Friday, August 2, 2013

Mausoleum (1983): Touched by a Nomed...


Here's a wacky little flick that I had somehow avoided seeing all my life. It was heavily promoted in "Fangoria" and "Famous Monsters" around the time of its release, and I remember reading all about it and the much-hyped gory special effects. I guess it never played on HBO though, or if it did I missed it, and I never rented "Mausoleum" during the VHS boom. Boy, was I missing out, because "Mausoleum" is really one of a kind. A very...special kind.

Playboy model Bobbie Bresee plays a woman named Susan, whose mother died when she was just a young girl. It seems Susan's mother was claimed by some sort of curse visited on her family. In the opening scenes, we see Susan as a little girl at her mother's funeral, after which she takes off running from her aunt and finds herself alone in the graveyard next to a mausoleum with a strange, superimposed storm taking place around it. Traveling, mausoleum-specific weather is always a sign of supernatural activity, and when Susan inexplicably enters the mausoleum, her eyes glow green when she's confronted by a mostly-offscreen apparition that rises out of a grave marked "NOMED".  Yes. Absorb that for a moment, I'll wait. NOMED.

"Susan, come to our mausoleum rave! The code word to get in is NOMED."
Flash forward to when Susan is a beautiful 30-something who has inherited her family's fortune. Her life seems to consist of wafting around her giant house in sexy nightgowns and preparing dinner for her husband, Oliver (Marjoe Gortner).  She has a gardener named Ben (Maurice Sherbanee) and a maid named Elsie (none other than LaWanda Page), but something just isn't right with her life. Oh RIGHT...remember that incident in the mausoleum? THAT'S Susan's problem! She's falling victim to a family curse that affects all Nomed females, and her first lapse into a demonic tantrum makes her murder a lecherous Kenny Rogers lookalike who hit on her in a nightclub by telepathically making his car explode. This involves her eyes glowing green, just so we remember that she's possessed and not just an expert on mentally rewiring cars to explode on ignition.

"Did I leave the coffee pot on?"
Shortly thereafter, Susan ups the ante by seducing and murdering Ben the gardener, after a lengthy and utterly wacko sequence where we see him going about his daily chores, as well as napping and eating lunch. Why? We don't know, but I suspect it had something to do with padding the runtime of this movie into feature length. Poor Ben, although he is a creep, I can't get behind the idea of mauling him with a garden claw, which is what Susan does. Immediately after fucking him, of course, because she's apparently possessed by a lustful demon. The next to go is her aunt Cora, who only wants to drop off some "estate papers" Susan requested. Susan shows her a vicious demon face before telekinetically lifting her over a staircase landing and causing a fatal split to appear in her chest. Because "Mausoleum" exists in a wacky universe, the next scene shows Susan looking all beautiful and fashionable, hair elegantly styled, sitting on her couch in front of a roaring fireplace, casually reading a magazine. While wearing high heels. Oliver comes home and asks her what's for dinner, and she replies "Poached salmon...and ME." 
Ben and Susan engage in a strange, ancient ritual of exhibitionism...
Playing Van Helsing to Susan's demon is Dr. Andrews (Norman Burton), a shrink who has been treating Susan since she was a child. Of course he doesn't know she's possessed, and he isn't even concerned when Oliver calls him in the middle of the night and begs him to come over to the house because he saw Susan acting strangely ("It wasn't Susan!" he gasps). Andrews completely dismisses him and says "I think it's best we ALL get some sleep."  Eventually he decides to hypnotize Susan, and he meets the demon, which identifies itself as "Nomed!" Hold a mirror up to it if you haven't pieced it together yet. Simon calls his colleague Dr. Logan (Sheri Mann), and describes what happened to Susan as "vocal and facial fantasies". Apparently her eyes turning green and her teeth turning into Indian corn weren't enough to fully convince him anything supernatural was going on. Dr. Logan does believe it, especially when Andrews plays back an audio recording of Susan's demonic freakout, complete with the trilling horror movie soundtrack audio noise we heard when it happened (a meta moment for sure).  
Green eyed lady, corn-teethed layyy-deh!
Meanwhile, Susan continues her demonic rampage when a deliveryman stops by and she uses her sexy demonic ways to lure him inside the house. She doesn't even fuck this guy though, his face just melts when he uses the telephone. Another murder happens when Susan goes art shopping and the gallery attendant makes the mistake of refusing to sell her the strange painting she takes a liking to. She hovers him over a balcony like aunt Cora, then drops him to his death. Dr. Andrews schools Oliver on the logistics of demonic possession, using a diary that contains all the pertinent information to explain the plot (I'm not sure where the diary came from, but whatever). Dr. Andrews must return to the mausoleum and use a crown of thorns contained there to 'neutralize' the possession. Oliver naturally rejects the idea of demonic possession, forgetting the fact that earlier in the movie he called Dr. Andrews in the middle of the night saying "It wasn't Susan!" He pays for this disbelief when Susan embraces him while nude and then transforms into a demonic creature with ferocious demon breasts, which bite him and rip open his ribcage. Yes. Bobbie Bresee's Playboy boobs actually murder a character in the film. I bet you have never seen this kind of thing before, have you? HAVE you? Wait, never mind...you're not answering me, so obviously you have seen this kind of thing before and I don't really want to know.
"Miss Susan, don't you be messin' around that mausoleum..."
Dr. Andrews finds Susan in her attic, which is covered in so many movie cobwebs, this movie could have been about killer spiders and it would have been much scarier. After putting the crown of thorns on Susan's head, the demon leaves her and teleports back to the mausoleum. For some reason, Dr. Andrews drives Susan back there, where she confronts the creature as it crawls back into its vault and apparently dies. The end. But wait! The last shot of the movie shows Dr. Andrews talking to a hooded guardian, whom he admonishes "No one must ever go into the mausoleum!" Then it turns around and it's Ben, the gardener. WTF?
"Oliver, your wife is possessed, believe me. THIS is what a normal woman looks like. Well OK, maybe she's not the best example, but believe me your wife is possessed!"
I am doll parts....

OK so WOW, "Mausoleum"....it doesn't make any sense, but boy is it fun. The monster makeup is clearly the only reason the movie exists, and it's pretty good stuff. Bobbie Bresee also wears a number of demonic contact lenses and makeup appliances, and then there's a full inhuman creature that appears (the one with the killer breasts). There is some great cheesy lighting throughout the film, and you always know when there's some demon stuff happening because usually it is accompanied by a green and purple light show, along with lots of fog where no fog should be. At times, "Mausoleum" appears to be a horror comic come to life, with no attempt at realism at all. It has a bogus earnest tone to it, but the surreal parts reveal its true nature as a pure pulp fantasy film. There's a lot of intentional comic relief too, much of it involving LaWanda Page. At one point, she exclaims "No more grievin', I'm leavin'!" and escapes the house with her suitcase, proving that yes, only white people are silly enough to stick around when green light and fog is coming out of someone's bedroom. The fact that it's an absurd film is really the only thing that saves it, as it would have looked ridiculous anyway if it had been sincere. Bobbie Bresee appears nude several times, revealing why she was a Playboy model, and although she isn't much of an actress, her acting is completely appropriate for a movie like "Mausoleum." Marjoe Gortner's appearance in the film is a highlight, and if you don't know who he is, I would recommend checking out his Wikipedia page for a crash course in all things Gortner. His history as a former Pentecostal preacher (at age 4) is more interesting than anything in "Mausoleum", and you should also check out the 1972 documentary that was made about him called simply "Marjoe".

I also can't fail to mention that, although an 80s flick through and through, "Mausoleum" carries on a great 70s tradition of having a doomy ballad recorded just for the movie, "Free Again", which plays over the end titles. I am a sucker for things like this.

At the time of this posting, "Mausoleum" is available to watch for free on YouTube at the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9QoUpskHa4




You must never let Susan near the sharp utensils, no matter how sexy her boobs are. Trust me on this.
"It really wasn't such a bad Nomed. I feel bad killing it..."





8 comments:

Mike Kearney said...

I love your review of MAUSOLEUM, as well as your acknowledgment that Bobbie Bresee's boobs are a force to be reckoned with, regardless of how predisposed you are to feel about boobs.

You mention the tradition of having a doomy ballad recorded for the film. It reminded me that I, too, was a fan of these sorta incongruous wannabe chart-toppers that appeared at the end of horror movies. I used to keep a running list in my head, but now the only ones I can remember are "Free Again," and that weird love song that plays over the SLEEPAWAY CAMP credits.

What other ones can you think of, off the top of your head?

GroovyDoom said...

Oh wow, I have so many favorite doom ballads that I don't even know where to begin! Most of them are from the 70s--eventually filmmakers got away from using custom-written ballads and songs in their movies and started using throwout tracks from best selling bands in an attempt to sell their soundtrack albums. Here's a playlist of my faves:

"My Dream" - from "Folks At Red Wolf Inn"/"Terror House"
"Hold On To Love" - from "Messiah of Evil"
"Keep on Drivin" - from "Pigs"
"Ballad of Harry Warden" - from "My Bloody Valentine"
"Vernon's Theme" - from "Horror High"/"Twisted Brain"
"A Million Ways To Love You" - from "Squirm"
"Poor Albert" - From "I Dismember Mama"
Emily's song in "Let's Scare Jessica To Death"

Also, this doesn't really fit with the others, but there's an awesome synth song playing in a bar scene of "Night School", "I Wanna Love Ya Baby" or something like that. I need more of that, bad!

Mike Kearney said...

Oh Lord, VERNAN'S THEME! Yes! And "Hold On to Love." I always wondered if they were specifically written for the movies, or if they just had a sad song lying around that they thought might add weight to the proceedings. A few years ago, I directed this sorta wannabe throwback retro horror movie, and we specifically put a doomy ballad over the closing credits as an "homage" to (what I thought was) a phenomenon everyone was familiar with. About three people got it.

I also like non-doomy, non-ballads that're featured in horror movies. Like that up-tempo, sub-Eagles "Help is on the Way" song from TRICK OR TREATS. They're sorta like alternate-universe "hit singles" in the same alternate universe in which the film itself is a gigantic smash hit.

GroovyDoom said...

I would have gotten it! What's your movie called?

Mike Kearney said...

The Trouble with Barry.

GroovyDoom said...

Wow, that's got a lot of fantastic people in it, like Lynn Lowry, Linnea Quigley and Rena Riffel!! Plus a doomy theme song? Must see ASAP!

Mike Kearney said...

https://youtu.be/b0zL6ViBl80

That's the link to see the gloomy ballad of THE TROUBLE WITH BARRY.

The more I listen to it, it's not so much a "gloomy ballad."

GroovyDoom said...

Great track, it reminds me a little of Echo & The Bunnymen.