Mardi Gras Massacre
Nancy Dancer. Measurements: 38/24/36. Born: Gary, Ind. 12/21/58. Died: N.O, LA. 2/13/78. ... and that was only the beginning.
Year of Release: 1978
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 97 minutes (1:37)
Director: Jack Weis
Curt Dawson ... Sgt. Frank Hebert
Gwen Arment ... Sherry
William Metzo ... John
An Aztec priest arrives on the scene to revive the blood ritual of human sacrifice to the Aztec god "Quetzalcoatl." The Priest sacrifices three victims considered evil by slicing the hand and the bottom of the foot, and cutting out the heart while the victim is still alive.
A New Orleans police detective relentlessly pursues the Priest throughout the events of the Mardi Gras. Ultimately, he catches up with the Priest while conducting a climactic nine-person sacrifice.
Mardi Gras Massacre, remindin' us that hirin' hookers on Fat Tuesday is a lot like adoptin' a cat from the Humane Society, cause you're basically payin' $50 for pussy that's bein' given away for free in all the run-down parts of town.
An speakin' of things that'll kickstart yer heart, you ever been so mad that your adrenaline makes ya forget you're only 5'5" an convinces ya what a great idea it'd be to take out all that aggression on the nearest guy you can find, even if he's 275 lbs an looks like he got kicked outta the Hell's Angels for throwin' his pregnant girlfriend out a seventh story window? Maybe you walk up behind the guy while he's playin' darts an say somethin' witty like "that's a pretty fancy set of S&M gear you're wearin', pussyboy, where's the Village People concert?" at which point he turns around an puts his fist so far down your throat that his buddies hafta give you the Heimlich maneuver just to dislodge it? Course you have, heck, we've ALL been there, even though most of us only go there once, cause passin' a class ring can be a durn painful business. Now that I think about it, that's how I first met Tetnis. Anyway, I *almost* got that hacked off this past week when I found out Chuck Maxwell, the guy who owns The Gutter Bowl, decided he's gonna get rid of one of our games in the arcade an replace it with... man this's tough... with... Dance Dance Revolution, to attract more kids. There were about six of us in there when we overheard 'im talkin' to Otis Turlinger about it, an we ALL purt'near jumped straight to that insanity rage I was talkin' about when it finally came out. Thankfully, Leonard Rankleton was in there tryin' to best his Galaga record, an so he acted as the voice of reason by informin' Chuck that this plan of his "would be his first and last shot fired in the war on arrested adolescence." Leonard teaches Drama over at the Naughty Pine Community College, so he likes to throw around them $10 words.
"Goddamn right," I says, "an we don't take prisoners, Chuck."
So then Chuck just kinda squints at all of us an says, "This's my alley, boys, and I'll do what I want. Besides, what're a buncha bums like you gonna do about it?" like he's Clint Eastwood or somethin'.
"You know how I know you don't take the newspaper, Chuck?" I shot back, only to be cut off by Billy Hilliard, who asked: "Tho, wish one you gon' thrade for that thit?"
"Well, I was just talking to Otis about that..." Chuck says, as Otis tried hidin' from the room fulla twitchy-eyed glares, "an we're leanin' towards the Q*Bert cabinet."
"Over my bullet-riddled, post-police-standoff-instigatin' corpse!" screamed Buck McGurk from directly behind me.
"That machine's been there since my 12th birthday party, an I'll be damned if it's goin' anywhere!" he added.
That's about when Chuck deployed the ole "divide an conquer" strategy an actually started askin' *us* which machine should be the one to go, an of course nobody could agree on that, so it *almost* worked. The thing of it is, there ain't a single crap cabinet in there, an... oh, right, I keep forgettin' some of you ain't actually been in there, so look, here's what we've got: Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, BurgerTime, Asteroids, R.C. Pro-Am, Double Dragon, Donkey Kong, Q*Bert, 1942, Frogger, Centipede, Gauntlet, Arkanoid, Yar's Revenge, 2 pinball machines, an air hockey table, a pool table, a dart board, an a claw machine.
"Fine then," Chuck grumbled, "if not a cabinet, what about the claw machine?"
"You moron!"--that was Marv Chintzley. "We need that for somethin' to take home to the wives after wastin' all our time an quarters in here!"
I hadn't really thought about it before, but he's absolutely right, cause the line for that thing really starts gettin' long about an hour and a half before the place closes.
"Look, this is happening, *with* or without your input, so I'd suggest you guys come to grips with it!" Chuck finally growled as he gave up an headed back toward the lanes.
I yelled after 'im, "You ever seen Joy Sticks, Chuck?!"
"What's what? Some kinda gay porno movie?!" he fired back.
"No, it's your gott-danged future if you move one of those machines more'n's necessary to vacuum in here!" I roared.
I meant it, too. You can price a man out of a fishin' license, an you can force a catalytic converter onto his car, but when you start screwin' with his arcade all bets're off. Chuck ain't heard the last of me on this, not by a long shot.
I really don't go lookin' for trouble, but damnit, there's only so much a guy can take when his way of life threatens to come crashin' in on 'im. Anyway, that's not really important. I mean, it *is* important, but that's not why we're here. Actually, that prolly is why I'm here, but I'm sure you'd all rather talk about Mardi Gras Massacre, which is this flick about a greasy weirdo who brings home hookers an turns 'em into slattern platters as a sacrifice to this South American demon god named Quacker Sinatra, or somethin' like that. It's basically Blood Feast when you get right down to it, only with slightly better special effects an more embarrassing hairstyles. So with that in mind, lemme try givin' ya a few reasons to stick around to the end of the plot synopsis, an we'll see who can survive all the way to the half-assed finale. First, you know your city's really goin' down the tubes when the death of a pimp causes a 5% jump in the unemployment rate. Second, "the hooker with a heart of gold" is just an expression, an under no circumstances should you go slicin' open loose women in search of financial security. An third, if the space between your front teeth is bigger'n the one between your boobs, stripping may not be the most realistic career path.
I know it seems like I'm dwellin' on the whole prostitute subject, but seriously - that's ALL there is to this flick. So while we're on the subject of hookers, I have a question: when the heck're we gonna get around to recognizin' the world's oldest profession as a legitimate one? Ya know, I see all these politicians wringin' their hands, claimin' to be "concerned" about the national debt, but do you *ever* see one of 'em with enough gumption to push for the legalization of crotch squattin'? Hell no, you don't. I mean, were it legal, not only would all the prostitutes be payin' taxes on their sexploits, but legalizin' it would also bring more folks into the industry, thus generatin' even *more* revenue. It'd also keep the most successful ones from double-dippin' offa the tax-payer, yet NO ONE advocates for this. You'd think the Libertarians'd be all over it: reduction in government red tape, job creation, less government spending necessary on social programs for the needy, increased physical security for everyone involved (if you're not afraid of goin' to the clink, it's a lot easier to call the cops), an what's Rand Paul do? Nothin', that's what. We got *one* place in the country where you can trade groin for coin, an it's BLUE. Yeah, I'm lookin' at you, McConnell, Ryan - you alleged "fiscal conservatives". Easy win right here for ya, all you hafta do is empower a few thousand women with the entrepreneurial spirit necessary to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, so how 'bout it? You in? Or are you just gonna sit there on your hands lookin' around goin' "you talkin' to me?" Balls're in your court guys. Let us know somethin' before the mid-terms so we can vote appropriately. Or at least threaten to, sometimes I forget to do the actual votin' part.
The movie begins with these two hookers (Sherry an Ann) walkin' into a bar to wait for the Pope, a Rabbi, and an Atheist so some unimaginative twit can write a bad joke about it, only instead this greasy-haired oil slick tycoon lookin' guy comes up to 'em an asks who the most "evil" woman in the bar is, an when they look around an notice Tonya Harding's gone home for the night they point 'im toward this gal named Shirley who agrees to go home with 'im an pump his oil derrick for a coupla C-notes. Only when they get there he takes 'er into this room that looks like Satan's gynecological examination clinic an straps 'er down to a leather table so he can get dressed up like Julius Caesar preppin' 'imself for Vincent Price's Masque of the Red Death party, at which point he wrings about a quart of Brylcreem out of his bangs, rubs it all over 'er, an proceeds to stab 'er hand, slice 'er foot, an cut 'er heart out so he can place it on this devil altar to Coochie Rawanda. I guess he's gonna shake 'n bake it an sell it to Ed Gein or somethin'. So the next mornin' the cops find the girl's body on the train tracks an the local coroner theorizes that it was a ritualistic killing, an that the person who did it either has a great deal of medical expertise, or at least successfully gutted a mule deer one time. Then the cops (Frank an his nameless partner) go to the bar where Shirley got picked up an talk to the local nookie bookie who tells 'em Sherry mighta gotten a look at the perp, so Frank takes 'er out to dinner to see what she knows an ends up havin' to take 'er home to try some thrust building exercises. Meantime though, the poor man's Michael Ironside's at a strip club lookin' for more evil women to wine an brine, an takes a frizz-haired stripper home so he can play dress-up with his voodoo hockey mask an turn 'er into jambalaya fixins. I don't mean to backseat drive or anything, but if this guy wants to find evil women he should just drive down to Mexico an hit the Titty Twister.
Anyway, then Frank an Sherry start spendin' all their time doin' sappy teenagers-in-love stuff until Frank hasta get back to work lookin' for the sexecutioner after the second girl shows up on the train tracks, only by now the police chief's so P.O.'d that he makes 'em go talk to this Donald Pleasence wannabe who's supposed to know about sacrificial killins, but mostly he just feeds 'em a buncha metaphysical bullstuff about how Ketchup Falafel is believed to grant nifty voodoo powers to sleazy yuppies who mutilate whores in his name... or something. I didn't really understand that part cause I was so distracted watchin' the guy readin' his lines off his desk. Elsewhere, the trollop walloper's pickin' up this interpretive dancer with a chasm between 'er teeth, only this treacherous tramp leads 'im into an alley where 'er pimp tries to mug 'im an he hasta make like Rowdy Roddy Piper on Saturday Night's Main Event until the hooker accidentally gimps the pimp with a switchblade. Clearly, this is no place for a charming, sophisticated lunatic, so the guy heads a half block down to the next meat market where some acid droppin' hippy sits beside 'im an starts in with this beatnik Dr. Seuss counter-culture rap routine that's so obnoxious it makes you start rootin' for the killer. I dunno how people can expect me to believe that "pimpin' ain't easy" if *this* guy can pull it off, cause he's obviously a coupla fittings short of a crack pipe. But anyhow, pimp daddy-o sells his thong shucker to Sleazy E, who takes 'er home an buys 'er Chinese while she's in the shower scrubbin' the stench of smoke an degradation off 'er body, only when he asks 'er what she does best she starts doin' this nekkid ballet recital an he's so appalled by 'er poise an natural grace that he hasta tell 'er to get the hell outta there before his dagger goes limp. Fortunately, that gets 'er to usin' the kinda language he needs to convince 'imself she deserves to be gutted like a sockeye salmon, an so he goes ahead an straps 'er to Lucifer's psychiatry couch an cuts out 'er heart before it can grow three sizes an cost him his lady-killin' cred. Nothing she could do--he totally snips up 'er heart.
Speakin' of heartbreak though, while that's goin' on Sherry gets a phone call from one of 'er hangouts an finds out that Frank confiscated Shirley's trick money an when she uncorks a mile-long rant about human decency he ends up beltin' 'er across the face an turns 'er into the hooker with a heart of cold. That makes 'er whole face start quiverin' like she's got a mouth fulla Sour Patch Kids an leaves 'er with no alternative but to grab the closest man she can find an hit the disco, cept then she ends up dukin' it out with the guy's wife. Fortunately, Frank's partner shows up to separate 'em before the entire dance floor gets so covered with body glitter that all the platform shoes lose purchase an send everybody careenin' into the punch table. Course by the time Sherry makes it home the third missin' girl's body's been dumped like medical waste on the Jersey shore, an now the chief's practically foamin' at the mouth an chewin' on Alka Seltzer tablets like they're candy cause Mardi Gras' comin' up. So Frank hasta hit the streets an hassle all the local urchins an disrupt business at the nudie clubs until he gives up an decides that killin' three people's prolly good enough for your average maniac, an that he'll realize how greedy he's bein' an just stop. Next thing, it's Mardi Gras, an Smarmaduke's lined up three more girls for his swansong to Kesha Conewaffle, an danged if one of 'em ain't Sherry. Only this time Scuzzy Wuzzy decides to just spike all the girls' wine like they're auditionin' for a guest shot on The Cosby Show an things start lookin' like Sherry Screwus's about to get lambchopped, but as luck would have it, Frank just happens to be in the Chinese restaurant that delivered the third victim's last supper, an the delivery boy recognizes a sketch of the River Styx High School graduation ring as belongin' to the weirdo an tells Frank where he lives. This's prolly a good place to cut off, cause there's a pretty ridiculous chase scene comin' up that really can't be put into words. So if I haven't lost ya with all the police procedural talk an you still wanna see what the fuss is about, get out there an find yourself a copy.
Kinda sounds like Blood Feast, don't it? Kinda plays like Blood Feast too, which probably isn't something you want in 1978, considering the shooting schedule and budget Blood Feast had. Of course, given the similarities, it's no surprise that Mardi Gras Massacre, like Blood Feast, ended up on the BBFC's Video Nasty list, despite a total body count of just four. Granted, three of those murders - pitiful execution aside - are pretty grisly, but if you tone down those few scenes the movie is essentially a police procedural, albeit not one suitable for cable TV due to all the strip club sequences. What's really weird about those three sacrifice scenes is that, with the exception of the identity of the girl on the table, they're all identical. Cut the hand, cut the foot, remove the heart, each time with the exact same dialog. Realistically, if this were happening in real life, I suppose that's prolly how it'd go down, but it certainly doesn't make for riveting cinema. It's actually *too* grounded in reality, to the point of being boring. I mean, how many sequels do you suppose Friday the 13th would have gotten if every single victim were dispatched in the exact same fashion, with the exact same weapon? Probably zero, although if you watch Mardi Gras Massacre all the way to the end you'll notice that the director left the conclusion ambiguous, just in case some sucker with enough money to fund a sequel came along. Unfortunately, the flick didn't get much of a release, playing primarily in the drive-ins and 42nd Street theaters, and what little fanfare it had was almost certainly obliterated two months later when Halloween came out and formally established the Slasher formula for decades to come. Don't get me wrong, Mardi Gras Massacre isn't even close to being in the same league as Halloween, but one could see the former being at least slightly more successful and/or leaving a more lasting impression had it been released two years earlier. In all honesty, it plays much more like a low-rent Italian Giallo flick than a Horror movie, which is not a style I'm especially fond of even when you've got a talented director like Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, or Sergio Martino. Needless to say, Jack Weis didn't have half the talent of any of those guys on their worst days, as evidenced by scenes where lines get flubbed and left in, and lines are read from desks. Not to mention some extremely sloppy editing wherein Gwen Arment alternates between sitting and standing twice during the same scene. One could actually blame the lack of funding for that particular edit, because the budget apparently dried up multiple times during the shoot and resulted in a lack of film necessary to do pick-up shots, but if you watch the shot where the first victim is sacrificed, you'll notice her very obviously letting out the breath she'd been holding at the last second, which leads me to suspect incompetence was at least as likely to blame as budgetary constraints.
In any event, I'll do what I can to break it down into easily digestible pieces, but I wouldn't go expectin' much in the way of pithy commentary on a flick like this. The plot, as I mentioned earlier, is basically a rehash of Blood Feast, only without the feast and without the imagination. Herschell Gordon Lewis' movies weren't exactly what you'd call "polished," but they all either broke new ground or featured a tawdry, disgusting, or taboo subject to keep an audience engaged, and Mardi Gras Massacre just doesn't measure up. I suppose some credit is due for the integration of a new holiday theme that capitalizes on some of the sleazier aspects of the Mardi Gras celebration, but they could have done a lot more with it by making it the focus. The holiday isn't even mentioned until the last 15 minutes of the movie, and the amount of footage allotted for the celebration itself is less than a third of that. It's been done before, but they could just as easily have made the killer an Evangelical whack-job lookin' to "clean up the sin," and it probably would have played better. Only problem there is that any Evangelicals watchin' the movie might be a little confused as to why the cops're tryin' to stop the guy. Just not all that satisfying, in my opinion. The acting is even less satisfying, and probably edges the special effects as the film's greatest failure. Curt Dawson is alright as the cop on the case, Gwen Arment is passable as the hooker with a heart of gold, and William Metzo is passable as the killer; *everyone* else is atrocious. It's really tough to pick out whose performance is the worst, between the first victim (a former Penthouse model with no prior acting experience), the psychic investigator who reads his dialog off his desk, and the coroner who delivers the line, "Ya know, I believe the perpetrator of this murder hasta have prior experience with a knife, uh, medical experience, or maybe even a butcher shop or something like that." Too close to call really, and while the three best actors do at least play the most important roles, the supporting cast features some of the rankest amateurs you'll ever see.
Here's who matters and why: Curt Dawson (Crypt of Dark Secrets, Blood Bath 1976), Gwen Arment (Crypt of Dark Secrets), Laura Misch Owens (Crypt of Dark Secrets), Cathryn Lacey (Crypt of Dark Secrets), Butch Benit (Crypt of Dark Secrets), Wayne Mack (Crypt of Dark Secrets, The Savage Bees, The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus), Ronald Tanet (Crypt of Dark Secrets). You'll never guess who directed Crypt of Dark Secrets.
The special effects are also comparable to Blood Feast, but far less frequent and, as I mentioned earlier, because all three of the sacrifices play out exactly the same all three effects look alike. The blood is way too thick and bright (though it's actually approaching magenta rather than fire engine red), and the latex torsos really start to look like crap once they're being cut open. They do at least use multiple fake torsos that bear some resemblance to each victim's body, rather than just recycling the exact same footage, but none of them are at all convincing. The hearts - or more likely *heart*, is obviously real, but no doubt came from a butcher shop and must have belonged to a pretty good sized animal, like a cow, because it's WAY too big to belong to a human. Still, for a low budget operation - kudos for going out and finding a borderline realistic representation instead of crafting a lousy plastic prosthetic. There's also one stunt that occurs at the film's climax, and while I don't want to give it away, I can't help but comment on just how convenient (and utterly implausible) the location of that car ramp is. Truly, it must have been a Mardi Gras miracle. The shooting locations are easily the best thing about the movie, because even though the Mardi Gras footage itself is a bit scant, it's still got some good shots of the seedy New Orleans night life, bargain basement apartments, sleazy clubs, and a climax that takes place on the Mississippi River. All the scenes depicting human sacrifice were filmed in a warehouse, as I suspect were the shots set in the police station (which is definitely the least convincing set in the movie), but for the most part, everything was filmed on location in New Orleans. They really should have spent more time on the streets though, because those sequences provide excellent atmosphere, despite being a pain in the ass to film (likely without permits). The soundtrack, while perfectly applicable for the time period, is pretty painful to behold in 2018. Not only was Disco in its prime, but the bulk of the soundtrack sounds very much like something that fell into the public domain after appearing briefly in a series of 42nd Street stag loops. It's precisely what the average person pictures when asked to imagine a 1970s porno soundtrack, and it comprises about 80% of the film's musical offerings. Surprisingly, when allowed to play awhile without being looped, a little synth gets tossed in and it eventually transformed into a Disco song called "Cosmic Wind", by The Mike Theodore Orchestra. You're gonna need to like Disco to enjoy it, but I won't claim that it's incongruous with the movie's tone, or detrimental to its atmosphere, such as it is. Overall, it's not passable on either its technical merits nor its entertainment value. I'd actually rate it higher on technical merit, but not because it's anywhere near competent; there's just not much to hold your attention, unless you're still mesmerized by the occasional breast. I'm inclined to agree with the IMDB rating on this one; it's just too dull to warrant much interest.