Judge Bill Gibron is an absolute laugh riot at family reunions, as his treatment of this Something Weird double feature proves.
Love makes the world go weird!
When dumpster-diving loser Zeb (whose name we never actually hear) stumbles upon a piece of costume jewelry and a children's toy, he can't believe his luck. Seems the odiferous loner has been looking for just such a combination to use in his crackpot Creole enchantments. Apparently, Zeb understands how to get in tune with the powers of darkness (or like every other recluse, assumes he does), because once he puts on the ring and fondles his figurine, a woman across town named Ann starts getting turned on.
The link between the two is tenuous at best. Ann doesn't know that this paranormal prevert exists. But Zeb has been unnaturally fixated on her for quite a while now. So obviously, when one has a chance to commune with the forces of heinousness, one takes it out on the object of his unclean affectivity. All this supernatural manipulation starts to get to Ann, and before you know it, she suffers from unexplained cigarette burns and baffling beatings. What she doesn't know is that every time Zeb feels inadequate, either as a man, a lover, or a motion picture character, he takes out his torment on his little obsession statuette. And there's no end in sight, since Zeb is a psycho filled to the brim with Indecent Desires.
Bob is a big boulder of a man. Without any visible sex appeal and even less of a desire for lovemaking, he somehow manages to marry the 23-year-old borderline nymphomaniac Mary. Hoping that taking on the role of hausfrau would mean the occasional roll in the hay, our disgruntled damsel is one hopped-up horndog just waiting for someone to dip her fleas.
Wouldn't you know it, but Bob's good for noth…beloved brother turns up on their doorstep after two years on the road selling "industrial parts"(?). He takes one look at the luscious lady and starts getting his crankshaft in a conundrum. See, Frank is more than happy to service Mary. But he is also in love with a local loose woman, the seedy Zena. And when both betrothed babes want to run off and get married, Frank is in a fix. Of course, Bob finds out about the behind-the-back cuckolding, and before you know it, characters are leaving town, conning money out of one another, and engaging in fed-up fisticuffs. And it's all because our randy relative just couldn't leave My Brother's Wife alone (actually, it was his brother's wife but…oh, never mind).
If she had been making movies in France, and not in some South Florida nudist camp or gritty New York locale, and had her films been headed for the arthouse, not the grindhouse circuit, critics today would be declaring Doris Wishman a true revolutionary auteur. Instead of championing the new-wave anti-cinema of Godard or reeling over Chabrol's control of the narrative, Wishman would be the one receiving the scholarly dissection at the hands of overly self-important film historians. From the absolutely brilliant Bad Girls Go to Hell / Another Day, Another Man to the demented Chesty Morgan masterworks Deadly Weapons and Double Agent 73, Wishman was a woman who pushed the envelope of acceptable technique by refusing to record with sound (laying in all voices and Foley in post), cutting away to random objects in a scene as if they posed some manner of symbolism, and relying on the gritty realism of her own tacky Manhattan apartment as the backdrop for most of her action. Call her style "no-wave" or "no-sense," but Wishman was a director who bucked the system to realize her own strange take on sex and sin. And after a significant drought in releases, Something Weird is back with a sensational double feature, the pairing of the peculiar Indecent Desires with the salacious My Brother's Wife. The combination is pure, perplexing Wishman.
How does one begin to get a handle on the whacked-out weirdness that is Indecent Desires? From the title and the talent involved, you expect one of those gritty urban roughies, a film where Wishman proves that men are pigs and that's just the way women like them. But instead of concentrating on one of those cosmopolitan cavalcades of carnality, this is really a supernatural voodoo knockoff, with a perverted stalker using a magic ring and a dime store doll as his implements of evil. Obviously in tune with toy-based witchcraft, our angular antihero is skilled at taking discarded garbage and manipulating it for impure purposes. The fact that this near-beer nebbish can control a comely lass from a stained cardboard box shrine in his one-room hovel home says a lot about Wishman's attention to demonic detail—the setting for our sicko's strange sex rituals is right out of Abnormal Psych 101.
The rest of the film is just random scenes of star Sharon Kent in various states of undress, typical of Wishman's cinematic philosophy. According to the directing diva, your average big city dweller can't wait to close the door on her rent-controlled duplex and strip off her skivvies for a see-through lounging jacket (or better yet, the typical topless with panties combo). And when they're not employed as randy, risqué secretaries, our gals here love to walk around in bare-ass bemusement (making at least most of the men here very happy). But the film is really about Zeb's battle with black magic, and the scene where creepy-looking Michael Alaimo slowly removes the ersatz effigy's panties with drooling lust in his eyes is merely par for the peculiar course. Between the groping, the cigarette burns, and the belt beatings, our poor little plaything is put through a rather sadistic wringer. Since Sharon is required to recreate every phantom fondle or flogging that Zeb invokes, Indecent Desires turns into a weird paranormal pantomime of pulchritude with some nut getting his jollies via doll diddling. One of the more flummoxing flicks in Wishman's oeuvre, Indecent Desires has to be seen to be comprehended, and even then you'll wonder just what Zeb hopes to accomplish by molesting Betsy Wetsy.
Oddly enough, the far better film here is My Brother's Wife. Concentrating on four main characters and playing out like a kitchen sink melodrama with mindless sex scenes, this prurient potboiler simmers with a shamelessness that is near nirvana. The story here is as formulaic as it gets—beefcake brother beds the unloved spouse of his bulky relation while also making time with an antsy ex-gal pal. Sexual hijinks ensue—and boy, do they ever. My Brother's Wife must have been filmed on Spanish Fly-soaked film stock, what with all the naughty canoodling going on. Johnny starts jonesing for Mary the minute he walks in the door. But the minute she hands out the moralistic rejection slip, he's back into—and into is the right word—the exotic tartlet Zena. Mary is so desperate to make monkey noises with anyone that she constantly hits on her pre-Viagra test case husband Bob for a little tender-lovin' lovin'. But he is all inadequate rebuffs.
Once Johnny and Mary get their swerve on, My Brother's Wife is back in classic Wishman World. Lots of shots of feet; dialogue that doesn't match up with mouth movements; unexplained images of knickknacks and frou-frou abound. With a plot that percolates like a great old coffeepot, and an ending far more dramatic than Doris is used to, My Brother's Wife surpasses your wildest expectations to become another certified classic in the Wishman canon. From Johnny and Zena's sex scene in the cramped space of a semi-closet to the final pool hall brawl between stocky Bob and spastic John, My Brother's Wife keeps the crazy crimes of passion on splendid speed dial, calling them up at random to center its shamelessness.
There is good news and bad news about this latest release by Something Weird Video. On the side of good are the sensational transfers. The masters of monochrome have done it again. These two older titles in the Wishman catalog are near-pristine examples of magnificent black and white imagery, and SWV keeps the contrasts intact with a radiant 1.33:1 print for both films. My Brother's Wife looks the best, if only because it lacks the multiple outdoor scenes that occasionally wash out Indecent Desire's details. But neither film ever looked this good, and it's all thanks to the preservationists at Something Weird. Sonically, it wouldn't be a Wishman film without some smoking solid cool jazz trappings, and both movies make the most of their brash be-bopping soundtrack.
Now, for the bad news. Some DVD sites have reported that this disc will contain—finally—a special video interview with Doris. Fans who've been waiting for the moment to see the late legendary Grand Dame of the Grindhouse speak up for herself…will have to wait a little longer. Image confirms that the packaging and publicity were all a mistake. Wishman herself is nowhere to be found on this disc. No Q&A. No interview insights. Nothing. While we are treated to a wickedly wonderful series of classic Wishman trailers (almost as good as her films, for the most part) and a couple of Barry Mahon nudie shorts that feature cast members from these particular films, the lack of a true Doris-based bonus (meaning one featuring something of her input) is disheartening.
Thankfully, the movies here represent Wishman at her creative peak, finding the most mind-altering aspects of entertainment in the strangest of spots. While you'll have a hard time forgetting Zeb and his half-assed interpretation of the sex toy concept, the lover's quadrilogy of My Brother's Wife will keep you in carnal stitches for weeks. Both films are must own relics for the exploitation fan. They also confirm Doris Wishman's placement in the pantheon of certified cinematic geniuses.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• The Doris Wishman Trailer Show
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