Private Parts DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Warner Home Video
Directed by Paul Bartel
Written by Philip Kearney and Les Rendelstein
1972, Region 1 (NTSC), 87 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on October 4th, 2005
Ayn Ruymen as Cheryl Stratton
Lucille Benson as Aunt Martha
John Ventantonio as George
When Cheryl Stratton moves out of her friend Judy's house because things are just not good, she thinks she's going to have a better life.
She heads out to her uncle's hotel in L.A., but when she arrives, she finds that her uncle has passed away and her aunt now runs the joint. And contrary to what Aunt Martha says about the place being "respectable," the hotel is nothing but a run-down dump filled with whack-jobs and nut-bags.
From the kooky old priest who seems overly friendly to the ancient woman who keeps looking for "Alice," Cheryl has moved out of the proverbial frying pan into the fire—or in this case, out of the shrink's office into the asylum.
And when Cheryl's curiosity gets the best of her and she starts exploring the place, she finds a whole lot more than she bargains for.
The description on the back of the box says Private Parts is "...one of the screen's most bizarre works of camp filmmaking."
That's not a fair description at all. Killer Klowns From Outer Space is camp filmmaking. The Toxic Avenger is camp filmmaking. Parts, however, is an exploration into a seedy hotel where each resident is completely demented in their own, special, way. The film is genuinely creepy at times, and its strong performances alone should take it out of the "camp" category.
Lucille Benson (Halloween II), as Aunt Martha, is, well, wow. She is perfect as a matronly figure. She is even better as a matronly figure who is completely fucking insane. Martha is a lady who goes to funerals of strangers to take pictures of their souls as they leave the body. And she plays it completely cool when she describes it to Cheryl (Ayn Ruymen – Go Ask Alice), as if there is something wrong with Cheryl for not getting it.
Ruymen's Cheryl is day to Martha's night. Completely believable as the naive — but willing to learn — teen runaway, Ruymen has a natural, innocent look that radiates on the screen, and part of you wants nothing more than to protect this girl. The only time in recent memory that I've felt this is when I watched Thriller: A Cruel Picture. Christina Lindberg has the exact same look.
John Ventantonio is suitably cast as the shy photographer, George. When I say shy, I'm not talking about that kid in school you had to pull teeth from to get his name. I'm talking about Jeffrey Dahmer shy. George is a quiet guy, keeps to himself, fills a blow-up doll up with water, slaps a picture of Cheryl on it and, well, you get the gist.
And, while it doesn't have any lines, the hotel is quite the character itself. With each door Cheryl opens, a different world of debauchery is introduced. Sex is the constant theme in each of the rooms, but it's definitely not vanilla. This is Baskin-Robbins and you have no idea what flavor you are going to get next, but chances are it will arrive in a leather cone.
Sadly, however, there is some truth to the "camp filmmaking," and even worse, it shows up in the last 10 minutes of the film. When the police come to the hotel in search of a young boy (Stanley Livingston – Chip Douglas on TV's "My Three Sons"), they make bad jokes and completely disregard police procedure. Considering the tone of the previous 75 minutes or so, this almost did the movie in for me. It just did not fit.
Time's quote of the hotel being "...about the most treacherous place for a night's lodging since the Bates Motel in Psycho" is much more fitting. No, this is not Psycho. And as much as I enjoyed it, it's not even close. But Parts is an interesting trip into a world of debauchery.
Video and Audio:
Parts' anamorphic picture is beautiful, considering its age and lack of popularity. Parts is not a well-known movie and Warner went over and above restoring this print. There were no noticeable blemishes and the colors are rich and vibrant. A very fine, very clean print.
The offered mono soundtrack is great. There is no audible distortion and, while the dialogue gets a little, just a little, muddy at times, Hugo Friedhofer's terrific score always sounds great.
Only a trailer is offered on the disc, but I was surprised to see even that, again considering the movie’s lack of popularity. However, if nothing else, they should have thrown in a photo gallery or some cast bios.
Note, do not watch the trailer before the film, as it is rich with spoilers.
Private Parts is an interesting flick. By all accounts, it shouldn't be as enjoyable as it is, but Bartel does an outstanding job with the direction, creating a creepy and dark world of sex and violence.Definitely worth a rental.
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