed (as indicated by spastic fragmented flashbacks that are inter-spliced with shots of his very feminine grooming habits) with a bimbo bitch named Betty (June Gilbert) that dared to throw coffee in his face after some sort of failed romantic advance, wayward Warren carries out a revenge plan that involves murdering both the girl and her beau at a local park on a nice sunny day. In what is surely symbolic of his sexual perversion, Warren kills Betty while he is completely naked and—rather fittingly—she also happens to be completely unclad due to being interrupted while in the middle of fucking her boyfriend in a car.  Due to leaving behind no forensic evidence due to being naked (hence his reasoning behind his completely bare butchery) and creating the perfect alibi by talking to some bitchy babes at a movie theater, escaping throw a bathroom window unnoticed to carry out the murders, and then making his way back to the movie theater before the movie ends so the same bitchy babes can testify that he was there that evening, Warren is a fairly clever unhinged chap and that really pisses off hardened cynical cop Leo Kessler (Charles Bronson) who knows a guilty pervert when he sees one.  As a broody old bastard that is clearly approaching retirement, Kessler clearly has little time for bureaucratic bullshit and a whiny weirdo like Warren proves to really get his goat, thus inevitably leading to an intense showdown between the two quite different (yet arguably equally, if dissimilarly, socially obnoxious) loner types.

Indeed, when Warren comes under his radar, Kessler immediately knows that the agile autist is unequivocally guilty but he has to struggle with the annoying complication of working with a young idealistic cop named Paul McAnn (Andrew Stevens)—a handsome yet hopelessly normal young stud—that sincerely believes in law and order and does everything completely by the book as if his life depended on it.  In fact, aside from catching bad dudes and bringing them to justice, Kessler doesn’t really seem to care about anything, including his own unconventionally beautiful student nurse daughter Laurie Kessler (Lisa Eilbacher) who, rather conveniently in terms of the film's plot, is acquainted with Warren’s victims. Needless to say, when his young partner Paul becomes romantically interested in his daughter Laurie, Kessler also does not seem to give a shit about that, but luckily wacko Warren eventually develops an obsessive interest with the police detective’s daughter due to being constantly hounded by him to an almost fetishistic degree, as if the crusty old cop also has his own set of subconscious perversions that he is attempting to compensate for. Needless to say, the film concludes with Warren attempting to butcher Laurie while Kessler and Paul try to save her while simultaneously trying to bring down the ambiguously gay naked killer. Thankfully, despite its flaws, 10 to Midnight is not a film that pussies out in the end and instead closes on a shockingly politically incorrect note that reminds one that a single bullet can do so much more for humanity than a Talmudic Kafkaesque legal bureaucracy where a sort of neo-Sanhedrin reigns that caters to criminals and debases victims. 

 While crazed closet-case Warren Stacy is indubitably a bad dude that indeed deserves the bullet that ruptures his gray matter, I find it hard to not be at least superficially sympathetic to the savagely psychotic little sod as he is not totally delusional as clearly depicted in the film's deplorable dystopian realm of intrinsically irrational gynocentric terror where any dumb cunt with a room temperature IQ feels free to shame and debase any unfortunate male that does something she might find even the slightest bit unfavorable.  In that sense, the film is strangely prophetic for what amounts to a seemingly immaculately polished piece of celluloid trash.  In fact, Warren is certainly more sympathetic than, say, hopelessly hapless hapa incel messiah Elliot Rodger—a spoiled yet seriously self-loathing victim of miscegenation that, on top of being autistic, resented the fact his mom was Asian—who, unlike the film’s protagonist, did not have enough testicular fortitude to even try ask a girl out yet felt he was somehow entitled to premium grade Europid pussy because his white daddy bought him a fancy Bimmer. Undoubtedly, if Warren simply started hanging out at the sort of savage gay clubs featured in Cruising, Jacques Scandelari's New York City Inferno (1978), or Fred Halsted's A Night at Halsted's (1982), all of his problems would be solved as he would have an outlet for his sadistic sexual violence and he would not even have to really deal with dreaded women again outside the dreary dames from his lame office job. In short, Warren is, not unlike many gay serial killers that include John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer, among countless others, a pathetic victim of his own self-denial and self-deceptions. Despite being handsome and in good physical shape, Warren inspires horripilant in women because of his intrinsically repugnant personality traits and complete and utter lack of instinctual male heterosexual qualities. Of course, the irony of 10 to Midnight is that, despite the filmmaker’s best intent, Warren is no less repugnant than some of the women he kills, thus underscoring the all-around decidedly dysfunctional nature of the sexes in the post-sexual liberation America where many misguided young people feel completely obligated to embody some shallow (and oftentimes soul-destroying, especially for women) sexual (pseudo)ideal as if pornography and MTV are virtual guides to healthy living. After all, a fiercely fucked freak like Warren would probably feel less inclined to act homicidally as a closeted homo had he grown up in a pre-counterculture environment where there was less pressure on a man to prove his sexual prowess and penetrate as many worthless thots as possible, but I digress. 

 Undoubtedly, one of the most potent aspects of 10 to Midnight is the fact that the killer dispatches his victims whilst completely au naturel, which certainly has a particularly primal quality that transcends the sheer banality of serial killer genre convention. As to why unclad killing is interesting, degenerate Nietzschean anarchist Georges Bataille made the interesting argument in his text Erotism: Death and Sensuality (1957) that, “Stripping naked is the decisive action. Nakedness offers a contrast to self-possession, to discontinuous existence, in other words. It is a state of communication revealing a quest for a possible continuance of being beyond the confines of the self. Bodies open out to a state of continuity through secret channels that give us a feeling of obscenity. Obscenity is our name for the uneasiness which upsets the physical state associated with self-possession, with the possession of a recognized and stable individuality. Through the activity of organs in a flow of coalescence and renewal, like the ebb and flow of waves surging into one another, the self is dispossessed, and so completely that most creatures in a state of nakedness, for nakedness is symbolic of this dispossession and heralds it, will hide; particularly if the erotic art follows, consummating it. Stripping naked is seen in civilizations where the act has full significance if not as a simulacrum of the act of killing, at least as an equivalent shorn of gravity. In antiquity the destitution (or destruction) fundamental to eroticism was felt strongly and justified linking the act of love with sacrifice […] I must emphasize that the female partner in eroticism was seen as the victim, the male as the sacrifice, both during the consummation losing themselves in the continuity established by the first destructive act.” Undoubtedly, the way Bataille describes simple nakedness also makes it seem strangely comparable to the art of bullfighting which, rather fittingly, is an obsession of whacked-out Warren’s to the point where he has learned Spanish in tribute to his (assumedly second) favorite form of ritual slaughter. Indeed, Warren is the sort of guy that would probably jerk-off to Francesco Rosi’s artful documentary The Moment of Truth (1965).  Bullfighting aside, Warren's acts of unclad killing certainly have a ritualistic quality and ultimately betray his reputation as an insufferably uptight autist, as if stark-naked slaughters act as the sole relief he has from a loser life of involuntary celibacy and latent homosexuality.  Needless to say, such a fucked fellow would never stop killing, hence why he grisly end almost seems mandatory, if not overkill.

 Being what is essentially a glorified exploitation film on sleekly stylized sleaze steroids, 10 to Midnight does suffer from its fair share of problems, namely its tasteless tacked-on ‘good guy badge/bad ass vigilante’ ending where Bronson pulls-off a degenerate Death Wish-esque dispatching of the villain so that the audience can feel self-satisfied that the closeted cocksucker killer is as dead as Jeffrey Epstein's infamous libido. Indeed, in the end, deranged broken boy killer Warren—naked and pulsating like a thoroughly aroused cock that is about to blow a load that is so massive that it would impregnate the entire world with visceral hatred for vaginas—goes on a bitchy mocking rant to Bronson boy about how he is going to evade justice by using his mental illness as an excuse, thereupon inspiring the already-quite-infuriated no-bullshit cop to unload copper in his brain. Seeing as that, by the end of the film, Warren has completely transformed into a virtual modern-day Berserker—high on his own visceral hatred and seemingly immune to all attacks via his unclad body—and lost all contact with rationality and reality, it would seem more likely that he would fight to the death instead of allowing himself to be apprehended by his arch-nemesis. After all, his freedom and, in turn, life is over and such an inherently insane and individualistic individual would not fare too well inside any sort of government institution—be it a prison, mental institution, or otherwise. After all, as Bronze Age Pervert—a curiously shadowy and ambiguously gay individual that loves buff unclad bros—wrote in his manifesto Bronze Age Mindset (2018), “A beautiful death at the right time is the only key to understanding a life, its only hidden ‘meaning.’ It is a beautiful death to die after accomplishing a great feat for the glory of one’s city, family and for the gods, but it’s greater still to die in one’s prime, at the height of your powers and at the acme of their discharge. A beautiful death in youth is a great thing, to leave behind a beautiful body, and the best study of this pursuit you find in the novels of Mishima, a real connoisseur.” In short, Warren could have gone out like a sort of crazed killer cracker Mishima but instead he dies pathetically like a low-level negro gang-banger, but of course not many films tend to glorify the deaths of gay serial killers. 

 Notably, the life and death of the film’s first murder victim, Betty (June Gilbert), somewhat parallels that of failed tragic actress Christa Helm who, not unlike the fictional character, left behind a detailed personal love diary of sorts regarding her personal sexual and romantic consequences, hence why some believe she was murdered to cover up certain unsavory facts about sleazy bigwig Hollywood types. Despite dating powerful men like Joe Namath and Warren Beatty, Helm suffered a rather brief and forgettable acting career that included a small debut role in successful porn auteur Gerard Damiano’s non-porn horror turd Legacy of Satan (1974) and tiny cameos on tiresome hit TV shows like Starsky and Hutch and Wonder Woman. Immersed in the darker side of Hollywood, Helm also lived with porn auteur Jonas Middleton (Through the Looking Glass) and even apparently co-wrote the script for his second fuck flick Illusions of a Lady (1974), but quit the production when the filmmaker opted to make it a full-on hardcore film. While all this might seem like barely-related frivolous trivia in relation to 10 to Midnight, it all ultimately adds further context to film’s overall malefic mystique and exceedingly evil essence, as if this virtual glorified exploitation film is really much more as a semi-esoteric expression of the post-counterculture zeitgeist and superlatively sick collective unconscious of Hollywood during that time. Of course, this explains the popularity of actors like Charles Bronson—a symbol of atavistic vengeance against such degeneracy—even if he physically resembled a sort of half-bourgeois Charles Manson. The fact that lead Gene Davis’ brother previously starred in Fassbinder’s S&M sod swansong Querelle (1982)—a film that, despite its certain camp qualities, is imbued with a sort of sexually apocalyptic essence that was clearly influenced by the Todestrieb-inclined spirit of its forsaken auteur—only a year before further confirms the hopelessly collectively necrotizing state of the Occident at that time.

Dubious ancestry aside, Bronson is ultimately a sad symbol of reactionary boomer impotence and nothing more, hence how Hollywood went from churning out films like Cruising and 10 to Midnight to Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Call Me by Your Name (2017) in a mere couple decades as homo-hating is no longer vogue and homos have been homogenized enough to make for sound subject matter in mid-brow films for sentimental grandmothers. In a dying civilization where even a fictional Warren Stacy seems more sympathetic to a real-life Elliot Rodger or Alek Minassian—two misbegotten creatures that, unlike the film character, did not even exhibit a warped masculinity as they are both devoid of masculine qualities altogether—and their impotent perennially blue-balled “Beta Uprising” campaigns, the film is ultimately a delightfully dejecting reminder that things can always get worse and that—no matter the circumstances—there’s few things more patently loathsome than a man that cannot procure pussy of some sort. After all, Warren Stacy might have been a raging closest queen with insane standards, but there are always fat chicks with fat asses! 

-Ty E

No comments: