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Monday, October 1, 2012

Sodoma's Ghost (1988) Horror Nazi Ghosts

Sodoma's Ghost (1988) - Il fantasma di Sodoma, Six teens traveling towards Paris take a shortcut into horror when they come to a mansion and need to stay the night in the seemingly abandoned house. The back story is that in 1943 when the Germans occupied France they had this building as a headquarters. Opening on a night of a wild orgy we see the German soldiers and half naked woman partying through the night. Drugs and drink and sex are documented by a young soldier with a camera. At the end of the night as the party winds down we see, the soldier watching the film he magically developed. This scene meanders on for a good 4-5 minutes and I think the point that the Germans were having a wild party was clear in the first minute and a half. Really I think all that was accomplished with the extra time was to raise the skin to clothes ratio. A final flash as the bombs of the allies hit the house and all goes dark. Its a rather long scene with ample skin as the prostitutes dance and simulate sex with the soldiers. I could see many people never getting past this scene and into the movie proper since it is not very good.
  Our kids while driving to Paris argue about the route but the driver Marc (Joseph Alan Johnson) takes them on a short cut. Its the common conflict as some people in the car want to stick to the main roads and Marc is determined to do his own thing. Again we get some wandering around and lots of arguing so we are happy when they finally end up somewhere. Paul (Claudio Aliotti) the car's owner almost causes them to crash in his frustration with the short cut experiment by pulling on the wheel. Who the fuck thinks its okay to pull the wheel of a moving vehicle. Coming across the house all closed up it looks foreboding, but not daunted by some one's closed up house the group soon finds a way in. Sure they knock and ring the bell first which should tell them no one is home and they should leave but not these young people. Now I don't know about you but I would not just break into a house if I was tired and lost on the road. These young people think nothing of it finding a spare key under the mat they just enter and start looking around. The characters are strangely accepting of the of the closed up house with fresh fruit on the table and something cooking on the stove. They seem to settle in even as the music by Carlo Maria Cordio warns us all that strange things are going to happen.
  Written and directed by Lucio Fulci a "master" of Italian horror gore films this story is small and although I can't think of titles right now does not seem particularly original. I think he thought the Nazi twist on the ghost story was going to make this unique, but really it could have been gypsies, midgets, or an old orphanage and the ghost story could have worked in a similar fashion.
  Its strange that these young people get in the house and find it looks like someone is there and still they talk about "taking only what we need" Jean (Sebastian Harrison) makes the rule that they clean up their messes too. There is ample fresh food and an extensive wine cellar and they fully explore the place. Then when Jean finds the wine cellar he immediately raids its for something to drink, so much for only what you need.
  This exploration time is important, they see the valuables of the house, create an elaborate meal in the dining room and while all this is going on we get to see who the characters are. Unlike a lot of these film the three guys and three girls are not paired off so the interactions are not defined primarily through intimate relationships. In fact early on it seems the guys are not attempting to connect with the girls at all. In fact the only one showing any sexual interest in the group is Marie who is trying to score one of the other girls, Annie.
   After the drunken meal the girls head off to bed and Annie (Teresa Razzaudi) in a bedroom, and after a exhibitionist display of her body in front of a mirror settles down to sleep. She is visited through the mirror by Willy the Nazi (Robert Egon), who was the young man filming the debauchery in the opening scenes. He steps through the mirror and is quite clearly with eyes set on Annie. He is seductive and she is confused but not resistant to his advances. He promises to make all her secret desires come true. She attempts to regroup remembering her virginity, but he is persistent saying he only does what she likes. To prove the idea he repeatedly slaps her bloodying her face and telling her to admit she wants that. This is one of those horrible for society scenes,  where she initially says no and then says yes to his advances. Yes, a male writer again advancing the idea that No, does not always mean no. They make love and when we next see her she is waking but no blood. Was it all a dream?
  All of this is to prepare them and us for the Twilight Zone they are about to enter. They head off the next morning leaving the house behind but for the life of them can not find there way back to the highway. In fact all day they drive only to end up back at the house. Tired and frustrated they have to spend another night in the strange house. So again the morning comes and they are excited to leave again. Off they head to the car but what? The car won't start and they can not find anything wrong with it. Now there is this little flaw in the staging of this scene where they are sitting in the car trying to problem solve, and you can see apartment buildings not too far off behind them. I mention this because up to this point they seem to be isolated in the country and no amount of driving got them out of there.
  So they head back into the house to use the phone and call for help. A cryptic call where the police number reaches the cemetery. The phone goes dead before they can get the conversation with the police started and now there is no phone either. The tension starts to pick up through the fairly good strings in the musical score. They begin sensing something is wrong when they find the phone lines damaged. Now the story really starts to pick up as they try to leave the house and find they are locked in. So let the freaking out begin, Marie (Jessica Moore) in particular has to be man handled as she gets hysterical. Yet another example of casual violence to woman put forth in this movie.
  Now as the characters drift apart under the stress of their situation they encounter the ghost of Nazis. Marc plays Russian Roulette with Willy and in a long drawn out scene wins. So he gets what he desired a naked prostitute he saw through a mirror. The experience is less than desired though and soon he is wandering the halls in a hallucinatory trance. He attacks Paul on the stares and falls breaking his neck. The deaths have begun. This being a Fulci film the gore is rather gross and well done. Marc's rotting body with its exploding puss blisters, the prostitute with the rotted breasts and more make the gore a feature.
  Really the two things that are consistent about this film are great practical effects and the not great exploitation of woman. From the opening scene of nude prostitutes dancing for Nazi soldiers, to Annie's nude mirror viewing, to Marie walking into a bedroom and having a topless encounter with a ghost prostitute. To the violence and and hysteria, the woman in this film are objectified and displayed as weak minded and in need of men to keep their emotions in check.
  So as the ghost interact with the teens nothing good can come of it and the gore starts to grow more gruesome. Starting with Jean who spend a night making love to Annie look alike ghost who rots before his eyes. In this case we don't see anything onscreen except a piece of skin peeling off her face. Annie I guess is out of the picture at this point, or it was not her ghost look alike but her in a converted state. Anyway there are just the four for most of the rest of the film. Confused? Well this film really is not the best constructed example of the silver screen.
   The urgency raises from this point on and the kids don't seem up to the task. Then while trying to pry a window open they find Willy the Nazi's movie. To get us to the final sequence there is a sloppy bit of dialog where Jean says "Now listen, don't jump to any conclusions. I'm not crazy my mind is perfectly clear. But since so many damn strange things are happening in this house, I've got the feeling that all of the answers to our problems are in that can of film." Now this is a really illogical jump to get to the climactic scenes. They decide to go look at the film but the fire that erupts around it as they reach for the canister should deter them. Through determination they get it and Marie, Celine, Paul and Jean rush to queue up the film. Ham handed the logic to get to this point is really disappointing.
  As it plays ghost Nazi's start marching on the room they are in and they struggle to block the door to keep them out. As the Nazis break through the old film ends and with it is a flash just like the bombing from the beginning of  Sodoma's Ghost. All the kids wake outside the ruins of the house obviously destroyed in 1943. A small cemetery surrounds them and by finishing the film they obviously broke the spell of the house. All alive and well they are confused and relieved they head for the car and head off to the closing credits.
  Not one of Fulci's best works but maybe worth a viewing if you can get by the treatment of women as either sexual objects or hysterically helpless. Granted this director does not have a reputation either as a women's libber or a stellar director. Still some of the gore is very good and the film is not unbearable. I don't think it will get a recommend here at Soresport movies but it didn't piss me off like some poorer horror films do.
Rating (4.3) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

1 comment:

  1. AT this stage in his career, Fulci wasn't really doing very much good in the horror world. He had a few minor gems right around '90... but yeah... ugh.