Saturday, October 3, 2020

Lipstick and Blood (1986)

Directed by:
"Robert Bauer" (Lindsay Shonteff)

Director Shonteff somehow managed to make it through nearly five decades in the business without ever creating much of a name for himself. Some would even go so far as to say he never made a single standout film, though I personally don't agree with that sentiment on the basis of at least one of his films. Though many assumed he was British, he was actually born and raised in Canada and started making movies there, starting with the seldom-seen low budget western The Last Gunfighter. Soon after, he relocated to the UK, where he'd remain for the rest of his life. He made his British debut with the ventriloquist's dummy-themed horror film Devil Doll (1964), which is actually pretty good but had its reputation sullied after being featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Curse of the Voodoo aka Voodoo Blood Death (1965) and He Kills Night After Night After Night aka Night Slasher (1969) soon followed. He made James Bond-style secret agent films and a handful of sexploitation features through the 70s and finally ended up here making this shot-on-video flick in the 80s. So just how well does an established director with loads of experience handle the SOV format? Better than the amateurs, right? Nope!

Jay Preston (Joseph Peters) is your standard maladjusted socially awkward pervert who has no friends, constantly talks to himself, owns an inflatable sex doll, lives alone in a tiny apartment with nude magazine layouts taped to the walls and frequents hookers. He picks up a middle-aged prozzie (Joyce Gray) and takes her home. After she refuses to kiss him on the mouth and then writes a nasty message on his mirror in lipstick he slits her throat (off-screen) and stuffs the body in his armoire.

Meanwhile, fried-haired tootsie Jennie (Jane Linten) is planning on getting married. Because she comes from a poor household, her parents (Janet Allen, Bill Riddout) can't help her out financially and her fiance Paul (Paul Ashe) apparently doesn't make enough as a millworker, she takes a job as a dancer (and a piss poor one to boot!) in one of the strangest and least convincing strip clubs perhaps ever. How strange? Well, it's filmed in a theater as opposed to a bar so there's this huge stage and theater-style seating with four audience members spaced out between literally hundreds of seats. Jennie appears to be the only dancer working there (no others are ever shown) and wears more clothes "stripping" than most women wear to the beach. Everyone keeps ragging on her to quit, but she's determined to save for a lavish wedding and threatens to do even worse ("Maybe I'll become a hooker? I heard it pays better.") if they don't back off.

Jay starts frequenting the club and becomes obsessed with Jennie despite her insistence on wearing a butt ugly costume consisting of shredded blue, white and orange rags and a bottom that's about as sexy as an adult diaper. He pulls out a gun and scares off two young patrons who make lewd comments about her then returns home, starts screaming at his sex doll ("You smell like plastic! Rotten whore!") and deflates it by stabbing it repeatedly with a knife while acting like he's getting off.

Jay finally works up the courage to offer Jennie a ride after work but she turns him down. Seeing her kissing Paul ("You bitch!") is the final straw. After she gets off work one afternoon, he pulls a gun on her and forces her into his car. She's driven out to a field, made to put on lipstick and forced her to dance before being raped off-screen. He then shows her the body of his previous victim in the trunk and tells her that'll be her if she doesn't do what he says. Now that the two are officially "lovers," he kidnaps Paul at work and executes him in a field. He then robs a gas station and shoots the attendant dead.

The film becomes a road movie of sorts as the two drive around and stay at various hotels. Occasionally Jay will kill someone, like a couple of American tourists (Burnell Tucker, Maggi-Anne Lowe) he lures into the woods and shoots so he can take their car, but for the most part he just sits around complaining. He quotes from the bible, constantly forces Jennie to dance (including with her clothes on in the shower), whines about being constipated and tells her she's "really fucking boring." Actually he ain't lyin' there. She IS fucking boring and just kind of sits around looking unperturbed most of the time. After awhile, he even starts losing interest in raping her because she refuses to change clothes or take care of her personal hygiene. "How can I fuck her when all she does is sleep? I'm gonna fuck a thousand pussies!"

Eventually, Jennie escapes and, instead of going to the police, hitches a ride to a bus station. That gives the psycho time to go to her home and kill both of her parents with a switchblade. He then goes through her things, sniffs her panties and rubs them all over his face before leaving the parents' bodies posed on the couch with a warning that she's next. Nine months pass. Jennie is still working at the club and makes frequent visits to the cemetery. Her brother (Bill French) tries to convince her to come stay with him and his wife but she refuses. Just what is she planning?

While this isn't horribly made for the shooting format and a few of the horror scenes are well done, it's all rather talky, repetitive, unoriginal and meandering. The dialogue is often terrible, it's not nearly sleazy enough and there's a subplot about the strip club manager (Chris Plume) illegally selling firearms that goes absolutely nowhere and seems grafted on solely to provide our heroine with a sawed-off shotgun whenever she needs it.

All things considered, most of the cast is competent. The supporting actors are generally fine and, though the male star is hammy at times thanks to the nature of the script (and some poor dialogue), he at least puts in some effort here and has his moments. The problem here is with the female lead. Her inability to act, dance or even show basic human emotion, plus the fact she's too old for this role and not particularly good looking, makes one wonder how exactly she ended up getting this part. They would have been better off casting a real-life stripper or a porn star. Sure, the acting probably would have still sucked but at least a pro could have put on a proper strip show and done some nude scenes!

Not surprisingly, this was just barely released and appears to have only been given video distribution in Germany (on the Toppic label) and the UK (through Movietime) in the early 80s. There's been nothing since then. Shonteff also made the SOV sci-fi film The Killing Edge (1984), which involves killer robots, at around the same time. There are a bunch of New Wave songs on the soundtrack by a group called Field of One. Though always listed as a 1984 release, the copyright date in the end credits is 1986.

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