A deadly duo of deaths stalk the beautiful and the damned
Jonathan Crane is a typical '60s artist type: he has numerous models frolicking around his studio flat in various stages of undress, he ostensibly makes a decent living creating badly composed charcoal sketches of these weirdly shaped wenches, and he gets his kicks via elaborate bondage rituals with a decidedly traumatized childhood undercurrent. Just when it seems like his life couldn't get any crazy or kinky—err, along comes "Doris Mays," an exceedingly butch broad who wants Johnny to dump his inheritance-heavy wife and take a permanent walk on her noticeably wild side. When this other depraved Californian named Crane rebuffs her beefy advances, "Doris" throws on her best Dr. Robert Elliot causal wear and heads out to hack the hemline out of John's missus. But when it turns out that "Doris" may be a little more "macho" than she appears normally, it's time to windup the Wayback Machine and explore the particularly troubled youth of our pen and ink pervert as his open marriage parents predestine the poor dope into a life of misdirected cross-dressing desires. With no technique to tackle his transient gender issues, Jonathan becomes "Doris" and turns a carefree Southern California afternoon into a deadly Day of the Nightmare.
Marla is a gold digging damsel who falls into the crotch of any man that is willing to pay her way through life—and massage her fake breasts. Looking like a scared albino chipmunk with two moon rocks on her torso, she focuses her money grubbing guns at gents with seemingly bottomless wallets and the ability to overlook her rampant nymphomania. At first, she gives into the financial fornication incorporations of airplane magnet Paul Williams. One quickie marriage ceremony later and "Miss Slutsy-Wutsy" is eyeing the local swarthy beach bums for a little late night mullet jumping. Too bad that our platinum blond bimbo chooses David, a far too pretty kept creep who is so confused, "lifestyle wise," that he actually enjoys sleeping with this wicked watusing witch. When her husband discovers that she is making whoopee waves with the misguided gay gigolo, he decides to win her back by…taking swimming lessons? But leave it to the light loafered lothario's well-liquored country club lover to bring everyone down off his or her own heterosexual cloud nine to face the effeminate Scream of the Butterfly.
Day of the Nightmare is like a cross between Psycho, Homicidal, and a very special episode of Bosom Buddies. It takes child abuse, psychiatry, and bad drag to a whole other oddity level. Honestly, only a lost-at-sea deserted island denizen who had gone gal-less for a couple dozen decades and was unable to self-fulfill his own personal sexual cravings would even remotely consider "Doris Mays" to be a woman (able to cure his carnal desires? That's another story—and movie). Unlike other attempts to turn a man into a woman (see Dr. Rene Richards or Leif Garrett), all Nightmare can do with actor Cliff Fields is make him resemble a less sensual Bea Arthur. Dressed in an oversized raincoat and ratty blond pageboy wig, he makes Nancy Kulp look like Uschi Digart. Still, Fields is a hoot to watch in his "Jonathan" mode, especially when he is reliving the boyhood traumas that apparently filled every waking hour of his developmental years. His whiny whimper and open-mouthed silent shame scream are priceless, as are his external/internal monologues about "Mommy" and "the whip." Still, for all its faux-Freud gibberish, Nightmare is stuck in the fetal stage of erotic exploitation films. We see a boob or two, but the only decent depiction of naked tomfoolery is a seemingly added sequence of local bowlers looking to do the rug burn boogie with alley tramps. For all its hinted at sexual perversity and outrageousness and occasional directorial flourishes (the final chase through an amusement park is deftly surreal), Day of the Nightmare is still just a deceptively "straight"-forward psychological thriller that trades very little teat for tame terror.
Scream of the Butterfly too, has mixed up all its sexploitation ideals into an ill-advised foray into the backdoor politics and wheeling/dealing of the legal system. While it's always enjoyable to champion experimentation in the standard sin and skin formula, it would take suspension of disbelief the size of Anna Nicole to find three lawyers and a psychiatrist trying to broker a plea bargain erotic. And yet this is where most of Scream spends its screen time. In between deposition readings and arcane statements about justice, we witness self-referencing and time lapping flashbacks in the love life and quick dumb death of high-class scratch whore Marla Williams. Apparently, a day in the life of this obviously dubbed quasi-beauty is spent bathing, dancing on tabletops, and having sensually inert sex on the beach with homosexual boy toys. Every once in a while, she visits her honeymoon suite and convinces her sugar daddy dunderhead of a husband to keep her cabana reservations current. Scream is a long lawful haul through a great many pointless scenes of attorneys bickering, and toward the end you wish they'd just hurry up and say the word "gay" and get it over with already. It's interesting to note how open the movie is with its sexual content, but yet how closed it becomes the minute "preference" enters into it. Still, the surprise ending more than makes up for the previous paltry skin submissions within the film. Like its co-feature, Scream focuses more on the facts and less on the flesh to tell its tawdry tale.
There is a wonderful alternative lifestyle bent to this Something Weird Video DVD that distinguishes it from their other, mainly he man-oriented titles. Image wise, SWV steps up and delivers with two crystal clear, full screen monotone transfers. They consistently offer the best black and white mastering of any DVD company. SWV also goes out of its way to theme all the bonus material here around the notion of the uncontrollable libido urge. There are some great trailers here, with hilarious names like Cool It, Baby and The 7th Commandment. We also get a look at the alternative print media version of Premiere and Movieline, as we are guided through a collection of vintage adult and exploitation film magazine covers. Of the shorts offered, The Wife and the Whip is the most disconcerting, starting off as an exploration of male hustling, but ending up as some gay bondage B.S. The best of the extra material is the oddly entitled clip Nympho-a-Go-Go, which centers on an incredibly hard looking sex addict who can't quite find the right way to get over her need-for-nookie DTs. Apparently, a cold shower works equally well for both the male and the female of the species. Both Day of the Nightmare / Scream of the Butterfly offer an unambiguously homo/trans/bi-sexual slant on the usually doughy businessman ready sex/thriller genre. While they both could use a substantial injection of naked naughtiness, their distinct characteristics more than outweighs the lack of depraved thrills.
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