Thursday, September 04, 2008


*When Netflix let's me down, on the DVD shelves, a film must be found...

Paul Bartel must've been viewed as the black sheep of the Roger Corman clan. While Jonathan Demme and Martin Scorcese went out fishing for Academy Award nominations, Bartel was just fine obsessing over perverts and crafting unrealistic death scenes. Rumor has it that even the I'll-shoot-anything Roger Corman refused to finance Bartel's film, Eating Raoul. Now, if Roger freakin' Corman doesn't wanna produce your film, then you might just be a pariah in a city where even street walkers get smiled upon once in awhile with godliness. (Coincidentally,the self-financed Eating Raoul turned out to be Bartel's biggest success.)

However, it's hard to say what kept Corman away from Eating Raoul. To be fair, it probably wasn't Bartel's depraved sense of humor since he gave him the Death Race 2000 gig after seeing the psycho(tic)-sexual Private Parts.

Bartel's first film is about Cheryl Stratton, a young girl of uncertain age that moves into her aunt's hotel after a roommate kicks her out for peeping on her and her boyfriend. The hotel - The King Edward - houses drunks, gay priests, models, and senile sunbathers, but its most curious denizen is George, an androgynous photographer so good looking that women forgive his fetishes and subjugating demands.

Bartel squeezes out sympathy for George by informing us that his mother, Cheryl's aunt, has sequestered him in the hotel for years in order to prevent George from falling prey to the sexual controls of women. However, to satisfy his biological needs, George's mother gives him blow-up dolls.

It's in one of these "sex scenes", that Private Parts reaches an odd moment of transcendent beauty among the otherwise typical b-movie hokum. Upon orgasm, George injects a syringe of blood into the doll instead of following through with usual ejaculation. It's creepily sweet. A deep recluse's reach at achieving intimacy by attempting to animate the inanimate. Also, though the film is pre-AIDS, you can't help but connect a dark symbolism to this scene.

But truly, the only reason to watch Private Parts is to experience the creation that is George - specifically his scene with the blow-up doll. In fact, while watching Private Parts, I mostly just felt bad for young actress Ann Ruymen who plays Cheryl Stratton. Looking something like a tiny hybrid of Margot Kidder and Shelley Duval, Ruymen's flimsy frame topped with black locks and a tweeny smile made her an obvious fill in for a low-budget film that wanted to showcase a little T & A.

Private Parts was Ruymen's first job, and since then it's been random TV episodes. Who knows, maybe she's happy... I just couldn't help but project onto her that cliched story of a young starlet that skips over to Hollywood only to end up on the ugly side of Sunset because of one poor decision.


WaywardJam said...

This sounds pretty weird. Glad you took the bullet for us on this one.

ARBOGAST said...

Ann Ruymen was a favorite of mine back in the day - I suppose I first saw her in a supporting role in the TV movie Go Ask Alice. I'd love to read an interview with her. But yeah, let's assume she's happy.

Fox said...

I'd love to read a book on Paul Bartel as well. I'm sure there is some kind of one floating around somewhere. He just seems too curious of a person to not know more about.

I just looked up Go Ask Alice, and blammo(!) it had Shatner, Mackenzie Phillips, and Andy Griffith in it! Somebody needs to release those old TV Movies of the Week onto DVD.

And is it me, or is Alice a pretty popular name for girls in movies that are f*cked up and/or in f*ckd up situations? Alice is the name of the murdered model in Private Parts, in fact.