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Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things (1971)

May 17, 2019

 

The idea that something as fundamentally insane as Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things had been sitting--lurking--on my TV for months after recording it on TCM Underground is pretty unsettling. It's the boob tube equivalent of finding out the psycho stabbing you in your bed at night had been living in the broom closet the entire time. Except this time, the psycho is a middle-aged man in drag raising his "nephew" who also happens to be his lover. 

 

Thank God my wife never clicked PLAY on this, or I'd be cast back out into the dating world, thereby increasing the likelihood 100% that I'd encounter these types of people in real life. 

But, uh, yeah, thus goes the basic synopsis of Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things, a bizarre slice of regional exploitation from Miami in 1971. Written and directed by Thomas Casey, it stars Abe Zwick as Paul, a murderous criminal from Baltimore, who's lying low in the Miami suburbs, disguised as a woman (the titular Aunt Martha). And he's brought with him his younger partner in crime, Stanley (Scott Lawrence), setting up a hierarchical structure in the home where Paul is the matriarch--and naturally, the dominant figure in their homosexual relationship. 

 

The homosexuality is never shown explicitly, but it sure does complicate everything fast. When Stanley brings home a girl one drunken night, things get awkward when it's obvious he's not interested sexually and Paul kills her in a jealous rage.

I swear this is one of the oddest films you are ever likely to see. And, yet, it's not half bad. Okay, well, it's completely bad, but it's got some...ideas. There is an obvious attempt at satire as the film pokes fun at the generational warfare between "Aunt Martha" and Stanley. For instance, there is a five minute bit where "Aunt Martha" chastises Stanley for his long hair, demanding he get a haircut--then forcibly trying to cut it when he refuses. Not to mention, the entire plot is pushed forward by Stanley acting like a dopey "teenager." 

And I will give it major props for committing to its premise 100%, as there ain't an insincere bone in its body. The most clever way I can think of describing the piece as a whole is that it's The Baby (1973) by way of Glen Or Glenda (1953). I.e., an unadulterated fusion of heart, what-the-fuck-am-I-watching satire(?), cross dressing, and sheer ineptitude. 

 

Highly recommended. 

 

 

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