“Private Parts” (1972)
Starring: Ayn Ruymen, Lucille Benson, John Ventantonio, Laurie Main, Stanley Livingston
Directed by: Paul Bartel
Running Time: 87 min.
Synopsis: A runaway girl finds her long lost aunt who runs a hotel in a seedy part of L.A. which a killer roams the halls.
Okay, let’s see what we got here, two Peeping Toms, a weirdo aunt, a gay priest, a crazy old lady, a drunk, a creepy photographer, and a killer on the loose in an old eerie hotel. That’s the core elements of the 70’s cult classic, Private Parts. Paul Bartel who also directed Death Race 2000, Eating Raoul and other cult films, directs the film. Some would call this film a black comedy/horror, but after watching it, to me, it’s more horror than comedy. Sure, there’s some comic relief, but there’s plenty of twisted, demented, and creepy scenes of horror. I was glad about that, because I’m not too fond of horror comedies.
The film has a great opening during the credit sequence, stills of naked women are shown that are embossed in different colors, such as red, blue, and yellow. Many different women are shown posing as a haunting score from Hugo Friedhofer is played. It leads up to a still of a knife, colored in red, which starts to stab one of the women. Then we see still frame of two people having sex that dissolves into the real image and the movie begins.
The story starts off with a girl, Cheryl, who gets kicked out of her roommate’s apartment for spying on her and her boyfriend having sex. Before Cheryl leaves, she steals her roommate’s wallet and goes to her long lost Aunt Martha who runs an old run down hotel in a seedy part of L.A. After she begs her aunt to stay in the hotel just until she’s back on her feet, she meets the resident crazies in the place, like Reverend Moon, who likes young men, a crazy old lady who looks like a witch and keeps calling Cheryl, Alice, and the hotel drunk who remains passed out for most of the time.
When she’s finally shown to her room, it looks like a roach infested room from a crackhouse. There’s also no bathroom in the rooms, just one down the hall, so she has to share with all riffraff. There’s even a part later, where she’s about to take a bath and someone tries to come in because they have to take a piss. This freaks her out so bad she forgets about the bath and runs back to her room. The setting for the room is very creepy, especially at night. While lying in bed she constantly hears strange noises even hearing someone behind her door trying to get in.
Towards the beginning, the movie gets off to a good start with a gruesome killing. The boyfriend of Cheryl’s roommate comes looking for her and tries to get back the money that she stole. After getting hit on by Reverend Moon, the boyfriend snoops around the old hotel to look for Cheryl when suddenly he get decapitated. The body is then quickly disposed of by throwing it into the furnace.
The rest of the movie is about Cheryl exploring the strange hotel and even though her aunt warns her not to wander, her curiosity keeps her out of her room and taking the master keys from her aunt’s apartment and going in the guest’s rooms. She finds pictures of bodybuilders and other weird stuff in Reverend Moon’s room and finds the crazy old lady sunbathing under a heat lamp. She just looks up at her and calls her Alice and continues to sunbath. All the while, there’s a killer lurking in the place. There’s also a creepy photographer, George, who has an interest in Cheryl. She too has interest in him, but wants to figure him out first by looking in his room and finding large pictures of women plaster all over his walls.
George has a lot of strange habits. He has a blow-up doll that’s clear plastic, but instead of air he fills it up with water and dresses it in lingerie and tapes a picture of Cheryl on the doll’s head. Then when you think it couldn’t get any weirder, he takes a large syringe and drains his own blood and then injects it in the doll like it was an orgasm. It’s a cool sight when the blood flows through the water inside the doll, a very bizarre scene.
Cheryl is a strange one too. She doesn’t get creeped out by George, but instead has a fascination for him. She follows him when he leaves the hotel, even following him into a porn shop. George also leaves gifts for Cheryl in room, like a see-through skimpy dress. Cheryl likes George, because he treats her like a woman and not a child. She even finds one of his hiding places, which is a storage room that’s between Cheryl’s room and the bathroom and there’s peepholes looking into both rooms. There’s a part where Cheryl takes a bath and then stands naked in the room, knowing that George is watching her. She sheds her innocence and becomes a sexy woman getting off on George’s pleasure.
Minute-by-minute, the film gets stranger and stranger. There’s a few twists at the end, one of the major ones you can kind of seeing coming towards the middle of the film, but it’s still a good twist overall. It also reminded me of a few other films that had a similar twist, most of them were after this film had come out I believe. I won’t give it away though, so you’ll have to see for yourself.
Some other interesting things I wanted to point out, the film features Stanley Livingston from My Three Sons fame, playing a clean-cut kid who falls for Cheryl and is concerned for her well being living in the hotel. For being in a twisted movie like this, Livingston could have had a chance to play against his goodie goodie television character, but he plays the normal one in all this madness. One actor who does go against type is Laurie Main who plays the perverted Reverend Moon. Main is known for narrating Winnie the Pooh cartoons and working on other Disney projects. Also wanted to point out that director, Bartel, makes a cameo as a bum who runs into Cheryl in a park.
Private Parts is a great bizarre cult classic that’s worth watching. I’m glad I got to see it and it definitely has some very strange moments throughout the film. Bartel and his cast of characters create a creepy little tale that makes the audience feel dirty all over.