Monday, January 2, 2012

Wicked, Wicked (1973)

          Viewed as a spoof rather than the thriller its poster promises, Wicked, Wicked is goofy fun. Presented almost completely in split-screen, with actions in different locations running simultaneously on either side of the frame, Wicked, Wicked shows a psycho killer (Randolph Roberts) terrorizing a posh California hotel while the facility’s in-house detective (David Bailey) tries to stop the murder spree. During fright scenes, one side of the frame shows the intended victim while the other shows the attacker, so there’s no real suspense. Additionally, the film sometimes uses the split-screen to offer pseudo-ironic commentary—the weirdest running gang involves repeated cuts to fisheye-lens shots of a deranged-looking old lady playing the score to the 1925 silent film The Phantom of the Opera on a pipe organ. At one point, the film punctuates a murder scene by cutting to the organ player the instant she chomps an apple and glares into the camera.
          Even the elements of the movie that seem like they’re being played straight deliver unintentional humor. The hero’s love interest (Tiffany Bolling) is a lounge singer who performs cheesy numbers like title song; warbled in a throaty style that would make Cher proud, the lyrics describe a woman’s desire to make “wicked, wicked” love to her man, leading to this refrain: “Wicked, wicked—that’s the ticket!” Leading man Bailey, who later found his niche in soap operas, is like a caricature of every hairy-chested ’70s heartthrob, and his delayed-reaction responses during fight scenes are beyond silly. Bolling, a pretty starlet/singer known for appearing in cult films (and in Playboy), is the definition of vapid, mugging half-heartedly through fright scenes.
          The oddest characterization comes from Madeleine Sherwood, best known as a costar on the ’60s sitcom The Flying Nun; she plays a strange older woman who unknowingly bonds with the baby-faced killer. She and her young friend share stories of their pasts while revelatory flashbacks play on the other side of the screen—turns out sweet little Mrs. Karadyne once killed a man herself, even though now she spends her days chatting with pigeons and practicing dance moves alone in her apartment.
          For further proof that Wicked, Wicked is weird, weird down to its very DNA, consider this factoid from the fine folks at IMDb: Wicked, Wicked’s writer-producer-director, Richard L. Bare, once held the record for directing the largest successive number of TV episodes, because he helmed 168 installments of Green Acres. Which, of course, made him the right guy to create a split-screen horror flick featuring onscreen beheadings.

Wicked, Wicked: FREAKY

1 comment:

Cindylover1969 said...

I don't know... spending years working for the cheapskates at Filmways could inspire murder fantasies in anyone.