‘Crimson’ on DVD reviewed

❉ “This cinematic specimen is demented!”

Looking over the notes I made in preparation for this review, several points stand out:

“Another sleazy middle aged man rubbing up against a nubile blond who just wants her paycheck.”

“That bloke in the background just waved at the camera!”

“The Chuckle Brothers could do a better job transporting a dead body.”

Most relevant of all;

 “The film makers didn’t know how brains work!”

This production is mad. It has Paul Naschy in it (as ace safe cracker Jack Surnett), so you’d expect it to have a few screws loose, and it’s a Spanish-French co-production, with Paris-based Eurocine’s “creative” stamp all over it, but this is a film in which the most obvious solution to curing our bank robbing anti-hero of a bullet wound to the head is to force a mad scientist into giving him a casual brain transplant. I don’t mean that the plan is to grab hold of the nearest mad scientist and get him to transplant Surnett’s brain into another, healthy body, which would be ludicrous enough. I mean that the plan is to grab hold of the nearest mad scientist and get him to put a new brain into Surnett’s head, replacing the one that was damaged by the bullet! Or maybe part of it. I don’t know, and I don’t think the film does either. It seems to change its mind halfway through. During the operation, there’s some mumbled nonsense about replacing lobes, but we’re told the bullet missed the brain, which leads one to wonder what all the fuss is about.

These shenanigans are rendered even more bizarre by the fact that the gang leader Henry (Olivier Mathot), needs Surnett precisely because of his knowledge and underworld connections, and the donor for the new brain is Surnett’s arch nemesis, a gangland kingpin known as The Sadist (Roberto Mauri). Oh yeah, Surnett’s girlfriend, Ingrid (Gilda Arancio) happens to be The Sadist’s old flame. At no time does anyone stop to think this whole scheme might be a bit of a faux pas.

I’m no neurosurgeon – more of an amateur proctologist – but this all sounds like a bit of a rum do to me. It almost makes one think this film didn’t have a medical advisor. Why are the scientists always mad in these sorts of things anyway? The mad scientist in this case is the hilariously named Professor Teets (Ricardo Palmerola), and if his beard, bottle bottom glasses, and frizzy hair don’t convince you of his qualifications, he’s got a severe case of Fritz Lang Hands; they’ve been severely burned in lab accident, you see, so he’s got to wear sinister black gloves.

Presumably writer-director Juan Fortuny and screenwriters Marius Lesoeur (under his regular pseudonym A.L. Mariaux) and H.L. Rostaine knocked this nonsense up over a few drinks after seeing Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), or maybe all three of them knew what it was like to live without a brain. Fortunately, they did think to give said mad scientist a beautiful but unqualified wife, Ana (Silvia Solar, sporting a jaunty mod haircut), so it is she and drunken mob medic Doc Ritter (Carlos Otero, looking like a homeless Nick Cave) who do the surgical dirty work, whilst her hubby mansplains them through the procedure. And just to make sure the couple cooperate, the blackguards kidnap their young daughter too! The fiends!

All of this, I might add, takes place in weird, twilight world of extremely unconvincing day-for-night. Less film noir, more, film underexposed a bit.

This cinematic specimen is demented. Every time I watch a film with the Eurocine stamp on it, I understand why the early surrealists were so taken with trashy pulp novels such as the Fantomas books. It’s pure stream-of-consciousness nonsense from beginning to end. The script is so all over the place, whacking you over the head with so many random incidents that it’s hard not to believe the creators didn’t employ William S. Burroughs’ Cut-ups technique; why, for example, does one of the bank robbers disappear upstairs to bend his moll over the sofa for a good hearty fuck when they should be nursing Naschy and his poor little wounded bonce? Tits, that’s why. I would say tits and arse, but the most bum we get is his hairy buttocks merrily bouncing away. This goes on for two minutes. Later, things stop dead again for a dance routine which we’re supposed to believe occurs in The Sadist’s nightclub (which advertises “Une Veritable Diner Spectacle, Au Champagne, 105F,” but from the small print we learn its only a half bottle), but which looks like it was shot on a left over Star Trek: TOS set, and has all the grace of the Kirk vs Gorn fight, so I found myself singing the classic “Da-da-daa-daa-daa-daa-daa, Da-dee-da-da” Star Trek wrestling music whilst gorping at a rather lithe bikini-clad beauty being chucked around by two blokes dressed as Mongol raiders. The idiots sent to obtain the brain faff about so much in their mission that the whole enterprise devolves into a gruesome Fawlty Towers skit. Tubby little Naschy gets a post-brain surgery ravishment scene with Ingrid, then spends the second half of the film gurning and scurrying around with toilet roll wrapped around his head. The most likely reaction to these proceedings is to repeatedly squeak, “WHAT?”

I loved every sleazy second of it; it took me back to my early days of making films, back when I myself was cobbling together brain transplant movies of my own. I was about 12. I was a weird kid.

If you fancy finding out what it’s like to spend 90 minutes without your brain, Crimson is out on DVD now.

❉ ‘Crimson’ was released on DVD (BH002) by Black House on Monday 17 April 2017.

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