Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Remembering 1973’s Please Don’t Eat My Mother

Remembering 1973's Please Don't Eat My Mother

A flashback to the truly tacky sexploitation classic Please Don’t Eat My Mother

Director Roger Corman and writer Charles B. Griffith famously made 1960’s Little Shop of Horrors in two days on a few sets and with nothing but sheer filmmaking bravado to back them up. Well, that and a ludicrously-talented cast that included Corman regulars Mel Welles, Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph and of course, the great Dick Miller, all riffing along like notes in Fred Katz’s jittery jazz score, all having a great time while Corman instinctively married ludicrous comedy, lurid smut and darker strains of psychological horror, a worthy and wonderfully messy companion to Corman and Griffith’s similarly wacky 1959 hit A Bucket of Blood.

Corman made it look so easy, making high concept genre films with low budgets. But he was — and remains — a very, very smart man. An intellect and a student of English literature and world cinema. And that sophistication is alive and well in all the pictures he directed, especially in Little Shop of Horrors.

Carl J. Monson (Legacy of Blood) is pretty far from Roger Corman. He’s not even in the same zip code. But his 1973 Little Shop of Horrors rip-off Please Don’t Eat My Mother (aka Hungry Pets and Sex Pot Swingers) is one of the great ’70s exploitation movies. Not because it’s any good. In fact it’s so wonderfully awful and tin-eared and tacky that one wonders who exactly it was made for. But producer and distributor Harry Novak (hear more about the notorious Novak here) never met a trash flick he didn’t think he could sell and, with its endless weirdness, cheap vaudevillian comedy and almost-pornographic dollops of sex, Please Don’t Eat My Mother (whose title plays on the classic Doris Day comedy Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and the same-named source book) was one of his big hits, playing successfully in hard tops and drive-ins for almost a decade.

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The movie stars Ernest Borgnine-looking character actor (or at least he reminds of the late, great Ernie) Buck Kartalian (Octaman, Planet of the Apes) as Henry Fudd, a grinning, simple-minded middle-aged twerp who lives with his absurdly shrill mother (Strait-Jacket‘s Lyn Lundgren) in a woefully decorated house. Henry spends his days hiding behind bushes and watching couples have sex. Actually, he watches the SAME couple have sex. Like, every day. Hilariously, Monson just filmed a young couple making out and eventually having real sex and cut it into sections into the film, with our goony hero eating sandwiches and grinning and leering in what is obviously a totally different location. Slipshod, bargain-basement filmmaking or an example of the Russian montage theory in full effect? You decide. I got nothing.

One day, our bumbling protagonist comes across a roadside florist who sells him an ugly-looking plant, a cheap ringer for Little Shop‘s blood-drinking Audrey Jr. Said plant soon becomes Henry’s only friend in the world and then, eventually, to his shock and delight, the plant talks. And the voice that seeps out of the plant puppet’s “mouth” is that of a beautiful, sexy young woman. And she’s hungry. Soon the plant eats Henry’s mom and then begins devouring the primarily female victims (who almost all get nude first) who he brings to his room. And the plant grows. And grows. And eats. And grows. And…well, you get it.

Please Don’t Eat My Mother is an inept bit of Novakian nonsense, but man is it fun. Kartalian relishes the chance to have a starring role for a change, even if that part is nestled within such a dubious (yet delightful) motion picture. The film looks like a flat TV sitcom and the production design is barely above high school gymnasium play, but who cares. The sex is hot and hairy (literally…check out those bushy 70’s male/female genitals!), the nudity plentiful and everyone seems to be having a good time. Unless you’re the worst kind of cynic…so will you.

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The film was famously released on DVD via Something Weird Video’s legendary licensed Novak collection on the Image Entertainment label, now out of print. But you can grab one of the few that are left by going to Amazon and acting fast. It’s a great set, with SWV’s brain-trusts Mike Vraney and Frank Henenlotter jamming the backend with a surplus of trailers and salacious shorts (as they did with all those great releases). The film is the sweetest kind of cinema shite.

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Remembering 1973’s Please Don’t Eat My Mother

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