Thursday, August 12, 2010

DVD Review: Mausoleum (1983)


"The Nightmare Has Begun!"

DIRECTOR: Michael Dugan
CAST: Bobbie Bresee, Marjoe Gortner, Norman Burton, Maurice Sherbanee, La Wanda Page


 ANECDOTAL: This film holds a warmly nostalgic place in my horror-filled heart. In the magical era that was the Mid-80’s my folks rented a laserdisc player along with a few memorable flicks, MAUSOLEUM (1983) and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). I may have been 12 years of age, way too young, and I can trace my love for the macabre to this particular weekend. From a young age I recall seeing slashers and horror films fairly regularly; FRIDAY THE 13th (1980), HALLOWEEN (1978), and once I only HEARD the film I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978), and it scarred me. My folks, or an uncle, someone surely irresponsible put it on at a time when I should have been asleep, but wasn’t, and couldn’t for all that night. I heard (only heard) the film from my bedroom down the hallway, and it disturbed. I could not fathom what the hell was going on in that film. What are they doing to her? What is she doing to them? What is that awful 60’s hippy song, and do I hear a boat? What? The next morning I ventured to the living room and saw the iconic VHS cover art, and vowed …someday. Years later I picked-up the Millennium Edition of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, it wasn’t until 2008 that MAUSOLEUM would finally make it ways to DVD. When I found it I was so excited I started sweating profusely, I’d long ago given up hope of seeing this forgotten gem, the demonic nipples contained within, and there it was before me.

SYNOPSIS: Susan Nomed (demon spelled backwards, really?) is a gorgeous, 30 year old blonde and the heir to a family fortune. But, the women of the Nomed family are also heirs to something else all together, and ancient and evil curse. As demonic possession overtakes her Susan is consumed by a nightmare of lust, murder and terror. Can Susan free herself from the demonic forces before everything she loves is destroyed?

THE FILM: The film opens at that greatest of set-pieces, the cemetery. A 10-year old Susan, visiting her mother’s grave with her aunt runs away in a fit of hysterics and is drawn to an eerie mausoleum. Once inside she is bathed in green light, because it’s the 80’s, don’t worry about why - she just is, and it works. It’s eerie, cheesy, and wonderful. She descends through the catacombs towards a crypt. The overhead camera work in this sequence is really enjoyable as it sweeps above the archways, the labyrinth bathed it a green glow, very eerie. Arriving at the crypt she is enraptured by a mysterious, hooded figure and her soul is touched by a demon, the same demon her family has endured for centuries. The invocation is interrupted by a homeless man who looks into the face of the hooded figure and is overcome by searing pain, he rushes outside and his head explodes. Years later, while making the annual trip to her mothers grave, the now gorgeous, 30-year old Susan played by Bobbie Bresee,(GHOULIES, SURF NAZIS MUST DIE) is again drawn to the fateful mausoleum, here the possession is seemingly completed, as it appears to have been dormant the last 20 years. Coinciding with these events, her aunt, who is familiar with the family curse and fears the worst, and her clueless husband, played by Marjoe Gortner (FOOD OF THE GODS, EARTHQAUKE) notice her unusual behavior, and implore her to seek the help of her therapist. Also noticing her suspect behavior is Elsie, the maid, played comically by LaWanda Page (ZAPPED! and FRIDAY), who upon encountering the demonic shenanigans, runs from the house in a fright. Susan, in perhaps my favorite sequence, goes about seducing and killing Ben, the gardener, but not before an extensive and comical montage of his hectic workday. It’s an odd sequence to say the least, but I loved it, very 80’s. There are a number of gory deaths in MAUSOLEUM, and the FX work from John Carl Buechler (GHOULIES, FROM BEYOND, DOLLS) is quite good for a lo-budget 80’s film. That being said, this print of the film is cut, and a lot of the gore removed, implied or abbreviated. Nonetheless, we are treated to some amazing rib ripping sequences, levitation, glowing green eyes, and some demonic transformations, including the infamous, demonic-faced, carnivorous breasts, I kid you not - worth the price of admission alone. Also used to great 80’s effect is the use of colored lighting that lends an eerie atmosphere to the film.

DVD: MAUSOLEUM comes by the way of BCI’s Exploitation Cinema Double Feature DVD series, paired with BLOOD SONG (1983). The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, mono audio. The print fairly awful as when BCI Eclipse obtained the rights to the film they could not find the original film and sound elements and had to use an inferior, damaged print. So, you get a lot of cigarette burns, missing frames, scratches, hisses and pops, particularly during the open credit sequence. It’s all very grindhouse and adds an enjoyably gritty element to the viewing. Star Bobbie Bresee also provides a decent commentary recalling a lot of interesting facts, such as the fact that during her sex scene the producers set up bleachers on set for crew members to come an watch.

 VERDICT: It’s hard for me to be impartial when it comes to MAUSOLEUM, it’s laced with fond nostalgia and childhood wonder, not to mention my first glimpses of the female form in its voluptuous, nude glory, albeit obscured in a few bits by gargoyle-faced demonic breasts. While nowhere near an epic possession film as THE EXORCIST (1973), its aims is much lower, and I think hits it outta the park with its modest, low-brow intentions. A MUST SEE! ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)