Review Date: October 7, 2008
Released by: Media Blasters
Release date: 5/20/2008
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
When it comes to horror films, nothing is ever taboo. Castration in Cannibal Ferox
. Bestiality in [b]The Beast. Urolagina in The Last House on the Left
and even animal slaughter in Cannibal Holocaust
. But if there’s one topic that just isn’t really talked about, it’s necrophilia. Violence and the dead continues to thrive with every new zombie film, but typical of our puritanical chastity, love with the dead is seemingly off limits. Canada gave it a shot with Kissed
and Germany did it most famously with the Nekromantik
films, but America…Weekend at Bernies II
. Okay, well, there are a few others, but they are only tiny blips on the footnotes of filmmaking. There’s the videotape oddity, Gorotica
, where an AIDS victim gives up sex with the living for the dead, and the 1973 drive-in cheapie Love Me Deadly
was probably the first to tackle the subject head on, and thankfully Shriek Show, with the help of Code Red, has finally brought the film out of purgatory uncut and with extras. A lot of time has passed since 1973, so throw on your best black suit and let’s see whether this one’s a rotter or embalmed to perfection.
The film begins, naturally, at a funeral. Family mourns, friends cry and lovers weep, but in the background someone lingers without emotion. Lindsay Finch (Mary Wilcox
) waits until the congregation clears out, walks towards the deceased, lifts her veil…and give him a kiss. She’s a necrophiliac, but she wasn’t always this way. As the credits role, we see a montage of father and daughter, happy and content. Lindsay’s father was taken from her early in life though, and the void of his passing has taken its toll on her. She mourned her father’s death so much, she spent more time with the dead at the cemetery than she did with the living. To love death was inevitable.
Her preference for cold hard sex is reaffirmed when she tries to mingle at a party. She sees a cute man from across the room, Wade (Christopher Stone
, several hairs short of The Howling
), and they have a flirtatious journey up to her bedroom. He immediately forces himself upon her though, trapping her into submission. She rejects his advances, but he’s powerful…he’s alive. She leaves the party in distress, and ventures once more to the mortuary. A dead man will never hit her, never demean her or never abuse her. The quiet lust she shows at funerals finally catches the eye of an embalmer with a similar preference for perishable passion. He invites her to his little get together, but when she sees that it’s more than quiet lust, with crazy rituals and wild nudity, she realizes she’s in too deep. Any deeper and she’d be six feet under!
Lindsay attempts to suppress her love for the dead, trying to live a regular life. She even gets married to a man that subconsciously reminds her of her father. Little things, though, like a hearse driving by or read through the obituary column in the paper, slowly sends her back to course. She starts to lie to her husband to attend the slaughtered sex séances, but once he is privy to her late night excursions, he decides to confront her head on. He crashes one of her rituals, forcing her to confront her illness, her childhood and the death of her father in one tragic finale.
Despite the easily exploitable premise, Love Me Deadly
is a surprisingly compassionate and involving look into necrophilia told with originality and at times candid sexuality. There are sequences where a coven worships entirely nude, or when the embalmer seduces a gay man full frontal to satisfy his cravings. Yet, for every disturbed moment like this, there’s a slow and sympathetic look into one woman’s psychosis. Mary Wilcox is fascinating in the lead role, possessing a classical Hollywood beauty in the way of Rita Hayworth or Marilyn Monroe. If on the surface, Marilyn Chambers’ ethereal beauty legitimized the world of porn in Beyond the Green Door
, then its Wilcox’s shapely elegance that legitimizes what is otherwise a film about lusting after dead people.
Focusing merely on her physicality is selling her performance, and the film short. As Lindsay, she’s the core of the film, and her psychological torment rips through every scene – her ambivalence between lust, pain and self-hatred always lingering behind those bright eyes. She’s a tragic character, and Director Jacques Lacerte uses his theatrical training to ensure that not only the performance conveys the torment, but that the story itself is rich enough to supply it. Love Me Deadly
goes to great lengths to humanize an otherwise sensational fetish, its what-if reasoning coming from all directions. She rejects the dominance of alpha males, she lusts for childhood innocence, she’s timid about her own sexuality and she’s clinging to the only lifestyle she knows. The film is never one note, and it’s all the better for it.
Despite the insanely low budget, and Lacerte’s preference for master shots, there’s actually an unexpected amount of style woven into the proceedings, from some solarized flashbacks to a montage of slow motion sexual dissolves that climaxes with a woman’s scream. The editing is always interesting, using cuts to establish connections between Lindsay’s past and her present. The story, with its constantly evolving mystery, is also constructed with a creative craft. I usually know what I’m getting into when I pick up a horror film, but Love Me Deadly
, like other quiet gems like Season of the Witch
, was an unexpected delight.
The film is presented progressive scan in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and considering it played for two weeks, was minted on ten or less release prints, it looks quite good. There are some white blemishes that pop up intermittently throughout, and all the optical fades and effects are done pretty poorly, resulting in a noticeable decrease in quality during transitions. Aside from the damage the original print has taken, though, Love Me Deadly
is another solid transfer for Media Blasters/Code Red. The print, while a tad grainy, has considerable detail, and the colors, although never popping off the screen, look saturated as they should. Considering how tough this film has been to find, it’s pretty amazing that it looks as good as it does here.
Like the video, it certainly seems a product of its time, in this case with some lower level noise and the occasional crackle in the sound, but overall the mix is quite good for a mono track. This isn’t a film that screams sound design – in fact, the mono track actually helps reinforce the sort of fifties melodramatic principles the film seems founded on. The weepy theme song particularly recalls some melancholy like “Imitation of Life”. Nothing fancy, but no real complaints.
Considering the past output of Code Red and Media Blasters, the resulting DVD here is pretty slim. Understandably, though, considering the director, the producer and actors Christopher Stone and Timothy Scott are all deceased. Of the living, bombshell lead actress Mary Wilcox is not an Anglican pastor in northern Canada, so she’s now exactly the perfect candidate to interview, either. Still, Media Blasters managed to do what they could to outfit this release with at least a few tidings. You might notice a trailer or two on this disc. Make that about twenty. With Media Blaster titles of all sorts on display here (with even more as easter eggs), this makes for a sort of poor man’s version of 42nd St. Forever. My favorite is for Evils of the Night
which makes it look like a totally awesome slasher. Too bad it’s actually a godawful sci-fi flick.
The trailer for Love Me Deadly
is included too, which amusingly features a title card explaining just what exactly necrophilia is. Thanks, guys! After you sift through all those, there’s also a commentary with the late producer, Buck Edwards. He’s moderated by Greg Goodsell, and the whole track is light hearted and informative. Edwards talks about how the film was made for only $42,000 and how in order to avoid the high costs of paying actors to disrobe, they just went ahead and paid prostitutes $50 for a day’s work! He remembers a lot, including some sour memories of how he had a falling out with the director, which then led to him paying Lacerte absolutely nothing. That’s showbiz for you. Edwards sounded happy throughout, and still had an amazing memory, despite passing away only weeks after doing the commentary.
For those that look hard there’s also a nice egg with some additional nudity thanks to taking off the matte bars for select scenes. Classy!
To the rhetorical titular statement…“I do.” Love Me Deadly
is a provocative delight, both classy and taboo, melodramatic and horrific, and straightforward and complex. Mary Wilcox’s performance is one to really get the blood flowing, and as far as necrophilia films go, this is the first and last word on the subject (it’s also close to the only word on the subject). This fine little film comes with good audio and visual transfers that respectfully show their age, and a nice commentary to lessen the mystery behind this unseen shocker. They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to! Recommended.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - B
Sound - B
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 35 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- Dozens of Media Blasters trailers
- Theatrical trailer
- Audio commentary with late producer Buck Edwards and moderator
- Easter egg