Haha, what a great little movie! Wayne Crawford strikes again, or rather this was his first big strike, a deliriously entertaining little ball of manic kitsch energy masquerading as a psycho killer movie. It's actually a **brilliant** satire on post-hippie American culture in flyover country, though the movie was actually filmed independently in Miami. It defies any kind of studio oriented convention or plot device that I can think of: SOMETIMES AUNT MARTHA DOES DREADFUL THINGS may not be a very technically adept movie, but it is a wonderful little slice of Americana, made on the cheap by people who were honest, ambitious, imaginative and had balls made out of steel. It took guts, nerve and guile to make this movie, which amazingly appears to have stood the test of time. This movie is fresh, vital, alive, unforgettable, and charmingly weird enough to recommend to just about anyone with a sense of humor.
I dug up last year during a period of time when I was fascinated by "star" Wayne Crawford (here billed under his pseudonym Scott Lawrence), a maestro of what can only be called regional film-making, usually of the B grade variety. He's a writer, producer, director, and actor all in one, probably best known for the 80s teen apocalyptic favorite NIGHT OF THE COMET. Here he plays Stanley, the pants wearing half of a couple of truly marvelous characters, apparently homosexual spree killers on the lam after knocking off some old lady in Baltimore for her jewelry. Unsung screen legend Abe Zwick is completely convincing as Paul, who poses as Stanley's Aunt Martha, the cross dressing brains of the outfit who has conned Stanley into thinking he's committed murder to ensure his loyalty. Martha looks about as feminine as the sailors from SOUTH PACIFIC's supporting choir in their coconut bikini tops, yet somehow nobody seems to notice -- or care? -- that she is a he, has no visible means of income, seems to spend all day fretting about where Stanley is, and scurries around the neighborhood in her bathrobe carrying a butcher's knife. Only in America ...
As the film opens the two of them have just arrived in Florida and set up residence in what looks like Ward Cleaver's old house, a garishly lit & designed television home that is so cliché as to be surreal. During one memorable scene Martha and an unwelcome house guest sit on the couch, talk problems and drink cans of Budweiser in what is one of the most mesmerizing, subversively ordinary sequences I've ever seen outside of a John Waters movie. Then there's Stanley, always getting into trouble as he is a mop topped hippie with an STP patch on his vest who drives a psychedelic painted van that's about as subtle as the Batmobile, drinks his milk straight from the carton, snorts drugs with blond bombshell bimbos, and hoards donuts in an old cigar box for a quick snack. Opposites attract, I guess.
But Stanley also has a thing about not liking it when the young ladies he gets stoned with try to remove his pants, and it always seems to be up to Aunt Martha to get him out of the trouble that inevitably results. The bodies pile up, a nosy junkie blackmails them into using their house as a flop, Stanley's birthday cake gets squashed, and everybody meets down at the local pizza shop before heading to the wood shed on the back property for a hookah hash party where the girls dance in their underwear. Things get out of hand when one of the neighbors tries to get a bit too chummy with Martha, who naturally prefers to keep people at an arm's length when they rudely invite themselves over for a nice chat. And this is a woman who carries not just a butcher knife but a loaded .38 in her slip. Eventually the strange duo find themselves stuck with a body, a baby, and no place to go, and end up taking refuge at an abandoned movie studio where no doubt the technical crew borrowed the equipment used to make the film. I just hope they politely asked for permission first and cleaned up after themselves.
A word of course must be said about Stanley and Martha/Paul's relationship, since to dance around the fact that the two are at least suggested to be a homosexual couple would be to miss the primary gist of the plot. We never see the two of them get intimate and indeed even though Stanley mockingly refers to being "balled" in one scene, their relationship is more symbiotic than sexual. It certainly isn't a "gay" movie, with abundant female nudity and an air of 70s misogyny that cannot be denied either. Stanley & Paul never consummating their implied sexuality on screen, even though the movie certainly would have had the guts to do so if it were important. It isn't, the story isn't about their sex, it's about the bond they share, and how weird it is. Not their being gay, but their being the distinct individuals they are, who are two of the strangest movie creations ever to inhabit my TV set.
The film is unique. It was made for only a few thousand dollars on what look like borrowed studio sets, the occasional location work, and an couple of public locations they managed to sneak a camera crew into when nobody was looking. The dialog is completely bizarre, mundane and delightfully esoteric. It's a movie that will take you by surprise, not everyone will like it but for those with a taste for low budget American horror/thrillers like THE NIGHT GOD SCREAMED, HELP ME! I'M POSSESSED, BLOOD & LACE and CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, you've got yourself a winner here.
8/10: Usually I'd say something like "Deserves a DVD restoration" but somehow I think doing so would ruin the movie's tacky ambiance. And Wayne Crawford, you, sir, rule.