Friday, September 30, 2005

It Came from Netflix! The Monster of Venice

I actually saw this as a wee kid at a triple bill of The Embalmer (the American release title of Monster of Venice; that’s actually the title as featured on the DVD’s print), Horror of Dracula and Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, which we left halfway through. This was at the Oasis Drive-in in Des Plaines, IL, which is now a trailer park.

Those were the glory days, my friends.

As I said, I was probably eight or ten when I attended this show with my folks, and didn’t remember much about the movie. Near to nothing, actually, other than a skull-faced guy in a monk’s habit skulking around some dank tunnels.

The Embalmer is basically an Italian analogue to a West German ‘krimi,’ a goofy, gothic film in which shocks matter (happily) more than logic. In this one, a series of young women are disappearing in Venice. Only intrepid reporter Andre (played, according to the credits, by one “Gin Mart” [!!]), believes this to be the work of a maniac. The police, it should be noted, are investigating but don’t seem overly concerned.

Sure enough, a mysterious person in a wet suit is popping out of the canals and dragging the young women to a watery doom. Then he returns to his subterranean lair with the bodies, which he preserves with a slightly sci-fi super embalming fluid, one that keeps the corpses so pristine that you might almost *ahem* think you can still see the girl’s displayed bodies breathing. The guy’s your typical maniac, who like many insane proprietors of wax museums is motivated by a wish to forever preserve the women’s beauty.

The stakes are raised when a group of eighteen year-old schoolgirls comes to Venice to tour the city, exactly the demographic favored by the killer. (The film fingers his potential victims by freeze framing on them when we first see them.) The girls are escorted by their teacher, Maureen, who quickly becomes romantically entangled with the heroic Andre.

Watching this, it was pretty apparent that it was the inspiration for Dick Maas’ 1988 slasher film Amsterdamned (!), which also featured a wet suit wearing murderer who traveled through canals to seek his prey. In that, the films would make a pretty good double bill.

The Embalmer is basically for those who like this sort of thing, and I’m in that group. It’s lurid rather than sleazy, and utterly outrageous. Certainly it’s dumb and at times stodgy, and the killer could have been any of a dozen red herring characters rather than the one he proves to be (his identity was probably chosen with a dart toss), but its unassuming nature, goofy plotting, laughable histrionics, bad dubbing (no original language track is available on the DVD), an intrusive jazz score and so on, made this a fun 80 minutes for your’s truly.


At 11:08 AM, Blogger baby copernicus said...

Why do you watch all the fun stuff when you're alone and leave all the Jess Franco for me?!


At 11:56 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

You actually haven't shown all that much prediliction for this sort of thing. Remember Bloody Pit of Horror?

But yeah, compared to Franco...

At 11:59 AM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

Gin Mart--what a great name for an actor. If they ever do a live action Ren & Stimy, I hope he's still around to play George Liquor.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

I do know how to spell Stimpy. That was just a test. You passed.

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