DVD Provided byRetroFlicks

Also Known As
The House Where Hell Froze Over
Directed By S. F. Brownrigg
1976 – 78 Minutes/Fullscreen

Also Known As
Orgy of the Golden Nudes
The Deadly Circle
The Golden Nymphs

Directed by Irwin Meyer
1964 – 74 Minutes/Fullscreen
Article written by Craig Hamann

Remember the drive-in theater days? For those of you too young to have experienced it, you really missed out on the heydays of indie genre filmmaking. Sure, some drive-ins offered only mainstream titles, but there were always those around that showed double and triple billed genre flicks. I remember seeing Chinese chop socky films billed along side of indie horror movies virtually every weekend at the Gratiot Drive-in near Detroit. You name it, they put it on the screen and it didn’t stop with martial arts and horror releases. They also showed Spaghetti Westerns, foreign sex romps, off-the-wall science fiction films, biker flicks, and low budget revenge actioners as well. RetroFlicks is basically replacing the drive-in with our own living rooms by offering a “Full Moon Marathon,” which translates as two bizarre thrillers that will excite only hardcore genre fans (aka Cultcuts readers).

The first film is KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN by the late and legendary filmmaker S. F. Brownrigg. During a three year time span, from 1973 to 1976, Brownrigg turned out four very cool indie thrillers: DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT, SCUM OF THE EARTH, DON’T OPEN THE DOOR, and finally KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN. That this is the last of the group is interesting, since it’s probably also the least satisfying of the four films. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it has less to offer in shock and intensity when compared to Brownrigg’s earlier works. On the other hand, the reason for this is understandable. This is more of a character study. It appears as if Brownrigg basically handed the project over to Camilla Carr, wisely allowing the actress the chance to carry the film by herself.

The story involves Leslie Fontaine, an attractive but eccentric lady who lives with her brother in a mansion. Leslie seems nice enough. She treats people well, goes about her business without interrupting others, and happily dotes on her reclusive brother. Unfortunately for the community she lives in, a serial killer is on the loose and hacking people apart with a sword. Could this be the work of her brother? Is Leslie unwittingly harboring a murderer? Or does she know more about the crimes than she’s letting on? And how come nobody ever sees her brother? Could it be that Leslie isn’t just a well-to-do eccentric but actually a mentally unhinged psychopath?

While the entire cast does an adequate job, it’s Camilla Carr’s superb portrayal in the lead role that needs to be noted. Carr is completely convincing as the confused but intelligent, sexy but lonely, and vulnerable but dangerous Leslie Fontaine. Because of the fuzzy sound, print damage and mediocre transfer, not to mention the ultra low budget of the project and Brownrigg’s limited film technique, this isn’t a movie that’s going to blow the audience away with its ingenuity or craftsmanship. But Carr’s work is so captivating that it doesn’t matter. Trust me on this, Carr has the viewer’s full attention in every scene she’s in. She’s that good.

I wish I could be as positive about the second film HONEYMOON OF HORROR. This illogical mess is directed by TV producer Irwin Meyer and seems to be the edited-for-television version. I say this because some copies of this have inserts of gratuitous but incongruent nudity. Not that the haphazard shots of nudity helps anything. It doesn’t. But at least there is something exploitive to look at. Instead we’re stuck with the movie trying to entertain us with its addle-brained plot and wooden acting performances.

A group of self-absorbed artists get together for a big party celebrating the marriage of sculptor Emile Duvre to his young and pretty bride Lilli. The party is decadent, as one would expect, because these artists are all part of a wild group of swingers during the mid-60’s era. After the festive occasion ends, Lilli tries to get used to living in affluence among the strange personalities around her. This includes the stiff, unfriendly manservant Hajmir, who doesn’t seem to move around all that much but pops up unexpectedly at the strangest times. There is also Max, who is not only Emile’s emotionally unstable brother but he seems unnaturally fixated on Lilli. But even Max seems mild when compared to some of the other overwrought weirdoes that frequent Emile’s home. To make matters worse, someone keeps calling Lilli and hanging up after she answers the phone. It’s also possible, though not explained well, that there might be a murderer in the midst. You can tell because a nerdy-looking detective keeps showing up asking disjointed questions that seemingly have no bearing on reality or anything going on around him at any given moment.

Bottom line, the film sucks. What story there is feels as if somebody threw out half the script and never replaced it. There is no rhyme or reason to anything, as if this is a reality TV show taking place in an insane asylum before the meds are handed out. The writing, direction, and photography are mind-numbingly executed. But that’s not all. The actors sound as if they’re reciting lines after having Novocain injected into their brains. The best (and quite possibly) only way to enjoy this incoherent cinematic catastrophe is to watch it while overdosing on hallucinogenics. If you try that approach and the film seems even remotely rational to you, let us here at Cultcuts know.

There are no extras on the DVD, which is disappointing to me. I’d like to see something, anything at all, connected with S. F. Brownrigg’s and/or Camilla Carr’s work in KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN. The picture and sound quality of both films is below average, probably because the prints aren’t in the best shape. As a result, don’t expect to see any pristine transfers. This is a tough one to recommend. While I feel Brownrigg has done better films, I still like KEEP MY GRAVE OPEN, mainly because of Camilla Carr’s first class performance in the lead role. As for HONEYMOON OF HORROR, well, who knows? Maybe genre fans might get a laugh out of it. Admittedly, it’s often unintentionally hilarious, especially when watching the actors play exaggerated ideas instead of putting even a calorie of effort into portraying real people. Even if Irwin Meyer’s mess is too tedious to be classified in the “so bad it’s good” arena, I can still recommend seeing Brownrigg’s film.