Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Gardener (1974)

So bizarre and cheaply made that it occasionally seems surreal, The Gardener—sometimes known as Garden of Death or Seeds of Evil—concerns a studly gardener who may or may not be responsible for the deaths of several past employers, but who definitely has magical powers over plants. Representing a strange convergence of the mainstream and the underground, the picture costars Katharine Houghton, who earned fame by costarring with her real-life aunt, Katharine Hepburn, in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), and Joe Dallesandro, who earned his notoriety by appearing in a series of Andy Warhol-produced features, often without clothes. Dallesandro is nearly as clothing-averse in The Gardener, applying his signature lifeless acting style to the role of a shirtless weirdo who seduces his clients in between sessions of communing with greenery. Set to absurdly lush music, the story begins well, thanks to an intriguing scene of a woman waking in a hospital bed and then suffering a fatal heart attack when she sees a plant in her hospital-room windowsill. The movie then slips into a mundane groove. After underappreciated housewife Ellen (Houghton) hires Carl (Dallesandro) to tend her garden—wink, wink—Ellen’s husband, John (James Congdon) notices strange things happening. Plants start to grow out of season and/or with tremendous speed, and plants multiply at a disturbing pace. Meanwhile, Ellen investigates clues suggesting that Carl committed foul play at his previous jobs, even as she (weakly) resists the allure of his chiseled face, gleaming mane, and muscular body. Very little of what happens in The Gardener makes sense, especially once the movie arrives at its bewildering climax, and the acting is generally poor. Nonetheless, the film has a certain train-wreck appeal, and writer-director James H. Kay (who never made another movie) commits wholeheartedly to the wackadoodle story. In other words, while some viewers may find The Gardener entertainingly weird, most are likely to find themselves bored and confused.

The Gardener: LAME

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