"I think of horror films as art, as films of confrontation."

- David Cronenberg

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January 31, 2009

Flicks: Dead People (1973) (aka Messiah of Evil)

Dead People or Messiah of Evil
Beautiful Marianna Hill also appeared in Medium Cool (1969) with Robert Forster and Schizoid (1980) w/Klaus Kinksi.

By today's standards, Dead People can very clearly be seen a very early precursor for Resident Evil and survival horror in general. Society has effectively collapsed. Population has imploded leaving only a handful of survivors. Beautiful babies are endangered by decaying creeps. The only way out is to fight.

Among several taglines for this film includes this marketing gem: "Meet Albert. Albert likes good music, motor trips by moonlight, and... eating human flesh." What is not to like?

To really enjoy this film: forget the first 10 minutes. Wade through the badly edited and scored credit sequence action. All you will miss are random clips. Yep, that includes a confusing straight razor murder (?) and a long and deranged V.O. in a blurry booby hatch. The first ten minutes are a bad decision in order to set up a strange, well-acted movie for American audiences who wanted mediocrity.

Although these early shots keep the shock factor kind of high, this sequence looks like the distributor re-cut in random pieces of additional footage with actors who don't appear anywhere else in the flick. Brilliant!

But, after this first scene FF and STOP where the red head Marianna Hill pulls into Shucky's All-Night Gas Station in her bright red Fiat. Now, we're firing up a movie that earns it's chills.

Marianna HillAnitra Ford
Marianna Hill (left) appeared as Dr. Helen Noel in "Dagger of the Mind" a Star Trek episode. Anitra Ford (right) starred in Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) and the Price Is Right.

The lead actresses, Marianna Hill and Anitra Ford are drop dead gorgeous kittens. They start the film wandering through the eerie and nearly deserted town of Point Dunne. Peter Falk's lackey from the Bloody Brood (1958) Michael Greer[0] and Joy Bang also tag along as the thrill-seekers, Thom and Toni.

A small and isolated coastal community is brutally consumed with a form of zombie-ism that has consumed nearly all of it's residents. In the traditional method in which zombies eat - they hunt down individuals and scarf on their fleshy parts. That also includes a snuff scene at the local grocery Meat Counter that has a "Lost in the Supermarket" themed attack written all over it. In this scene, the luckless and adorable Anitra Ford is devoured by unhappy shoppers.

The movie adds a mysterious serial killer that is lurking through out the plot and the perpetually creepy albino giant, Bennie Robinson). Now, we've got ourselves a movie.

Anitra Ford is lost in the supermarket.
Anitra Ford is lost in the supermarket... A supermarket full of hungry zombies!

There are a series of amazing paintings in the spacious interior shots of the isolated lighthouse where Marinna Hill's character has come searching for her estranged father. The movie features these trompe l'oeil ("to fool the eye") prints as life-sized or larger pictures of dour old men in immaculate jet black suits. Some of these images are of huge bridges and escalators leading nowhere. All of them begin to loom in the background as Marinna and friends make their stand in Point Dunne.

References:
Wikipedia, Messiah of Evil
Beyond Hollywood, “Lynchian” Messiah of Evil Review
Braineater, Dead People
Cool Cinema, Messiah Of Evil 1973
Alpha Memory, Marianna Schwarzkopf
Amazon, Buy It and Devil's Nightmare for four bucks


[0]= "Murder was on the Menu!" was the tagline for the wild-for-kicks world of The Bloody Brood (1958). In the picture, Greer plays a TV executive who conspires in a thrill-killing with a youngish Peter Falk.

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