Hello folks and welcome to the new weekend feature here at the Lair. I’m changing things up a bit, and on the weekend you’ll be treated to an out of the way gem here from The Tomb of Forgotten Film. Basically this will give me a chance to cover more titles with less restrictions. So what will you see here? Films that you can’t get at your local big box store, VHS classics, and out of print of hard to find features. This will span all genres and so you’re just as likely to see horror as you are comedy or westerns. When you get down to brass tacks, like The Grab Bag, it gives me another day to talk about whatever I want.
So that being said this week I’ve got a rare gem for you tonight. Some months back in the first edition of Terrifying Tuesday, I covered the Joe D’Amato opus Antropophagus. So to kick off this new feature, I dug up a copy of the Eastman/D’Amato pseudo-sequel to their infamous film. So let’s get into a film that is just as gory, just as good, and just as…
Absurd [Italian: Rosso Sangue](1981) starring George Eastman, Annie Belle, Charles Borromel, Edward Purdoff, and Katya Berger. Directed by Joe D’Amato.
Escaped and presumed dead genetic experiment, Mikos Stenopolis (Eastman), turns up in a sleepy American town on Super Bowl evening. He is being pursued by a scientist/ priest (Rusoff) across the countryside. Attempting to escape, Mikos impales himself on a fence. He manages to get himself to a nearby house and gets taken to the hospital. There he makes an amazing recovery as the doctors discover that his blood coagulates at an exponential rate.
Escaping from the hospital, after killing a nurse with a drill to the head, he begins to cut a path of destruction across the town. Soon the priest enlists the help of the local police, and Sgt. Ben Englemen (Borromel) and his partner join him to hunt Mikos. It seems that Mikos is a nearly indestructible man because of genetic experiments which have been performed on him, and the only way to kill him is to destroy the brain. With this in mind the men set out to hunt him, but Mikos has murder on his mind, and he seeks out a house where he was earlier injured intending to kill all that wait within.
–George Eastman wrote the script for this film as he did for Antropophagus. He also scripted many other great films such as Keoma, Big Alligator River, and Porno Holocaust.
–Absurd features a cameo appearance by Michele Soavi, the future director of Cemetery Man.
–Actor Charles Borromel also made a memorable appearance as ‘Montana’ in the Fulci western Four of the Apocalypse.
–The film was one of the original 74 video nasties banned by the British government in 1974. It has yet to be approved for distribution in that country.
The two most shocking of these are what I would like to discuss here. Early on in the film a nurse gets a drill to her head. While not as skillfully done as the drill in Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, it is still quite a disturbing scene. Eastman’s psycho brute mercilessly pushes the drill through her head until it comes popping out the other side, and the scene is sold magnificently by the struggling nurse (who sadly I could not find an acting credit for). The other scene is possibly one of the greatest kills that I have ever seen. After coming upon a janitor in a warehouse, Mikos picks the man up and cuts his skull open with a band saw. This is a stunning effect which left me wondering how it was accomplished. The camera stays with the saw much past the point that I expected the reverse angle. When the camera finally does pan away, we are treated with a wonderful gush of blood from the man’s split open dome. Both of these scenes felt real and sadistic, and it gives a voyeuristic feeling to the proceedings.
George Eastman gives a lumbering performance as what amounts to stock maniac on the loose number five. Gone is the makeup that he sported in Antropophagus,and instead we are treated to the bearded Eastman looking like an outlaw country singer out for blood. His silent menace does command the scenes he’s in. While some have compared his performance to nothing more than Michael without the mask, I think that having the unstoppable killer have a human face gave Eastman a personality that is woefully lacking in some slasher fare.
The other standout performance comes from Charles Borromel. The veteran character actor, with credits from everything from Gidget Goes to Rome to his 1980 role in TV’s The Day that Christ Died as the Second Witness. He went from that religious experience into bringing some life into a role which could have also felt very cookie cutter. The script even had a moment of self awarness when Borromel’s Sgt. Engleman complains there’s no one to hunt Mikos but “an old cop close to retirement, a rookie, and a priest”.
The rest of the cast are, well, they all appear in this film. The family under attack is never built up enough to where we would know or care about the characters. The heroism that saves the family in the end comes from a girl who is mostly seen laid up in traction. If her injuries were placed to try and give instant sympathy from the audience, then it failed. We never get too know Katia (Katya Berger). So during her the scenes when she makes her triumphant struggle to confront her disabilities, I would have rather just seen more of Eastman and a variety of power tools.
Joe D’Amato’s direction is as usual nothing special. While his films are graphic and interesting, I always feel that they suffer from a lack of grace behind the camera that some of his contemporaries capture more readily. Serving as his own cinematographer under the name Richard Haller, D’Amato once again turns in a serviceable duty behind the camera. Absurd was composer Carlo Maria Cordio’s second film, and while he would go on provide memorable scores for films like Troll 2, here, while it fit quite well, there was nothing that really sticks in the brain.
Absurd is a film that gave me a decent and entertaining 96 minutes. While Eastman’s killer and his dastardly deeds will stick in my mind for some time, there is little else here. While D’Amato and Eastman’s previous collaboration ranks up there with one of the better cannibal film offshoots, Absurd fails to deliver the same for the slasher genre. Anyone who is a fan of the first film will enjoy, but feel a bit let down. Anyone unfamiliar with D’Amato should just check out the superior Antropophagus.