Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ruby (1977)

Hard as this might be to imagine, Ruby combines elements from The Exorcist (1973) and Sunset Blvd. (1950) with a seedy Floridian milieu to create a bizarre horror/melodrama hybrid. Oh, and tuxedo-clad 1930s gangsters find their way into the mix, as well. The end result is a mess. The movie is too silly to be scary, too strange to have emotional resonance, and too overstuffed to cohere. Much of what happens onscreen is nonsensical, and not in an enjoyably disorienting sort of way. Ruby begins with an overwrought prologue. In 1935 Florida, a gangster and his redheaded moll, Ruby (Piper Laurie), visit a remote lake at night. Then other gangsters show up and murder the boyfriend—at which point Ruby, whom the audience didn’t realize was pregnant, suddenly goes into labor. Sixteen years later, Ruby is a woman stuck in time, reliving her glory days as a radio singer and wannabe movie star while operating a drive-in theater. Her daughter, Leslie (Janit Baldwin), is a deaf-mute with emotional problems. For no apparent reason, weird supernatural shit starts happening at the drive-in, leading to several bloody deaths. Then Leslie starts speaking—in the voice of her long-dead father, Ruby’s gangster boyfriend. Apparitions appear, paranormal investigators are summoned, and director Curtis Harrington shamelessly steals from The Exorcist with shots of Leslie doing acrobatic contortions on her bed while spewing obscenities and vomit. Yet somehow the focus of the film is Ruby, a Norma Desmond type who can’t accept that the past is the past. Laurie, looking quite glamorous in all-red costumes, gives a loopy performance that’s a long way from the believable but creepy dementia of her work in Carrie (1976), and the movie around her is just as undisciplined as Laurie’s acting.

Ruby: LAME

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