Thursday, January 13, 2011

Doin' the Kinski Crawl(space)

David Schmoeller is responsible for one of my favorite Doll’s House discoveries (Tourist Trap) and biggest failures (Netherworld). Forrest Gump might even liken the man’s style to a box of chocolates. As much as I hate biting into a hard fruit nougat, I’ll risk the disappointed tooth chip if there’s even the slightest chance I’ll discover coconut.

So in keeping with my chocolate theme (stay with me) let’s read the ingredients: Klaus Kinski. Nazi doctors. Instant Watch. 1986. 80 minutes.
I’ll bite.
Quick Plot: A pretty gnarly prologue follows a young woman discovering a room filled with a caged prisoner and implements of torture. Enter the Kinski. 
“It’s a shame. I liked you.”
I’ll have another chocolate, please.
Kinski plays Karl Guenther, a creepy apartment landlord with a face that makes the Crypt Keeper cry. Despite his intense Kinskiness, Guenther somehow attracts the deposit of a seemingly intelligent (though an ill-advised haircut might suggest otherwise) grad student who needs a new room in order to escape her possibly vampiric previous neighbors. Or something.

Meanwhile, Kinski’s other female tenants have all sorts of fun. The token ‘80s blond plays rape games with her boyfriend and inexplicably ruins a perfectly good lacy bra by cutting out its nipples (listeners of GirlsOnFilm Radio know of my hatred of bra shopping. What is wrong with this woman?). A sassy Southahn brunette serves tequila milkshakes to her friends and another airhead tenant attempts to seduce a wealthy paramour by comparing him to her grumpy old uncle. Oddly enough, it only mildly ruins the mood.

Neat. The only thing of interest my neighbors do is sing along to gospel music at 6 in the morning on the weekends. My neighbors are awesome.
Guenther keeps tabs on his ladies by watching them from his titular crawlspace, a movie-big AC vent that connects throughout the whole building. Occasionally, he grabs a few almost Food of the Gods-sized rats to come for the ride and make the night more fun.

Secrets are revealed about Guenther’s not so pure past. At one point, he wears more makeup than Mickey Rooney in The Manipulator. At another, he’s luging through the vents with the best odd smile a man could make. All of this in just 80 minutes, why would you NOT queue it up?
High Points
Ah, Kinski. Even when performing subpar material, he simply remains such an incredibly odd enigma that warrants your total attention. It certainly helps that he actually seems to care, approaching genuinely sad resignation during his regular games of Russian Roulette

Low Points
So about 4 characters are murdered. Offscreen. That’s a shame.
Lessons Learned
After future pet DJ Chocolate Thunder, my next cat will be named Claws Kinski
Rich bachelors have difficulty staying in the mood with the distraction of mouse scurries
When hunting a man you suspect of multiple homicide, one should exert some form of caution
Holy Hitler this was a fun movie. Bizarre as what you’d imagine Kinski’s third grade art project looked like, with a quick pace that always offers something weird. The film is streaming on Netflix and at 80 minutes, is easily worth a quick watch. There are expensive and rare DVD and VHS copies floating around the NetherNets, but with its brisk pacing and slickness, this isn’t necessarily worth the big bucks. Though I could see revisiting it in the not so distant future, it also doesn’t quite climb into the pantheons of great gotta-own movies. Watch it with ease and happily await a real release.


  1. "Tequila Milkshake" sounds like some sort of particularly naughty euphemism to me. Or else the stripper who only works the Tuesday lunch shift.

    And "Claws Kinski" is brilliant. Much better than my cat and dog name ideas: "Lucy Furr" and Amadoggus ("I'm-a-doggus").

    You're right about Kinski generally crazy-classing up the joint, though to my surprise this is not always the case; in a couple of Franco's films he seems dialed back to the point of nonentity. But Crawlspace is definitely a wild one!

  2. True that. Tequila Milkshake might also be the new star of a reality dating competition. But she's probably the same person that works the Tuesday lunch shift down at Sloppy Joe's Jugs Strip Joint.

    Aw, Lucy Furr and Amadoggus sound like such classy little creatures. I can see a Persian cat and Italian greyhound inhabiting those names with dignified evil.

    I've never seen a non-crazy Kinski and in truth, I don't know that I want to. It'd be like watching Michael Shannon play with puppies or Gary Busey do his taxes.

  3. Heh, I reviewed this one (and a couple of other lesser Kinskis) just a couple of weeks ago:

    I had a good time with it, but I don't think I enjoyed it quite as much as you did. I wish that the whole movie had been as good as the prologue.

  4. I can see your point Pearce. It's a bizarre atmosphere that doesn't quite work all the way through, but I love me some truly weird movies, especially when you have a certifiably insane lead like Kinski!