THE BLOODSTAINED LAWN
At what point does a bad movie turn into a so-bad-it's-good movie? Is there some level of camp that does it? Is it when a movie becomes so deranged that it no longer appears to have any sort of guidance behind it? Maybe when the acting and writing combine to make something that is completely (and unintentionally) hilarious? I have no clue, but there are some films that are garbage yet are completely enjoyable. THE BLOODSTAINED LAWN is one of those films. I can't even put my finger on why I enjoy watching it. It is pretty far from good by any one's standards yet it has a certain kind of bizarre charm to it.
The story sounds like something Bert I. Gordon and H.G. Lewis would have collaborated on in a meth-induced fog of delirium. An unnamed UNESCO agent (that's the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for those who may not know; I certainly didn't at the time) is trying to get to the bottom of a mystery, something having to do with the discovery of wine bottles filled with blood. Meanwhile, an Aristocrat named Nina (who walks with an unexplained limp), her brother Alfiero (with whom she seems to have an incestuous relationship of some kind) and her mad scientist husband Antonio have gathered an assorted group of people in their posh home. Brought along for an extended stay are a hippie and his girlfriend, a drunk and a prostitute.
In keeping with stereotypes, the two hippies spend their time smoking weed, screwing and behaving like idiots, the drunk wanders around cuddling (literally) up to bottles of wine and the prostitute keeps a more realistic level head, only ever really opening her mouth to talk about sex. But there are more than a few things wrong with their hosts. Antonio rants on and on about his scientific inventions (Nina refers to them as toys) while Nina seems more interested in her brother than her husband. Their guests are fed well and taken care of, and for good reason. Periodically one of them goes missing. Using Antonio's favorite creation, a bulbous robot with claw-shaped suckers, they drain these people of all their blood. Then they place the blood in wine bottles and sell them on the black market because, apparently, there's a demand for such a thing in under-developed countries.
Now that would seem to set the stage for a rather routine film. It's basically not that different from films like MOTEL HELL (well, except for the family dynamics and questionable choices for protagonists), but it's the way the film behaves that makes it different. It really is a lunatic piece of filmmaking. It shifts tone every couple of minutes and features some of the most bizarre moments you're likely to see in an Italian genre film. Antonio hiding the drunk in an over-sized kiddie playhouse, the excursion into a room lined with circus mirrors through a giant plastic vagina, all the shots of synthetic organs lying around Antonio's work area... Every scene seems to be tainted with a kind of juvenile madness. Not willing to leave all the wackiness to the visuals, the soundtrack for the film drifts in and out of campy weirdness as well. The use of classical music, the sudden and unexpected hippie rock that breaks out from time to time, the way this kind of 1950s sci-fi sound plays whenever something strange occurs... The whole film, visually and aurally, just feels like it's forgotten to take its medication.
I can't really speak to the visual quality of the film or the direction however as the copy of the film I watched looked like a fourth generation VHS rip that was sourced from a television broadcast, but the mise-en-scene is cluttered with bizarre brik a brak and what appear to be leftovers from the set of some low-grade science fiction flick. Antonio's inventions wouldn't be convincing had they appeared in a black and white sci-fi movie from the 1940s and the few gory scenes the film has to offer are pulled off with no conviction whatsoever.
If anything what the films does have in its favor is its casting choices, especially the trio of baddies. Nina is played by Marina Malfatti, a real beauty of an actress who made her name playing second fiddle in a number of great gialli including THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE, THE RED QUEEN KILLS 7 TIMES, ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, SEVEN BLOOD STAINED ORCHIDS and RUN, PSYCHO, RUN. Claudio Biava was a regular player in both spaghetti westerns and Eurospy flicks at the time and Enzo Tarascio, playing Antonio, really pours on the schizophrenic weirdness every time he's on screen. The actors playing the protagonists aren't all that impressive but they don't really have to be. We're not meant to be all that interested in them anyway.
I have a hard time imaging anyone involved with this film, from writer/director Riccardo Ghione right down to the cast, were taking this film seriously. It makes the typical "the rich using the poor for their own means" statement that all films of this kind do (it's kind of unavoidable, even if you're not really trying to deliver that message), but nothing about this film screams "message movie". It's just a wacked-out piece of Italian sleaze. If you approach it with that in mind, you'll likely get some enjoyment out of it. But I can't imagine anyone getting anything out of the picture if they're hoping for some kind semblance of integrity or craftsmanship.