Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980)

Written by: Joe D'Amato
Directed by: Joe D'Amato

George Eastman as Larry
Laura Gemser as Luna
Mark Shannon as John Wilson
Dirce Funari as Fiona

Genital warts were first described in medical writings dating all the way back to ancient Greece, although it wasn't until 1907 that it became clear to the world of medical science that they were caused by some form of virus, and not until the mid-1980s that a German virologist by the name of Harold zur Hausen linked several strains of the human papillomavirus to increased risk of cervical cancer. There are over 170 known strains in the papillomavirus family, roughly 40 of which can be transmitted through sexual contact.

In the late 70s, researchers in Rome working with a particularly aggressive strain accidentally exposed a specimen to what should have been a lethally high dose of ionizing radiation. Amazingly, the specimen seemed to thrive. Keeping the mutant strain of HPV under close observation, the researchers were shocked when, in the space of a few months, the specimen had attained first sentience, then sapience. Despite the research team's best efforts to keep their folly under wraps, it sprouted an enormous mustache and broke free of the lab after a terrible struggle that left two of the scientists and one security guard in a state of permanent sexual arousal and, unfortunately, gibbering insanity. Attempting to fit into society, avoid its captors, and propagate itself the best way it knew how, the specimen joined the Italian pornographic film industry under the assumed name of Mark Shannon.

John Wilson is a rich, womanizing real estate developer who has just purchased a piece of tropical paradise called Cat Island, which he plans to bulldoze into the ground, pave the whole thing, and turn it into a tacky luxury hotel. He's having the devil's own time trying to get someone to take him out to the island to survey his new fiefdom, however. Even the whores he is definitely not paying enough to play with his horrible, festering balls won't stick around when he tells them what he's up to. In fact, they flee his suite at the mere mention of Cat Island without bothering to collect their pay.

Fortunately for him and his awful swamp sack, there's one woman in the building willing to put up with a little superstition and a lot of penicillin in order to land herself what every girl dreams about; a hunky dude with a bottomless wallet and a batch that looks like an old potato was dipped in Drakkar Noir and rolled in a pile of Rice Crispies. Fiona picks up right where the two hookers left off, and the next morning she and John head off to find the one boat captain brave enough to take them to Cat Island. You see, the locals call it that because they believe the island is overrun with a horde of zombies, who are led by an adorable little black kitty because...I dunno. Because Italy.

The couple find Larry polishing his poop deck and John offers him a pile of money to make the trip solo, since his deck hands won't have anything to do with the island. Larry agrees, and the following day the trio hoist the mainsail on the Sloop John HPV and head off for adventure. It's a little unclear as to what John plans to accomplish on the island by himself. There isn't a lot to see other than sand and trees, he has no surveying equipment, and he's not exactly prepared to break ground on the new resort. He basically spends his time wandering around the forest while Fiona hits on Larry, until a spooky chick named Luna and her weird uncle with a giant cyst on his forehead show up and warn them that if they don't leave the island immediately, they will face unspeakable horror and death. John has too much money sunk into the island to give it up, a few ambulatory corpses hold no terror for Fiona because she's already had John's pustulent package all up in her business, and if need be Larry could punch the antlers off a moose, so they'll be staying the night, thank you very much.

Sure enough, before long the wrathful cat has the zombies up and shambling because as all evil development moguls must learn, sooner or later, the pussy grabs back. Luna has taken a liking to Larry during the numerous late night sexcapades that have filled most of the run time, and gives him a talisman that will keep the zombies from killing him. It performs its function well enough, but seeing a bunch of carnivorous cadavers chewing on his chums has done a number on Larry's lobes (of the brainular variety, that is). When the rescue team finally arrives, they have no choice but to cart the poor bugger off to the asylum, where he spends the rest of his days banging nurses and chewing on orderlies.

Even with as little time as I took describing the plot, I feel I may have oversold how much story this movie actually has. It is first and foremost a sex film, which aside from the bare minimum of containing sex, it completely fails at being. Despite containing a number of attractive women, this movie is about as arousing as watching a bowl of cereal slowly get soggy and puffy from absorbing all the milk. It is a horror film second, and only marginally more successful at this than an average episode of the Wiggles. There is a little bit of gore, and simply by dint of being Italian and filmed in the late 70s it captures a little of that inimitable atmosphere that made all such movies a genre unto themselves. At the end of the day, I can sit through anything from that period and find something to enjoy.

What I can't enjoy is the fact that this movie is TWO FUCKING HOURS LONG! With enough action and story to fill out twenty minutes if we're being generous, it is inexcusable that Joe D'Amato took only marginally less time to tell it than goddamn Infinity War. I consider myself a fan of D'Amato's work (it's Cinemasochist Apocalypse after all), but even I found this a hard pill to swallow. Of course, I'll be swallowing a lot of pills in the future, having spent as much time as I just did in the company of Mark Shannon's purulent pubic pendants.

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