Sunday, November 18, 2012

O Ritual dos Sádicos (1970)

... aka: Awakening of the Beast
... aka: O Despertar da Besta
... aka: Ritual of the Maniacs
... aka: Ritual of the Sadists, The

Directed by:
José Mojica Marins

Instead of getting the expected crazy horror story, with this Zé do Caixão / Coffin Joe entry you get a long, totally bizarre anti-drug story, a somewhat self indulgent documentary about the cultural phenomena that is Coffin Joe and finally the crazy horror story you wanted all along, all wrapped into one. It's not as good as it sounds. Things start with a bunch of loosely-linked segments about the dangers of drug use. In a room with nudie centerfolds plastered all over the walls and a bunch of perverted old men sitting around, a young woman injects heroine into her foot, strips off her clothes to an anti-war 45 and then uses the bathroom in a pot in front of the guys. Next up, a teenage schoolgirl is picked up off the street and taken to a grimy apartment where a bunch of drugged out men are. They play musical instruments, sing, quack like ducks, smoke weed, drink liquor and acts like a bunch of lunatics. They get the girl to smoke, take turns sticking their heads up her dress and take off her panties. Some guy dresses up like Moses carrying the Ten Commandments and rapes the girl to death with his staff while the rest of the guys stand around singing Hallelujah.

In between the vignettes, some doctors sit around in a dark room discussing each scenario. Dr. Sergio (Sérgio Hingst) theorizes that drug use leads to degenerate behavior and corruption, but his colleagues chalk the teenager's death up to "the low morality of the participants" and "deviant acts of reckless youth." Sergio then goes into other tales to try to prove his point. A man eats a pill, makes three girls take off their bras and then kicks each in the ass. A couple listening to the Zé do Caixão song on a radio shoot up, people run around the streets crazed, a pimp slaps a hooker and some junkies get thrown in the back of an ambulance. Showing drug use isn't just detrimental to the lower-class, we see a rich housewife snort some coke and then watch her daughter have sex with a black servant while stroking her miniature pony (?)

Next up, young and virginal Maria is desperate for work so she goes to a maid service agency. The portly guy who runs it snorts some "magic powder" and then sends the other women waiting in line home. Once he gets Maria in his office, he takes a second out of stuffing himself with spaghetti to try to get her to blow him. She refuses, but because of her "beautiful body" he claims he can get her into the movies if she'll go into another room and strip her clothes off ("It's all in the name of art!"). Instead, he has his accomplice come in and rape her. Our next bit involves a married woman who has sex with a guy for drugs then kills herself afterward out of guilt.

Mr. Mojica joins the team of doctors and says his position on drugs is neutral. One of the doctors tells him that he's "not intellectually prepared" to understand their discussion. We learn that his fellow doctors believe Dr. Sergio has committed a crime against medical science by conducting LSD experiments on four drug addicts. We then see Mojica on some TV talk show laid out like a mock trial. His credentials are laid out before us. Glauber Rocha, the leader of the New Brazilian cinema, and Anselmo Duarte, a winner at the Cannes Film Festival, have praised his work, though few people in his home country take him seriously as a filmmaker. The narrator asks "Filmmaker or Fraud?" before a panel of critics who berate and attack him, wondering what his films contribute to cinema, why he's so pessimistic and why his films are so negative and nasty. Mojica states his films employ a lot of people, they entertain people and that he should at least get a little respect because "Making a film in Brazil is like making a spaceship and sending it to the moon."

The girl who crapped in a pot, the guy who kicked the girls in their asses, the rich lady who watched her daughter bone the servant and another guy are chosen as the test subjects. Dr. Sergio takes them to a theater to see a play on prostitution, to a nightclub to listen to a band sing about "the fifth dimension" and a "marmalade mermaid" and then to a showing of THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE (1967), which all four (of course!) claim had the biggest impact on them. Because of that and because of seeing Mojica's TV appearance decides to use the Zé do Caixão character as inspiration behind his LSD experiment. The four subjects are each shot up with the hallucinogen, stare at a poster for a Zé do Caixão movie and each have their own nightmarish trip session. The black-and-white film suddenly switches to color for about fifteen minutes and, as per the director's usual, the editing gets erratic and echoed moans, screams and laughs fill the soundtrack. Zé appears atop a staircase made of people and walks over them, shoots fire from his fingertips and summons forth an army of underwear-clad followers. People are whipped, slapped around, sliced with knives and disappear and reappear again, and faces appear on asses. In Zé's world, men rule and women are the "instruments."

Not quite as nightmarish - or as entertaining - as the other films from this director, O Ritual dos Sádicos / "The Ritual of the Sadists" (titled Awakening of the Beast for the DVD), lacks focus and is often confusing and tedious. The moral of the story is established near the beginning (basically that drugs bring out the worst in people already prone to deviant behavior to begin with) and the rest is basically just beating a dead horse i.e. repetition of the theory. Well, aside from the color sequences. They're not. They also have absolutely nothing to do with the theme of the movie and seem to be included only to allow the director / star to do his usual thing. Much of this seems like an advertisement for the 'Coffin Joe' character and the line of comic books, posters and films it spawned. Though some of the snobby elite have negative things to say about Mr. Mojica, others refer to him as "a true artist," "controversial" and even a "genius." Dr. Sérgio, who's written a book about all this, claims he used the films as a basis because the character has "considerable power of suggestion over people." This one cast a considerable power of indifference over me personally.

Something Weird initially distributed it on VHS and there was a DVD set released by Fantoma, which included this and other Marin titles. I wouldn't place it high on my list of priorities as far as the director's work is concerned.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...