Monday, July 8, 2019

We'll Always Be Bosom Buddies

TCM remains a nice treasure for the movie fan, but its Underground weekend airings a bonafide goldmine. When I see my beloved Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? airing one Friday followed by a title I'd never heard of, but SURELY was in the same grande dame guignol genre (a term I prefer to the meaner-sounding hagsploitation or psycho-biddy horror), I programmed my DVR faster than Shelley Winters at a swim meet. 

I don't know I was adequately prepared. 

Quick Plot: Stanley and Paul are Baltimore thieves on the run, hiding out in suburban Miami. Paul disguises himself as the titular Aunt Martha, while Stanley romps about town with a string of young women, only to freak out when they make sexual advances. Martha/Paul comes to the rescue, murdering the ladies as Stanley sobs himself into further madness.

Their relationship, you might say, is complicated.

So much so, in fact, that the film doesn't officially acknowledge its sexual nature. Now 1971 wasn't the easiest time to make a film marketed as queer, but one of the strangest things about Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things is the very fact that it doesn't fully embrace itself.

Make no mistake: Paul and Stanley are lovers of some sort, or at the very least, men who share the same bed. The more handsome, younger of the two, Stanley spends a good deal of time doing drugs with conventionally attractive young women eager to get his pants off. The problem, of course, is that as soon as these ladies near his crotch, Stanley falls into a mad state of tears and violence. 

Things get even trickier when Hubert, a heroin addict thief, shows up to blackmail the couple in return for houseguest status. Meanwhile, Paul is constantly fending off the aggressive friendliness of his pregnant neighbor, while Stanley finds himself attracted to her good girl nurse daughter. 

It's a LOT, and I haven't even mentioned the Scooby Doo gang love van and post-mortem C-section that deflates its mother's belly. Written and directed by Thomas Casey (screenwriter of Flesh Feast), SAMDDT is a special little remnant from a very different time in independent cinema, combining spirit of John Waters with Norman Bates and sloppily shoving it into your nose like Stanley's cocaine. Considering its drag-ilicious plotline, I'm somewhat shocked that I've never heard of it.

Is this a classic? No, in part because it's just not that, you know, good a film. But paint my face red if it isn't something special.

High Points
While I wouldn't add them to the list of 1971's Oscar snubs, Abe Zwick and Wayne Crawford (under the name Scott Lawrence) go all out for Stanley and Paul, successfully managing to create real, albeit over the top people in one damn campy film

Low Points
The subtext of Paul and Stanley's relationship is so fascinating that it remains incredibly frustrating that the film doesn't dig deeper into its complexities

Lessons Learned
You don't have to go to parties and smoke pot to be into it

Jack rabbits are notoriously untrustworthy

Some women find childlike men attractive

The Winning (Most '70s) Line
"I hope you have a good astrologist!"
Incidentally, this is spoken by a man who has never held a gun nor watched a movie involving a character that has

Exploitation and cult movie enthusiasts will definitely find a lot to enjoy in (deep breath to say the title one more time) Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things. It's zany, messy, and pretty much unlike anything you've ever really seen. As is often the case with no budget cinema of the time, its quality as a film doesn't quite measure up to some of its more interesting concepts, but trust me: you won't be bored. 


  1. If you dug this, you have to watch Sonny Boy (1989) - it's another one of those "Is no one going to acknowledge how bonkers this is?" movies. It's pretty much Unleashed (the movie with Jet Li), but as imagined by John Waters. It's glorious, delirious trash.

    1. Awesome! Never heard of it, but I'm seeking it out now!