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Article Archive >> Entertainment

Movies From the Black Lagoon: Exorcism

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Exorcism - 1974, Unrated

A high body count and assorted deviant behaviors enliven this horror/soap opera hybrid that plays like an episode of "Dallas" that was hijacked by old Scratch himself.
The opening scene sets the awkward tone as the camera drops in on a beach party that would not appeal to Frankie Avalon or Annette Funnicello. Instead of volleyball and weenie roasts these kids kick up the sand by playing tonsil hockey, cavorting in the nude, and passing around a goblet filled with human blood. The beach blanket satanic orgy ends with a young couple (Leila and Richard) hitting the road in their convertible, which they promptly lose control of and plummet off a cliff. They are thrown from the vehicle and Leila awakens in the hospital where we meet her strained family which includes: Mom, a twice married snob whose second husband died in an asylum; brother John, concerned about sister's satanic tendencies when he isn't cavorting in the greenhouse with the family's maid; and Deborah, the care free sister who likes to party. The extended family includes a hulking driver named Udo who enjoys walking the family dog, Bork, when he's not secretly photographing the sexual shenanigans of the family and a priest/archaeologist named Father Dunning.
The film flirts with satanic possession for over an hour as we are exposed to the family dynamic. Brother John is convinced that the devil has entered Leila but there are so many suspects and agendas in this twisted group that even Father Dunning is dubious that the devil would come near this clan. There is infighting, money woes, and plenty of histrionics as Leila begins to exhibit odd behaviors that are downright cribbed from William Friedkin's "The Exorcist". Meanwhile, the police get involved when people start turning up dead at the family mansion with their heads completely twisted around. Eventually Udo confesses to the killings but drops himself out of a convenient window before the police can examine his confession. Just when you think you're getting ripped off the devil finally takes over Leila and she gets ugly in a heartbeat with various pustules and lesions sprouting all over her body. It all comes down to a battle royal between Leila/Satan and Father Dunning which sees poor Leila tossed down a flight of stairs and cold cocked (this priest doesn't mess around). Sure enough Dunning beats the devil out of Leila but that doesn't stop the prince of darkness who decides to take up residence in the nearest living soul-which turns out to be good old Bork.
This one is fun in the later reels but you get the impression that it was planned as a simple murder mystery set amongst the lifestyles of the rich and pampered until Friedkin's film began raking in the cash at the box office. The exorcism angle doesn't get much play until the last half hour and those scenes appear to be lifted from the original film with beds shaking, gratuitous vomiting, and the possessed woman adopting a deep voice. That said this is more fun than it should be due to the casting of Spanish horror film star Paul Naschy as Dunning. Naschy has played every monster in the Universal Studios catalog but he's not your typical horror star and looks like the offspring that would occur had John Belushi enjoyed a liaison with Arnold Schwarzenegger and a fire hydrant. Naschy even hosts the film and looks like he's still in pique form despite being well into his 70s.
Best Line: "Traumatology is not my specialty."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.

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