The Gardener (aka Seeds of Evil) DVD Review
Reviewed by Peter West
DVD released by Subversive Cinema
Written and Directed by James H. Kay
1975, Region 1 (NTSC), 88 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on February 28th, 2006
Katharine Houghton as Ellen Bennett
Joe Dallesandro as Carl, the Gardener
Rita Gam as Helena Boardman
James Congdon as John Bennett
From Subversive Cinema: The first film Warhol-superstar Joe Dallesandro made after leaving the Factory, this horror film features Joe as a mysterious gardener who sleeps with rich women then poisons them with plants.
Well it's a little more complicated than that. When one of her friends mysteriously dies, Ellen Bennett hires her suddenly unemployed gardener Carl. More as eye candy than for his gardening skills. However Carl has a way with plants and Ellen's garden makes her the envy of her social circle of bored housewives.
As the plants seem to take over her house and her life Ellen wonders if there is something sinister to Carl and his green...thumb.
Watching The Gardener is like going out on a date with a tease that gets you all hot and bothered then leaves you all wound up with no where to go. Subliminally this film has it all for an erotic thriller, it just isn't erotic or thrilling. I blame that all on director James H. Kay! Kay, who had made several multi-million dollar 007 themed commercials, was given a few bucks to make a film and was so concerned about going over budget and pushing the envelope theme wise, that all he accomplished was guarantying that he would never direct another film.
Any fan of the Warhol films knows that Joe Dallesandro acting wise, makes Clint Eastwood look like Sir Lawrence Oliver. The man can barely deliver a line and in The Gardener he doesn't have many to deliver, at least not two in a row. What Joe does provide is long blonde hair and a six pack when nobody had six packs. Katharine Houghton who gave a great performance in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is absolutely marvelous as Ellen Bennett the neglected bored rich housewife who is fascinated by Carl's flowers and tight young body. Her rapport with Rita Gam who plays the equally bored, but single, Helena Boardman is marvelous and is clouded with hints of lesbianism that never happens...
After watching The Gardener I felt like I had to go to my room and dig out some hard-core porn. Mesmerizing but so unsatisfying, this movie hints at it all, then delivers nothing. It received an R rating for a little hatchet job in the last few minutes that would barely get a PG-13 nowadays. There's not even any nudity in the shower scene. The anticipation of what was going to happen, that didn't happen, that kept my eyes glued to the film for 85 minutes...bothered me more than anything else about the film.
What's really funny though is that if released now on the artsy fartsy Arthouse theater circuit it would make millions and probably get nominated for a bunch of Oscars.
Video and Audio:
Presented in a anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen, The Gardener is probably receiving better treatment in this DVD than it ever received during it's theatrical run. I did find that during the movie the colors were a little too strong. It's funny that in one of the extras I thought the picture was more realistic. Overall it's a very good transfer for a 1975 film.
Included are both the original mono mix and a newly created stereo track. Performance wise it's flawless, audio crisp and clear. The music works well with the film and is very pleasant to listen to.
Wow, does The Gardener deserve this extra special treatment? Three (3) lobby cards, a mini poster in the case along with two (2) full length commentaries (one by star Joe Dallesandro and the other by director James H. Kay), a retrospective documentary, cast bios and a photo gallery. Most important and the one extra you should not miss is "Million Dollar Dream" (aka what went wrong with The Gardener). "Million Dollar Dream" is a great cautionary tale about how everybody that invested in this film lost everything.
Films that Peter West reviews are played on a Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi DVD player, viewed on a Mitsubishi WS-55413 HDTV and listened to on a THX Ultra 2 Pioneer Elite VSX-59TXi A/V Receiver through a 7.1 setup of JBL Northridge E series Speakers.