Mardi Gras Massacre (1978) [Code Red DVD]

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-10-04 02:28

Written and Directed by: Jack Weis
Starring: Curt Dawson, Gwen Arment, and William Metzo

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

“I’m looking for an evil woman…”

If there was ever a scene that deserved a cinematic massacre, it’d be Mardi Gras. Considering the carnival atmosphere and the abundant debauchery, it’s a natural fit for some madman to stalk and slay a bunch of scantily-clad girls. As Mardi Gras Massacre arrived just on the cusp of the burgeoning slasher movement, it doesn’t quite take that route; instead, it plays out as a half-baked rehash of Blood Feast, only its lunatic is no Fuad Ramses. Likewise, director Jack Weis is no Herschel Gordon Lewis; say what you want about The Godfather of Gore, but he knew when to quit, as his films often clocked in under the 90 minute mark. Not so here, as Mardi Gras Massacre lurches on and on in an endless parade of repetitive gore sequences and painfully bad police procedurals.

William Metzo (in his lone feature film leading role) is the psychotic John, who is down in New Orleans looking for “evil women” (read: hookers!) that he can sacrifice to an Aztec Wind God so as to achieve immortality. As he leaves a trail of (literally) heartless prostitutes in his wake, a couple of detectives bumble around town trying to sniff out his scent. When one of our intrepid heroes strikes up a romance with one of the ladies of ill repute, the stakes get personal; will she be a hooker with a heart of gold, or will she just have a plain old hooker’s heart? If John has his way, he’ll find out in grisly fashion.

Before you make it to that climatic moment, you’ll wonder if your DVD player is stuck on repeat. Within the opening ten minutes, you’ll see John pick up a hooker using his charms of money and stilted dialogue, then massage her in hot oil before carving her up. Enter the two gumshoes, who are bad imitations of tough guy TV cops who are forced to wade through some inane dialogue and insulting logic. This cycle repeats for about 80 minutes, with only the setting changing, and it’s insufferably dull. The plot contrivances are ludicrous, as the film asks you to believe that there are no local experts on ritual sacrifice (until one conveniently pops up); further mystifying the cops is the killer’s M.O., as they’ve never seen or heard anything like this before…until the end of the film, where they discuss that similar events happened a few years back. That spree ended at three killings, so our heroic duo decides maybe they should just quit their pursuit and hope this case follows suit.

It must have at least been a good time for Metzo, who at least got to grope, fondle, and massage oil onto a bunch of semi-attractive women. His ineptness as an actor is one of the few points of actual interest, as his long, drawn-out, deliberate line readings are so bad that one wonders how none of his victims couldn’t see the neon sign that says “I’m evil” dangling around his neck. The guy even orders Chinese food with menace; I can only assume his fortune cookie once read that the way through a woman’s heart is through her stomach, as he’s quite adept at cutting through obvious latex and removing their bloody pulps. It’s admittedly an awesome gag, but, like any neat trick, it loses its luster after you see it more than once. Variety is the spice of life in gore films, and Weis misses that rule terribly. Sure, the UK banned it as a Video Nasty, as it’s sleazy and violent--but it’s also boring.

England perhaps (wisely) banned this due to how hideously 70s it is. Between the overbearing, incessant soundtrack (which alternates between soft rock and funk), the mustaches, disco, rapping pimps, and ridiculous leisure suits, you’ll be transported back to the worst parts of that particular decade. A lot of that stuff makes this sound like a borderline porno, and the shaggy, bargain-basement production values don't do much to dissuade you from that notion. The interminable awkwardness between the two romantic leads and all of the naked girls certainly feel like this could have come from a movie entitled Mardi Gras Sluts 7. Amazingly, the acting manages to reach slummier lows with some of the bit parts, as it feels like a production assistant literally grabbed a person off the street and shoved them in front of the camera. If anything, this ensures you’re hearing some of the most charmingly genuine southern accents you’ll ever hear. In a rare sentence that doesn’t feature a botched line reading, one girl insists “ah’m about as evil as it gits”.

Oh, there’s also nary a massacre during Mardi Gras too. In fact, Fat Tuesday celebrations don’t show up until the very end for about ten minutes of footage that may have been culled from a tourism video. That eventually gives way to a boring low-speed chase sequence through a bunch of abandoned streets that were teeming with drunken festivities only moments before. Maybe the Aztec wind god swept it all away along with all of the logic and quality in the flick. After receiving some sub-par unauthorized releases, Mardi Gras Massacre makes its official digital debut courtesy of purveyors of obscure sleaze, Code Red. This is part of their new “Maria’s B-Movie Mayhem” series, which is hosted by former WWE diva Maria Kanellis. She gives a brief introduction to the film, which serves as one of two special features (the other is an on camera interview with Metzo). This is yet another Code Red release where they have to warn us that the picture quality is poor before the feature starts, as the only available elements were a 1 inch tape master. It is indeed well below reference, but anyone in this film’s target audience has likely seen worse (and I’m not just talking about the quality of the film itself). That demographic is a very particular set of cinematic masochists, and I think this bloated Fat Tuesday bloodbath will test many limits. Just buy a nice king cake instead. Trash it!

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