Friday, November 23, 2007

The Cinema - "I Eat Your Skin" : Misleading Title, Excellent Fashion

(It's okay - he's with the calypso band)
Two exciting facts about 'I Eat Your Skin":
  • There is no skin-eating in the film.
  • Auteur Del Tenney was from Connecticut and once made a good film, 1964's The Curse of the Living Corpse, which had real writing, a real script, a real editor, and real actors, including Roy Scheider in his screen debut.
"I Eat Your Skin," also made in 1964, wasn't released until 1971 as the second half of a drive-in double bill with "I Drink Your Blood," a hippie-biker rabies epic.
It had been sitting on the shelf under the title Voodoo Blood Bath, but the distributor liked the "Last Supper" imagery on the twin bill poster. ("I Eat Your Flesh" would have been better, but it was taken.)
Novelist Tom Harris writes smutty best-sellers and spends his time poolside at the Fountainbleau in Miami, reading aloud from his works to a crowd of bikini-clad housewives. His agent, a clenched-jawed WASP named Fairchild, hatches a scheme to go to this island where a scientist is working on a cure for everything and, oh yeah, there are supposed be eighteen kinds of poisonous snakes and zombies on this island.
So they go because a pudgy bald guy in a Dacron suit is chasing Tom (with malice aforethought) for horsing around with his wife. So what the hey?
During this opening sequence it is apparent that director Tenney has achieved something remarkable: this is the first American film made for domestic release where the words don't match the lips. At all.
It's as if it was dubbed into Korean and dubbed back from the Italian translation of the Korean by a crew from Portugal.
This results in happy accidents such as the pudgy bald man shaking his fist and yelling "I getting you am son of beech!"
(No touch football?!)
OK - there's a whole lot of plot which I won't bore you with. It's sufficient to relate that the zombies are real, the voodoo priest wishes to sacrifice the blonde, the scientist is fairly evil, the other guy is completely evil, the good guys escape, and the island blows up.
The zombie transformation scenes are entertaining in a primitive fashion; their eyes bug out through the caked-on makeup, making them look like trout that have been lightly coated in corn meal and fried. (If you don't believe me try it.)
The voodoo dancing is pretty good but ultimately tedious, as is the sight of Tom with no shirt.
The clenched-jawed WASP looks like what you'd get if you stirred the genes of Robert F. Kennedy and William F. Buckley together and told the result you were outlawing touch football and madras pants.
As a period piece, I Eat Your Skin is mildly amusing. One decapitation. One extended blast of voodoo dancing. Girls in bikinis. Man in Dacron suit shoved in pool. Bad prose read aloud to girls in bikinis prior to man in Dacron suit getting shoved in pool. Exploding zombie. WASP climbing a cliff in loafers. Mad scientist. Snakes. Code Yellow ethnocentrism - enough to be noticeable, but not egregious enough to be funny. Short.
Two coils.

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