Sunday, September 13, 2020

Glerbrot (1988) [TV]

... aka: Broken Glass

Directed by:
Kristín Jóhannesdóttir

Glerbrot checks a number of boxes that interest me right out of the gate. First, it's Icelandic and, as per my last count, one of just eight genre films produced there prior to 1990. Second, it was made by a female director. Though having a female filmmaker at the helm of a horror film is not an uncommon occurrence nowadays, it was back when this was made. Jóhannesdóttir even went one step further by also co-scripting, editing and shooting this. Third, this features alternative pop star Björk (credited under her full name Björk Guðmundsdóttir) in the lead role back when she was still with her band The Sugarcubes and years before her 1993 solo breakout album, Debut. Prior to this, Bjork had acted in the black-and-white art film The Juniper Tree (filmed in 1987 but not released until 1990), which was witchcraft-themed and also made by a female director, the late Nietzchka Keene.

Unlike Glerbrot, which runs just 50 minutes and was an Icelandic TV movie made for RÚV (basically Iceland's equivalent to PBS), Juniper played in theaters around the world and took home a few festival awards. Still, it was and still remains a film of limited interest due to its art-house-ish-ness and seldom been viewed despite getting a DVD release in 2002 from Rhino and a Blu-ray release in 2019 from Arbelos Films. Glerbot, on the other hand, doesn't even have that luxury. I couldn't find a single VHS or DVD release for this title. The best that's currently available is a copy ripped from TV.

And, finally, this is just plain weird. I couldn't quite figure out what it was attempting to say or why it was even made. It's sort of a mix of women-in-prison film, nunsploitation film (minus nuns if that makes any sense!) and sane (maybe) person locked up in a corrupt asylum film with flashes of horror, torture, surrealism and religious iconography.

An unkempt old man (Helgi Skúlason) with the biblical name of Theofilus is washing clothes in what appears to be a laundromat located inside a cave but just turns out to be a cavernous laundry room (?!) inside their home with TEN stacked washing machines and dryers. The man's bitchy, miserable daughter-in-law, Liney (Margrét Ákadóttir), walks in and starts arguing with him about how much she hates both him and his son. He tells her she has no room to talk because, back in her younger years, she partied a lot and was far from a pristine virgin. When her drunk husband Jon (Pétur Einarsson) comes stumbling home, the two get into an even worse fight with her chastising him for being a drunk and him chastising her for being a whore. It gets a little physical and has to be broken up by Theofilus.

The married couple both want to send Maria (Björk), his crazy-haired teenage daughter from an earlier marriage, away because she's got a foul mouth, emotional issues and is staying out all night doing God knows what. What she's actually been doing, unless it is all being imagined (certainly a possibility given the the rest of the film) is shooting some kind of music video on a massive sound stage with a crashed airplane and lots of swirling fog.

After yet another screaming match, the parents get their way and two stern older women (Kristbjörg Kjeld and Margrét Guðmundsdóttir); a doctor and the director of the asylum (which they call a "boarding school") show up, get the parent's permission to "be rough with her, if needed," and then drag a screaming Maria off. They drive out into the country to the seaside asylum, walk down a corridor and then throw Maria into a cell with just a bed and crosses on the walls. When she starts acting up, they threaten to drug her. They then make her strip naked and one of the women gropes her while asking her to pray to God for forgiveness. In other words, a typical religious establishment.

Maria is haunted by frequent nightmares of a cross being thrust in her face and the doctors coming at her with scissors (probably trying to give her a butch haircut). The staff is entirely female and also entirely lesbian. The lez asylum director tries to grope Maria again; justifying that by informing her that the devil lives inside men and that messing around with them will make her suffer in hell for all eternity. Yet doing it with her is apparently OK. The sin, according to the director, is entirely masculine and she's so dead set in her beliefs that the asylum cat also has to be female. Some of the other inmates start indulging in PG-rated girl lovin', even out in the open, and the staff slip sleeping pills into the milk at night to make sure they don't cause any problems. After her idiot parents stop by for a visit and prove they're still utterly useless, Maria plots to break out with help from her sort-of boyfriend, Vinur (Björn Baldvinsson).

So what is this all about? Well, uh... Fairly early on, Maria is shown overdosing on drugs she buys from some guys on the set. That leads me to believe she's either in the process of dying and this is kind of a delirious jumble of her final beliefs / thoughts / memories or that it's all some kind of drug-induced delusion. Religious imagery is all over the place, and the final scene of her going off into the blindingly bright snow and then lying down to sleep is obviously a death / afterlife metaphor. Making all of the asylum staff predatory, evil lesbians whose chief objective is to turn their young charges against men, and her savior finally coming in the form of a man, is a story point that has me even more befuddled. I doubt they intended this to be offensive, but if anyone decries this homophobic I can certainly see why!

As for Björk, she gets to wear weird clothes, have weird hair, make weird faces, do a little bit of singing and shriek, curse, cry and scream in hysterics most of the time, so nothing out of the ordinary for her. She appears topless during a scene, but that isn't much of a surprise since she'd go on to pose nude plenty of other times. This almost seems like a precursor to when Lars von Trier put her through the emotional ringer playing a death row inmate in Dancer in the Dark (2000).

Delirio caldo (1972)

... aka: Akraía Psychosexoualikí Diatarachí (Extreme Psychosexual Disorder)
... aka: Au dela du desir (Beyond Desire)
... aka: Crime
... aka: Das Grauen kommt nachts (The Horror Comes at Night)
... aka: Death at the Villa
... aka: Delirium
... aka: Hot Delirium
... aka: Sexe en délire (Sex in Delirium)

Directed by:
"Ralph Brown" (Renato Polselli)

At a bar, a man who can't keep his eyes off a girl's legs offers to give the young lady a ride to a nightclub. Instead, he drives her out into the country, chases her through the woods to a stream, rips all of her clothes off, starts strangling her and then beats her to death with a club. It's the seventh of such murders in less than a year and an eighth victim, a woman in a phone booth who's strangled with the telephone cord, is claimed soon after. The killer, at least of the first victim, is immediately revealed to be Dr. Herbert Lyutak (Mickey Hargitay), who's a respected psychologist who actually works for the police and is able to help cover up his own crimes. He is still a suspect, however, as he's questioned when a bartender recognizes him as the man who gave victim #7 a ride the same night she was killed. He tells the chief inspector, Edwards (Raul Lovecchio, billed as just "Raoul"), that he dropped her off at the nightclub and that's that.

Herbert is in a childless marriage to the pretty Marcia (Rita Calderoni), who also seems to have her fair share of mental problems. She really, really loves her husband to the point where she has no issue at all turning a blind eye to whatever it is he's up to and putting up with his psychotic behavior. Herbert has a small chest that he keeps locked and carries the key with him at all times. Marcia breaks into it, finds mementos of his various crimes (including names of victims on envelopes) and a blood-stained shirt, but keeps that all to herself. In bed, he starts to strangle her and she's OK with that, too, informing him that he can do whatever he wants to her. She has kinky nightmares where she has lesbian three-ways and is whipped with a chain and gets off on it. It appears as if she's the ideal match for ol' Herb.

As is often the case in these movies, Herbert's frustrations stem from the fact he's impotent. Apparently he and Marcia have never even consummated their marriage and she's still a virgin! A botched attempt at having sex ends with him cutting up her back and looking in the mirror screaming that he's a "bastard!" and a "hyena!"

In one of the most head-scratching police stings ever seen in one of these films (and, believe me, many of them are incredibly stupid), Herbert calls up Edwards and states that he's been doing his own "meteoropsychic" (?!) investigation into the crimes and now knows the exact time and location where the killer will strike next. It will be in an hour at the park near a swimming pool. The police get a policewoman - Miss Heindrich (Katia Cardinali) - to pose as a hooker and stand around by the pool hoping to bait the killer. Knowing full well there are a bunch of cops around, Herbert walks up to her, starts saying bizarre things and puts his hands around her throat (?!) However, before he can kill her, another hooker is knifed nearby by someone else! Yes, there's likely more than one killer at work here. Parking lot attendant John 'Crocchetta' Lacey (Tano Cimarosa), another suspect found near one of the earlier crime scenes, just so happens to be at this park in the middle of the night, too, which further throws suspicion off of Herbert. Groan.

After the hooker's body is discovered, Miss Heindrich sees the murder weapon on the ground and recognizes it as belonging to Herbert. Instead of informing the other cops, she picks it up and hides it in her purse (!?) Edwards sees what she's doing and instead of, ya know, calling her out on it on the spot or at least pulling her aside to ask her, he allows her to just take the knife from the crime scene (?!) and tells his assistant, Willy (William Darni), that he'll ask her about it later. Whaaa!? Naturally, before they can even get to her home, the killer has already paid her a visit, whipped her and drowned her in the bathtub. To taunt the cops, the body is placed in the window and falls down eight stories after a string is triggered.

Meanwhile, the police go to arrest Crocchetta but he runs off and finds a rusty hatch on the side of a fountain to hide in. That leads to underground tunnels that lead to a secret torture chamber hidden in the basement of the Lyutak house. Gee, whatta coincidence! There, he sees Dr. Herbert's maid Laurel (Cristina Perrier), who's a frequent presence in Marcia's sex dreams along with her niece (!!) Joaquine (Christa Barrymore), stripped nekkid and knocked out by "morphine gas." Crocchetta calls the police. While he's waiting for them to show up, he gets locked in the basement and is then strangled with a chain by Herbert. When the police arrive, they again take Herbert's word for what happened... and just leave the unconscious maid there! Tensions rise between Marcia, Herbert and Joaquine as the identities of the killers are finally revealed.

Some people seem to enjoy this but I wasn't a fan. It's illogical and incredibly stupid, slow-moving, horribly written and plotted and has terrible acting, terrible dialogue, near-bloodless kills, minimal directorial style and the dumbest cops this side of Mayberry. The only possible points of interest are the female nudity and minor S&M content but even then you can see all of that elsewhere in movies that don't also simultaneously insult your intelligence. BLOODY PIT OF HORROR (1965), which also stars former Mr. Universe Hargitay and has sadomasochistic themes, is rated lower on most movie websites but it's a hell of lot more fun to watch than this was.

There are many different cuts of this one available. First, there's the American version, which contains Vietnam war stock footage and newly-shot war scenes (turning the Herbert character into a demented war vet instead of merely a demented psychologist), plus two additional murder scenes and changes the identity of the killer(s). This one played theatrically in the U.S. and is English-dubbed, with Hargitay doing his own dubbing, but omits a lot of other stuff and clocks in at just 85 minutes. Second, there's the 102 minute Italian-dubbed "international cut" which contains many other scenes not seen in the American cut, with a greater emphasis on nudity, sadomasochism and lesbian sex. I watched the latter and, seeing how it constantly dragged with needless, overlong dialogue scenes, I'm now thinking I may have preferred the shorter version. Maybe I'll give it a look sometime and see. 

There was also a third cut released in France called Au dela du desir, which has even more explicit nudity and sex than what's seen in the Italian-language version, runs about 104 minutes and was released on VHS there on the Empire label. Some of the other European VHS releases are a mishmash of footage from both the U.S. and International versions, running anywhere from 79 to 99 minutes. The Dutch and German releases also contain the Vietnam angle.

Both the American and International versions were released by Anchor Bay in 2002, which was the first time these films were available on a home viewing format here in America. A later DVD from Blue Underground came with the documentary featurette The Theory of Delirium, which features interviews with Polselli and Hargitay.

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