Mausoleum (1983) 1/2 (out of 4)
Directed by: Michael Dugan
Starring: Bobbie Bresee, Marjoe Gortner, Norman Burton, Maurice Sherbanee, LaWanda Page, Laura Hippe, Sheri Mann, Julie Christy Murray
Blood Song (1982) (out of 4)
Directed by: Robert Angus and Alan J. Levi
Starring: Donna Wilkes, Frankie Avalon, Richard Jaeckel, Antoinette Bower, William Kirby Cullen, Dane Clark, Lenny Montana
Unable to cope with the death of her mother and the idea of living with her aunt, little Susan runs off while at her mother’s grave site and comes upon an eerie mausoleum. Things are obviously weird from the get-go, as there appears to be a rainstorm only in the vicinity of the mausoleum itself. No matter, Susan is compelled to go inside anyway and comes across an evil demon that takes possession of her (you can tell because Susan’s eyes glow green and there’s this goofy laser sound effect that comes with it!) Years pass and now Susan is 30, married, busty, and blonde (played by Playboy bunny Bobbie Bresee). She’s been seeing a psychiatrist named Simon (Norman Burton) for years and there have been no apparent problems … until recently. Yes, recently she has developed a penchant for seducing the gardener and delivery boy… and then killing them in gory ways. Her husband Oliver (Marjoe Gortner) never seems to be around much… he probably needs to work full time to maintain their mansion-style home along with the hired hands that seem to be disappearing. (In the middle of the picture, is a scene where Elsie, the maid – played by LaWanda Page – freaks out at the strange green cloud emanating from Susan’s bedroom, drinking from the bar and reciting lines like “Good googly-moogly” and “There’s some strange shit goin’ on in this house! ” before finally getting the hell out of there. For a blatant stereotype used as comic relief, she happens to be the smartest person in the entire picture!). After much mayhem involving impalement, face-melting, and a man having his chest ripped out by two hungry demon-heads in the spaces where Susan’s breasts are supposed to be, Simon figures out that Susan’s family has been cursed. Every first born of the Nomed family is destined to be possessed by a horrible demon, and only by having a crown of thorns placed on her head can the demon be returned to the mausoleum. Or something. Honestly, it’s a little bit murky, but no matter. Susan’s demonic possession problem comes as a big surprise to many of the main characters, which is strange, since the name “Nomed” is Demon spelled backwards, for God’s sake. Yes, Mausoleum is that kind of movie.
True to its grindhouse origins, Mausoleum delivers copious amounts of nudity (courtesy of the good looking Bresee) and gore (courtesy of John Carl Buechler, who has done special effects for a large number of films and also would go on to direct Troll and Friday the 13th, Part VII – The New Blood). It has effective performances by Bresee – who is a competent actress – and Maurice Sherbanee (who plays the creepy gardener). At one point the movie actually puts the plot on hold to show scenes of him doing his various jobs around the yard. He is interesting, I tell you! Mausoleum is also ridiculous as hell (come on – Nomed? Only Troll 2 went that far) and has this weird Italian-vibe about it, like the movie itself was possessed by Lucio Fulci or Lamberto Bava (one good example is a death scene in a mall, where a man’s blood slowly drips onto the camera). I might compare it to Superstition, and while that movie is gorier, Mausoleum is more entertaining overall. If you like, you can take a reading of the movie’s demon as a manifestation of Susan’s inner conflicts (taking the phrase “inner demons” literally) – some of the scenes towards the end suggest that Susan is still a little girl filled with rage at the loss of her family. There’s probably hatred of men in there too, suggested by her desire to have sex and then kill her lovers, but I’m probably reading too much already – there’s no evidence in the movie that she has ever been treated badly by the two main men in her life, so I’m going to guess that the director and writers just wanted to see a Playboy model get nude and murder people. Hey, it works on 42nd street.
It’s possible that I may be biased towards this movie, because I remember renting the VHS when I was a kid. Two images have stayed with me since that time: Bobbie Bresee’s “assets” and the killing involving a gardening tool. I have no illusions that Mausoleum is a “good” film, as the dialogue and plot (and some of the effects) are as silly as you can imagine. But much of it is so very oddball, in a good way – take a scene where Susan kills a man at an art store in the mall (using psychic powers on him) and then steals a painting. The painting itself is fascinating – one of the more interesting aspects of the film, actually! When the demon she’s carrying comes to the surface (and trust me, you’ll grow very quickly tired of those green eye effects) the painting starts to bleed. What the hell for? What is the painting’s significance? And what is the significance of the revelation of the monk in the cemetery at the end? Does it make any sense? Does it matter? If you think it does, you can skip Mausoleum.
BCI Eclipse delivers the “grindhouse” experience by releasing Mausoleum on a double bill with another 80s low budget shocker called Blood Song. Poor Marion (Donna Wilkes) suffers from lots of problems. For one thing, she’s wearing a leg brace because of a car accident involving her alcoholic asshole father (Richard Jaeckel), who can’t stand to see her hanging out with her boyfriend Joey (William Kirby Cullen). By the way, Cullen is 30 years of age here (he looks it) in comparison to Wilkes’ 23 (and she looks a bit younger than that). I’m just saying that Wilkes’ character Marion is supposed to be in high school… no wonder her dad is pissed! Marion is constantly berated by dad, who still drinks like a fish, and she can’t wait to run away with Joey once he gets that job in Portland, Oregon (good luck with that one). Of course, Marion has other issues – it turns out that she had to get a blood transfusion due to the accident, and the donor happened to be an asylum inmate named Paul. With Paul’s blood floating around in her body, she is constantly afflicted with visions of Paul murdering people and playing awful flute music to boot! What she doesn’t realize is that Paul has escaped from the mental hospital with the murderous intention of playing that damned flute for every unfortunate victim unlucky enough to cross his path. Seriously – you don’t know horror until you hear the flute.
I left out the icing on the cake, and that is: the serial killer is played by Frankie Avalon. Some of you young’ins probably aren’t aware that Frankie Avalon was a teenage heartthrob back in the days when your parents were going to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Known for his popular tune Venus, he later graduated from crooner to crooner/actor, and did those beach movies with Annette Funicello that your parents also like. Now he plays a flute and kills people… hey, Frankie gotta eat! It turns out that his character witnessed a murder/suicide committed by his dad when he was a kid; instead of freaking out and running for help, the kid breaks out the flute his dad gave him and starts playing. Since then Paul has been pretty stable, as long as you don’t insult his flute playing. Then, watch out.
Blood Song is not as bad as you might think. It’s a Halloween clone for the most part (there are shots of Marion walking along the road in an autumn breeze that are reminiscent of Laure Strode walking around Haddonfield) and the main heroine’s psychic connection with the killer seems directly influenced by The Eyes of Laura Mars. Avalon’s turn as the psycho is also better than you would expect – there’s a certain scene at the end when he’s chasing after Marion using a forklift, giddy like a child, giving a good approximation of his character’s psychological condition (he stopped growing up at the point of his father’s death). I also liked Wilkes’ performance and enjoyed watching the parallels of the healing of her leg alongside her transition from being a passive victim to aggressively defending herself. It’s partly why the ending is frustrating and unworthy, not to mention anticlimactic. Basically, the movie doesn’t quite achieve its potential – there are plot points involving the link between killer and victim that are not explored enough (Paul attacks Marion’s father screaming “You’re not my father! My father never hurt me” – this could be read as Paul subconsciously acting out Marion’s inner turmoil; then again, maybe not.) If this particular theme was given the appropriate treatment, the ending could be acceptable, but as it stands, it’s just silly. Fortunately, we have some adequate killings and nice background settings (filming was done on the Oregon coast) and there is an amusing synth soundtrack (do I hear notes from the Jaws theme in there?). I give props to Blood Song for trying to sing for us, I just think that, like its killer, it too often chooses the wrong tune.
The bad news is that Mausoleum is an edited and damaged (scratchy) print. The good news is that it comes in widescreen anamorphic, which is about as good as you’ll find when you start nosing around those icky theaters. Best part is the commentary track featuring Bobbie Bresee – it’s a lot of fun. Also fun is the inclusion of grindhouse trailers, including: Final Exam, Nightmare, Beyond The Door, The Babysitter, Killer Fish, and Savage Streets. There’s also an intermission short that may have been used in drive-ins – the “SWV” watermark at the bottom right reveals its source to be Something Weird Video. Overall an acceptable DVD release from BCI Eclipse, even though most purists are sure to be angered by the transfers. A bit of trivia for ya: Mausoleum was executive produced by the “Yuppie Don” Michael Franzese – I think he was with the Colombo family – he served as “executive producer” on a few other flicks too, like Savage Streets and Knights of the City (1986).
- Bill Gordon
Buy Exploitation Cinema: Mausoleum/Blood Song on DVD