This is a very black comedy. It is a Greek film but most of the dialogue is actually in English. Only the voiceover narration is in Greek. It was shot in 1990 by Greek director Nikos Nikolaidis and stars Panayiotis Thanassoulis as the detective and narrator, with Michelle Valley and Meredyth Herold as the psychotic mother and daughter. This incestuous pair of lesbians (technically bisexual) live in an isolated mansion playing bondage and sadomasochistic games with each other and with various "lucky" visitors who pass their way and who unfortunately all end up buried in the backyard. The film is not at all as dark and forbidding as it may sound. It unfolds in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. It is not a horror movie as such. Neither is it a thriller. It is a weird amalgam of film noir, comedy, bondage film, surrealistic art film and absurdist cinema. It received decidedly mixed reviews, some viewers liking its boldness and novelty, others lambasting it as utter trash. Personally I found it quite intoxicating and will vouchsafe its place as a cult classic.
Nikos Nikolaidis is obviously a fan of film noir and of Otto Preminger's 1944 classic, "Laura," in particular. He borrows heavily from it, everything from the feel of the film, to the storyline, to the photography, to the music. The film opens with David Raksin's instantly recognisable theme from "Laura" which over the years has become synonymous with the noir genre. The music recurs constantly throughout. There is even a vocal version sung by Julie London midway through. The missing woman the detective is searching for is also called Laura. There is a portrait of the daughter in the mansion, very much like the portrait of Laura in Preminger's film. For those unfamiliar with "Laura," Preminger's classic tells of how a police detective falls in love with the portrait of a woman whose death he is investigating. He finds out that she isn't actually dead. There follows the suspicion that she may have murdered the woman found in her room. That original plot forms the backstory to Nikolaidis' bizarre and totally off-tangent "tribute" to the earlier work. The events here, if we are to believe the psychotic mother, take place several years after the events of the original film and its presumed happy-ever-after ending. This is what a sequel to Laura might be like in a parallel universe with a director and storyteller high on acid.
A knowledge of Preminger's "Laura" would be of benefit in appreciating this movie but it is not a must. On the other hand, fans of the earlier film will almost certainly not look kindly on Nikolaidis' creation. In fact I see this film having very limited appeal in mainstream America or elsewhere for that matter.
The film is beautifully shot, one of the most visually arresting B&W films to be made in a long while. Sets are gorgeous despite its low budget origins. The women are dressed to evoke an early-20th-century, silent-film-era look. It is all very beautifully done. And that puts it in stark contrast to the activities that take place in this demented household. There is the standard bondage fare, gagging, leather bindings and a threatened whipping on a St. Andrew's Cross, all quite erotic if you like that kind of stuff, but in between is more disgusting, some would say revolting fare that is explicitly captured on camera. The women have a fetish for vomiting. They derive sexual pleasure from vomiting on their victims. The mother also enjoys urinating on her victims. You are treated to close ups of the disgusting mess made when masturbating with soft, squishy fruit. There is a scene near the beginning where our psychotic duo happily place the entrails of their victim into glass bowls on their dinner table. You can clearly make out coils of intestines, lobes of a liver and a still beating heart. This is about the time you realise that you're not in Kansas anymore. And that this is no Hollywood movie. The final death scene, carried out with the aid of a huge knife-dildo, is raptly choreographed to the swelling strains of the famous variation from Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody. This is a movie I guarantee you'll never forget. Audiences either love it or hate it. There are no in-betweens.
Synapse has unfortunately not managed to obtain the original negatives to this film. The print comes with the English subtitles for the Greek passages permanently burnt in. Because of the less than ideal, overly-contrasted, burnt-in subtitles, Synapse has provided an optional set of English subtitles placed in dark grey blocks which can be superimposed over the originals. Not ideal and not recommended because they block out quite a bit of the picture. Overall the picture quality on this DVD is actually very good. For the first three-quarters of the film, the picture is quite immaculate. Exquisite in fact. The gorgeous black and white photography is beautifully transferred. It's only in the last quarter where there is an inordinate amount of dirt and various print defects, like circular imprints as well as several instances of missing frames with resultant skips and jumps onscreen. But these aren't all that distracting. Viewers with sensitive constitutions may want to stay away. Viewers with "good taste" should also be warned to stay clear. But if you're up for outlandish perversions, off-the-wall mayhem, all stitched together with a touch of class, this will fit the bill.