Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lipstick (1976)

The notorious revenge thriller Lipstick has a gruesome first act and a hilariously overwrought finale, but the middle of the picture is so earnest that it’s as if elements of a sleazy exploitation flick were grafted onto either end of something respectable. In other words, it’s a classic example of pure WTF cinema. The story follows fashion model Chris McCormick (Margaux Hemingway), who is brutally raped by Gordon Stuart (Chris Sarandon), the favorite teacher of Chris’ teenaged sister, Kathy (Mariel Hemingway). The movie stacks the deck from the get-go, because Gordon is an obvious nutjob who composes violently avant-garde music, and he leers like a dog in heat when joins Kathy to watch one of Chris’ provocative photo shoots, so it’s not as if nuance is the order of the day. A humiliating trial follows the rape, and during the trial, a firebrand assistant DA (Anne Bancroft) fails to get a conviction—then, when Gordon crosses paths with the McCormick sisters once more, a bloody showdown ensues. Handsome photography (by Bill Butler and William A. Fraker), plus intense performances by Bancroft and Sarandon, aren’t enough to overcome the movie’s shamelessness. This Dino De Laurentiis production is infamous for its bad taste, evidenced by a rape scene that’s grotesque for the wrong reasons: The filmmakers keep sneaking peeks at Chris’ disrobed body. And yet the long trial sequence, which takes up a third of the movie, effectively demonstrates how Chris gets raped all over again, only psychologically this time, by Gordon’s merciless attorney (Robin Gammell). Unfortunately, any temptation to cut the movie slack is obliterated by the over-the-top climax, in which (spoiler alert!) Gordon rapes young Kathy while her older sister’s working nearby, prompting Chris to chase Gordon with a hunting rifle while wearing a cherry-red ball gown.

Lipstick: LAME

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