Monday, May 17, 2010

Slaughter Hotel (1971)

AKA Asylum Erotica
AKA Cold Blooded Beast
Directed by Fernando Di Leo
Starring Rosalba Neri, Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Gioia Desideri
Rated R
Italy

"I never wanted to hurt myself or anybody else. I just want to make love!"

Once you get over the plot's initial skyscraper-high hurdle - that there's a crumbling castle somewhere out there on an Italian hillside that serves as a mental institution for bored, beautiful, and wealthy women - then all the pieces to Slaughter Hotel's weird puzzle start to fall into place. I mean, not seamlessly - for instance, it's not even a hotel, and none of the women appear to be actively mad, just distracted or sexually frustrated - but it all makes an elastic sort of sense, when you consider it was 1971, and a lot of people were on groovy drugs back then. In fact, that's exactly how Slaughter Hotel often feels - like you've just ingested some far-our party pill, and now you're just riding its wobbly waves to the end-credits.


The story? Scooby Doo meets Caligula, basically. A caped, hooded maniac haunts the halls of an upscale psych "hospital" situated halfway between nothing and nowhere. The killer is fond of medieval weapons. Luckily, the entire hospital is loaded with them. They dangle from every wall, and torture devices - including a very nasty-looking iron maiden - are stuffed into every corner. Not the most therapeutic decorating scheme for an asylum. The opening scene sets the stage for the killings-to-come, as the hooded maniac peers at a fully-nude Margaret Lee, thrashing on her bed in feverish sleep. Luckily for her, the nurses start their morning rounds seconds before the killer is able to strike.


By the way, it should be noted that the skulking, hooded, axe-wielding, shadows-throwing villain happens to be a deadringer for the murderous mice in that one Looney Tunes cartoon where Porky Pig and Sylvester spend the night at a supposedly haunted hotel.


The light of day brings the more familiar horrors of croquet and half-assed 'therapy' that largely consists of booze-chugging and cigarette smoking. It's an eventful day at the ol' slaughter hotel, thanks to the arrival of Ruth (Gioia Desideri), a woman clearly suffering from some on-again, off-again impulse control disorder, as evidenced on the ride in, when she suddenly lunged for the steering wheel, panicking her husband ("Killing me is one thing, but why commit suicide?") and when she tried to club the intake doc with a tree branch. Incidentally, her hubby is not prize, either: when they arrive at the hospital, he tosses her fur coat at her, grunting, "I'll be back for you on Monday" as he speeds off in his convertible.


German meltdown legend Klaus Kinski and his hippy-freak haircut suddenly pops up out of nowhere as head doctor Francis Clay. Sadly, he doesn't do much besides smoke and sneer at the idiocy of the dialogue. Although he is often featured as the main attraction in ads and posters for the film, Kinski's role in Slaughter Hotel is fairly minimal. And, sadly, he's not the killer. Or is he?

No, he's not.


At this point, the real star of this event makes her entrance. Lady Frankenstein herself, Rosalba Neri, struts around the hospital grounds in a ridiculous/awesome disco-porn ensemble, looking for some sucker to bang. She's a voracious nymphomaniac, turns out.


As you might expect, it doesn't take her long to find a willing partner/victim. The gardener (cleverly shot to appear like a potential murder suspect) will do nicely.


Well, first she's redirected by one of the rat-faced doctors, who encourages her to cool off with a cold shower. Unfortunately for her, the shower turns into some kind of sexy nightmare.


Meanwhile, Mr. Kinski checks in with Cheryl Hume (adorable, doe-eyed Brit Margaret Lee), a depressed young lady on sick-leave from running her family's company, whatever it is. Her visiting hubby suggests she's cured, and encourages her to leave the hospital at once, so she can go back to work. Kinski thinks it's too soon, and sends Mr. Hume on his way.


Later that evening, yet another gorgeous patient, Mara (one-time actress Jane Garret) gets an inappropriate nude rubdown from two different nurses. So that was weird. Boner-popping, but weird.


Meanwhile, while everybody hangs out in the main hall guzzling wine and playing chess, Ann finally sneaks out, strips naked, and seduces the gardener in the greenhouse while, just outside, one of the nurses gets her head chopped off with a scythe. And then the gardener slaps her in the face a few times and tells her to split. Macho!

From there, Slaughter Hotel slips into familiar slasher-flick territory, with the masked-killer messily dispatching inmate and help alike while Dr. Clay spurns Cheryl's advances, Mara gets it on in the tub with her nurse, and Ann gets it on with herself, in a verging-on-X masturbation scene.


Unsatisfied with self-manipulation, she then attempts to seduce the killer - axe in hand - but that does not turn out well for her.


There's also a hilariously bizarre scene where Nurse Helen (Monica Strebel), after idly masturbating while Mara towels off, plays a little flute music on the stereo and informs her that it's from her "native country". This naturally causes her to dance, you know, like a native. And then the nurse joins in, and it turns into a psychedelic dance party. And then into turns into a tender lesbian love-making scene. And then it turns into bloody murder!

The killer's reveal is pretty goofy, but the apocalyptic orgy of violence that leads up to it is pretty amazing. Had it been shot with any sense of realism, it would have been one of the most harrowing murder scenes of the 70's; instead, it's a ramped-up cartoon cavalcade of ketchup-colored wholesale slaughter. You really have to see it to believe it. That goes for the whole movie, really.


While director Di Leo, who spent most of his career toiling in spaghetti westerns and police dramas, is rarely name-checked in Giallo retrospectives, Slaughter Hotel certainly fits into the genre: it's got blood, sex, a gloved killer, pop-art flourishes, psychedelic camera shots, and a cocktail-swilling soundtrack. It's also got legendary psychotic actor Klaus Kinski and the almost as-legendary and more frequently nude Italian horror-goddess Rosalba Neri, and the jaw-dropping climax is one of the most gleefully over-the-top set-pieces in the entire70's Italian sex-horror cycle. For all the reasons and many more - gratuitous nude go-go dancing! Gratuitous arrow-through-the-neck gag! Gratuitous masturbation and chain-smoking! Gratuitous Klaus Kinski staring straight into the camera for no reason! - Slaughter Hotel is a must-see for sleazebeasts and Giallo fans alike. For acid-eaters, chronic masturbators and violent maniacs, it may also be the ultimate party tape.


Note: there are many dreary, washed-out looking prints of Slaughter Hotel making the rounds, most of them under the alt-title "Asylum Erotica". Hold out for the superior Shriek Show edition.



- Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. Love this one, especially the "shoot the villain to a bloody pulp" finale.

    ReplyDelete

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