Seeds of Evil (1974)
Garden of love... Garden of death, he plants the Seeds of Evil.
Year of Release: 1974
Also Known As: Garden of Death, The Gardener
Running Time: 86 minutes (1:26)
Director: James H. Kay
Katharine Houghton ... Ellen Bennett
Joe Dallesandro ... Carl
Rita Gam ... Helena Boardman
James Congdon ... John Bennett
Anne Meacham ... Mrs. Garcia
Teodorina Bello ... Liza
Ivan Rodriguez ... Max
Esther Mari ... Rosa
Roberto Rivera Negron ... Ralph
Inside a hospital room a patient receives an anonymous floral arrangement. The flowers bloom and grow as the woman weakens and dies. At the funeral, Ellen and John hire the dead woman's gardener. Immediately after the arrival in his new home, strange things start to happen and the old gardener dies of an unidentified disease. When John, at the big carnival party, turning into an orgy, tears the flowers from Ellen's dress, the flowers gash his hands. At night, Ellen awakens and without being able to resist herself, she walks to the pool, where she finds a nude Carl, the gardener. When people appear, Carl is gone and Ellen has no recollection of what has happened. The next day, Ellen's niece disappears and the body of a dead cat is found. After that, Ellen fires Carl and she starts digging into his past. She finds out that all his former employers are either missing, or dead, or insane...
Seeds of Evil, remindin' us that resumes are just crutches for guys too afraid to abandon antiquated social conventions like shirts.
And speakin' of people who never realize what everyone's whisperin' about, I think I'm startin' to understand why so many people're willin' to shirk safety protocols and host small gatherins with 75 of their closest friends at the risk of spreadin' the corona borealis around like bullstuff at a Scentsy seminar. We get used to havin' our buds around for the important events in life; like the first time ya watch Sleepaway Camp and get an eyefull of Angela's p...lot twist, 'cause when it's only you there, all by your lonesome, it's just not the same. Believe me, I know from whence I speak, 'cause I ain't been able to get Apollo to set foot in the livin' room since the day the VCR closed on his tail and he ended up scrapin' the hide off two sides of it tryna' get it out.
Wasn't really anybody's fault, I mean... actually I take that back - it was all Shankles' fault, 'cause he's the one who dove offa the curtain rod and landed on the remote; mashin' the eject button and causin' the mechanism in the VCR to retract the cassette holder at the exact moment Apollo's tail happened to wag its way into the slot. I know it's impossible, but I think he did it on purpose too, 'cause he's been P.O.'d ever since Apollo rolled in the fish heads Billy Hilliard and me brought home for Shankles and got hair all over 'em. Jerked the machine clean off the TV too, and now when ya try ejectin' a tape it just makes this pathetic little droning shudder like the vibrator in Rosanne Barr's nightstand that wants nothin' more than to die and be released from the private Hell in which it currently resides.
Apollo prolly woulda gotten over it except when he went over to Saul Schwartzberg's place to conjugally visit his Irish setter squeeze, Anastasia, she wouldn't go near 'im and that's when the canine depression kicked in. I'm not sure if it's 'cause he turned seven this year and he's havin' a mid-life crisis, or because the sight of his mangy hinder was so off-putting that even the fragrance of rotten crappie heads couldn't win 'er over, but he's been one sorry pup ever since.
I tried everything to cheer 'im up - dug his kiddie pool outta the shed and filled it up for 'im; nothin'. Took 'im to the Grime Time Saturday night to party with his old pal Gank; forget it. Hardly even touched his nachos. Even called Sadie Bonebreak over to play tug with one of 'er old bras, but he wouldn't so much as get up off his bench seat on the front porch to say hi.
"I dunno what's wrong with 'im, Sadie. He just lays there all day like a plus-size pornstar... and would you PLEASE take that bra off his head? For cripes sake, he looks like Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science," I groaned.
"Ain't it obvious? Look how he lays with his tail hidden under his junk - he's embarrassed," Sadie reasoned as she unhooked the clasps from beneath his chin.
"Embarrassed? Why? Most boxers don't even get to keep their tails. Seems like he's a sharp-dressed man's best friend by any objective measure," I retorted.
"Yeah? Well, when I passed Schwartzberg's house his stuck-up bitch seemed to've gotten over her headache," Sadie giggled.
"Why'd you hafta..." I started sayin' before clampin' my hands over Apollo's ears. "He has feelings, ya know," I glared. "Saul's prolly just breedin' 'er to some canine Fabio to sell papered puppies to pompous country club clones who never had kids on account of their husbands spendin' too much time on the road reenactin' scenes from Cruising. It don't mean nothin'," I rationalized.
"It was Mark Skidman's bulldog. Ya know, the one with the underbite and the lazy eye?" she clarified.
"Chachi?! The Picasso paintin' of the genus Canis?! Oh man. This is bad, Sadie. It's a wonder he hasn't hung 'imself with his leash yet," I said as I scratched behind the poor guy's ears.
"So help him. What do *you* do when life reminds you how inadequate you are?" Sadie smirked.
"Usually I just stop hangin' around YOU for a week or so," I grumbled. "That's not bad thinkin', though. What DO guys generally do when our ego takes a pot-shot in the gondolas?"
"Buy a car you can't afford? Injure yourselves playin' ball with kids half your age? Call a 900 number and pay a 300lb woman with a sultry voice to tell you you're virile?" she suggested.
"Yeah, I spoze, but he ain't got thumbs Sadie, I... wait... that's it!" I howled as I jumped up and started luggin' Apollo toward the Topaz.
"The hell you goin'?" Sadie hollered.
"Furry Mountain Stuffing! I'ma get Cleave Furguson to build 'im a hairpiece for his wagger," I yelled back.
"That's the stupidest thing that's come outta your mouth all week!" she scowled.
"A toupail!" I declared, before crankin' the Topaz.
"I stand corrected," she muttered, but I couldn't hear 'er 'cause I was already half a block away.
Cleave and I spent about 45 minutes pickin' through leftover taxidermy scraps and decided to go with a coupla strips of pronghorn pelt that matched Apollo's fur pretty close and proceeded to secure 'em to his tail with veterinary stitches, beins they fall out after a coupla weeks and by that point his regular hair should be grown back enough to cover the bald patches.
That was all it took - he's back to his old awkward, clumsy, lovable self again; livin' it up in his pool after long days of satisfyin' the neighborhood bitches. I'm glad he's feelin' better, even though *I'm* kinda depressed after realizin' my dog's life is vastly superior to my own, but hey, ya can't have everything.
I dunno if he just forgot about the whole VCR attack or whether he was too happy to care after his successful hide-graft surgery, but Apollo finally decided to rejoin movie-going society and check out Seeds of Evil with me once he'd shaken off all over Shankles and mosta the kitchen. I don't wanna come across as bitter or anything, but this's one of those movies that originally had a lame title (The Gardener) that helped ward off unsuspecting genre fans who might rent it expecting a horror film, only its greedy investors insisted on changing the title to the more marketable Garden of Evil, and later, Seeds of Evil. We were all goners once they sleazed up the title and made it look like we were gettin' a Freakmaker-esque killer plantman flick, although changin' the title is a whole lot less dishonest than splicin' together 86 minutes of Puerto Rican high society shindigs with footage of Joe Dallesandro shirtlessly tip-toein' through the tulips and callin' it a movie, but that's another matter entirely. Nonetheless, I did come away with a few observations I'd like to pass on for the benefit of those of you with enough sense to send scout critics into the jungle before plunging in yourselves, so for those of you in the rear with the gear, don't say I never did nothin' for ya. First, when you don a girdle of vegetal razorwire to your husband's costume party, you may be beyond the help of a marriage counselor. Second, if Eve'd had access to Joe Dallesandro's gardening services, she coulda had her apple and eaten it too. And third, you can construct a radio receiver to talk to aliens, and you can birth the chupacabra legend, but once you invite members of Andy Warhol's entourage to your island those'll only be the second and third strangest things to come outta your homeland.
The movie begins in the pretentious care unit of a Puerto Rican hospital where this rich broad's bein' treated for terminal laryngitis after screamin' 'erself hoarse at the help for spillin' a round of pina coladas on Jose Ferrer at a cocktail party, and the speechlessness becomes a real problem when a nurse brings in a vase fulla hibisci that clash so strongly with the patient's Gucci purse that she dies of embarrassment while tryin' to flee the premises. Next thing, the Real Housewives of San Juan (Ellen and Helena) attend the deceased's funeral and crash 'er palatial estate so they can stoically sip tropical drinks on the Garden of Eden adjacent patio furniture and grieve for a full three minutes before Ellen poaches the corpse's now unemployed gardener (Carl) who lost his shirt at Woodstock and hasn't been able to find it since. Carl takes the gig on the condition that he be allowed temporary leave to model for the covers of paperback romance novels at intervals dictated by the unsatisfied housewife index, and gets to work transformin' Ellen's spread into the kinda place where you can relax after a hard day of shoppin' and potentially flip for a tidy profit to an Escobarian drug lord in the event of governmental collapse. It only takes a few days before Carl's half-nekkid nurturin' has the place lookin' like the New York Botanical Garden, and so Ellen and 'er Herb Tarklekian husband (John) decide to host a big bash to show the place off, only John ditches 'er to hit el discotheque with some septuagenarian party animals and she ends up sittin' alone at home watchin' Carl skinny dip in the moonlight while 'er drawers get twaterlogged. The next mornin' things get weird when the senior groundskeeper's out pumpin' his hoe and suddenly contracts this allergy that causes 'im to start burpin' up spicy kitchen condiments, but Ellen refuses to listen to the servants when they try tellin' 'er Carl's some kinda psycho Wiccan witch doctor usin' voodoo MiracleGro to turn the place into a Triffid sanctuary 'cause their skin tone makes 'em naturally susceptible to superstition.
Then Ellen and the rest of the great white dopes decide the only way they could possibly be more important is to become gods, so they plan a costume party wherein everybody comes as their favorite figure from Greek mythology and Carl fashions this glowin' corona florealus girdle so Ellen can go as Persephone and she wears it even though it's fulla thorns and keeps slicin' up John's hands every time he tries puttin' 'em where the red fern grows. The next day John hasta go back to work to keep Ellen in beefcake gardeners and orchid orchards, and so when she sees Carl dippin' his zucchini in the pool she decides to join 'im and inquire about gettin' 'er bush pruned, only while they're gettin' familiar all the security lights kick on and Carl hasta take off before he gets fired and shipped off to rake BLM land in Northern California. Then Ellen's niece comes to visit and disappears shortly after takin' a shine to Carl, and the wise old cook (Liza) tries one more time to explain that Carl's a practitioner of necroplantcy and that he's gonna wipe out everybody who refuses to embrace their inner vegan and worship He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Ellen's pretty sure lime ain't the only thing Liza's been puttin' in 'er coconut until she witnesses one of Carl's kudzu plants strangle the house cat, at which point she decides to hand Carl off to Helena even though she looks at 'im the way Charles Durning looks at the Howard Johnson's lunch buffet. Ellen figures she'd better make certain Carl's to blame for the vegetal shenanigans before sentencing 'im to be unceremoniously deflowered, and starts diggin' into his employment history where she discovers a trail of carnation carnage that ultimately leads to this cracked wallflower who won't leave the house and lives in terror of the neighbor's Chia Pet. Unfortunately Helena's more interested in gettin' 'er topsoil plowed than gettin' at the truth, so by the time Ellen builds 'er case and drives to Helena's place to warn 'er she's already been transformed into a persistent vegetation state. This is prolly where I oughta end this one, but I just wanna say - if James Kay (the director of this flick) is still kickin' and wants to sue HBO for their depiction of the pre-Max Von Sydow Three-Eyed Raven in Game of Thrones, I'll testify in court that they totally ripped you off, man.
Alrighty, there ya have it - Joe Dallesandro is The Beetsmaster. Kinda like Marc Singer, only Marc controls actual tigers, while Joe wields the awesome power of tiger... lilies. Guess that's what happens when you're in the can while they're passin' out superpowers. Seeds of Evil was the first in a series of one movies for writer/director James Kay, who loosely based his script on the story of Persephone and Hades from Greek mythology but forgot to pencil in any excitement. This is not to say that *no one* derived any excitement from it, given that a large portion of San Juan's citizenry invited themselves to the shoot the night Joe Dallesandro got nekkid and splashed around in the pool, but I think that probably just speaks to how little there was to do in Puerto Rico in 1973. To give credit where it's due, Seeds of Evil would be a good candidate for a remake on the basis that its premise is interesting and fairly unique, if poorly executed in its original form. The problem is that the thrills are few and far between, and Kay, either out of a lack of imagination or funding, spends much of the film's running time focusing on his cast of unfulfilled rich people in general, and the lonely housewife stuck on the incubus waiting list in specific. It's entirely possible that the script was written as it is because Kay knew he didn't have the money to do any killer plant effects, and if that's the case, a mulligan with even a modest budget could certainly replace some of the stuffy dialogue with man-eatin' plant attacks and a fleshed out backstory for the Beetsmaster. This will never happen, of course, because we only remake movies that're already great to cash in on their name recognition, but if there're any enterprising young filmmakers out there with sufficient walnuts, I'd suggest trackin' down Kay or the executor of his estate and tryin' to negotiate the rights to his story. The foundation is solid enough and you can probably secure the rights for the cost of a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast.
At this point I'd like to pause and ask everyone to vacate the garden and strap on your gas masks, 'cause we've got a load of Agent Orange incoming and I've got at least a modicum more concern for your well-being than President Nixon. Everybody clear? Good. Let's go. The plot, as I mentioned above, is intriguing enough on paper, but excruciatingly plodding in its execution. This flick makes The Changeling look like Demons in terms of pacing, and if you think there might be something extraordinary waitin' at the finish line to make it all worthwhile I'd strongly suggest you abandon that notion now if you plan on stickin' this thing in your VCR. That is, unless 70 minutes of well-to-do socialites alternatin' between house parties and garden tours tickles your pickle. The acting is generally poor as well, with the only exceptions being Rita Gam as the oversexed best friend, and James Congdon as the inattentive husband who's slowly gettin' more'n more hacked off about his house's gradual conversion into a fern bar. Katharine Houghton simply isn't equipped to carry off this molassian plot (a Lynda Day George or a Barbara Steele may not have been able to pull it off either, but it would have been a big improvement), and the locals hired to comprise the household staff consists largely of amateur actors or folks with no acting experience whatsoever. Even Andy Warhol mainstay Joe Dallesandro gives an utterly wooden performance (and if you've seen Flesh for Frankenstein you know he's a reasonably capable actor), so in light of this I think you've gotta conclude that the director probably wasn't providing much in the way of instruction.
Here's who matters and why: Joe Dallesandro (Black Moon, The Killer Nun, Blood for Dracula, Flesh for Frankenstein), Rita Gam (Midnight 1989, Distortions), James Congdon (The 4D Man), Anne Meacham (Seizure, Dear Dead Delilah), Tanny McDonald (Hercules in New York).
The mainstream movie credits are pretty skimpy here, but there are a couple: Katharine Houghton (Joey Drayton in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner), Rita Gam (Herodias in King of Kings).
The special effects include a very brief shot of a cat entangled in vines, a single gunshot wound, a little blood spit-up by the landscaper, and some blood splashed on the arms of Rita Gam as Katharine Houghton tries to free her from her predicament near the climax. The cat sequence is pitiful, but Dallesandro's blood squib gets the job done and the coloration and consistency is decent during the night sequences. Essentially, they didn't take any risks that might make their film memorable for good or for ill and were able to attain mediocrity as a result. The shooting locations are nice, and both the interiors and exterior sequences give us something a little different than what we're accustomed to seeing in mainland American/European movies. The garden sequences manage to create a certain degree of claustrophobia as the vegetation is lush and expansive, and the interiors provide enough Hispanic flavor to give the flick a bit of cultural identity, but honestly, when the nicest thing you can find to talk about is a movie's architecture and cinematography, it's 'cause there's little else to praise. The soundtrack has some redeeming qualities as well, despite the ever-present a paint-by-numbers feel that accompanies many low budget '70s movies. It's probably the soundtrack more than anything else that makes clear we're watching an American movie set in a Hispanic territory, as the only music with any real Latino influence is the track that plays during the Carnival party. It's neither here nor there, but it does increase the range of a soundtrack that was already somewhat varied to begin with. The best track is probably the melancholy string composition that plays during the opening credits, although there's a decent score that features spooky chanting which adds a little atmosphere that might otherwise be completely absent due to a lack of plot developments. Overall, the film's pacing would require several hits of speed to work its way up to "slow," but the setting and unusual tone may prove to be of minor interest to genre fans who've seen just about everything. Nowhere near good enough to recommend, but not quite bad enough to warrant condemnation - good enough for a Sunday afternoon if the car's in the shop and you're unable to leave the house.