If you take a close look at the poster for 1978’s Mardi Gras Massacre reproduced above, you’ll notice something — the vital stats (so to speak) of the female victim pictured bound and helpless above, one “Nancy Dancer” (and just for the record, that is the actual — ahem! — “professional” name used by one of the actresses who portrays a prostitute in this film), feature her (exaggerated, I can assure you, having seen Ms. Dancer in this film) measurements actually listed above her birthdate and the date of her death! And that, my friends, probably tells you all you need to know about the movie’s priorities right there.
To simply call Mardi Gras Massacre misogynistic is an understatement of the highest order. This is a movie that exists for basically no other reason than to show women strip completely naked, get oiled up by some lecherous creep, and then have their limbs amputated, their stomachs sliced open, their hearts removed — you get the picture here, I’m sure. Given that the film was written and directed by Jack Weis, the same guy responsible for the ultra-sleazy race-and-slavery exploitation picture Quadroon, I definitely wasn’t expecting anything even remotely approaching tasteful here, but even I was rather taken aback by the unrelentingly mean-spirited tone of this one.
To set the stage, our “plot,” such as it is, here revolves around some apparently rich guy (he’s only referred to in the credits as “John,” which strikes me as more a reference to his nocturnal activities than to his name — and special kudos here to the guy who plays him, one William Metzo, for actively hamming this part up to the hilt and delivering a memorably OTT-in-the-sleaze-department performance) who hangs out at a bar in the French Quarter looking to pick up the “most evil” (his exact words) working girls in the joynt, then takes them back to his apartment/ritual chamber where he puts on a mask, ties them up on some kind of altar-thing, slathers oil on their tits, and then agonizingly-yet-strangely-nochalantly (Metzo’s acting is more memorable when he’s on the hunt than when he’s moving in for the kill) disembowels them as a sacrifice to the Aztec wind gods or something (for those of you keeping track, the kill scenes come complete with cow hearts, loads of red Karo syrup, thoroughly unconvincing plastic (or rubber, or something) mannequin body doubles, and even less convincing rushing-wind sound effects. Oh, and Aztec ritual sacrifice? It’s fucking New Orleans, people — wouldn’t voodoo make a little bit more sense?). In between we’ve got some plodding and dull police procedural shit, some actual Mardi Gras footage, etc., but this is basically just a flick that exists to show unfortunate females getting naked and getting slaughtered, Weis and company don’t even seem to be actively trying when it comes to the other stuff and it looks and feels like the half-hearted filler material it so obviously is.
In short, the whole thing shouldn’t work. There’s no “story” to speak of, more just a series of set-ups and pointless subplots, the inherent humor of, say, a Herschell Gordon Lewis, who produced stuff every bit as gory and cheap and degrading-to-the-female-half-of-the-species as this but with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek the whole time, is nowhere to be found, the concept of “characterization” is absolutely alien to the proceedings, most of the women who strip for the camera-and-the-killer are less than memorable in the looks department (one was apparently a former Playboy playmate who had one of the world’s first boob jobs and they were quite obviously hardening and past their expiration date (or whatever) by this point) and when nobody’s getting killed the whole thing gets pretty repetitious and boring, apart from the always-amusingly-hokey dialogue.
And yet — maybe it’s the low-grade, grainy-ass film stock used here, or Metzo’s playing up the evil of his “John” to an obviously unintentionally dripping-with-sleaze degree, or maybe it’s the absolute and unflinching nastiness of the murders themselves and the film’s overall uber-anti-women tone, but the whole thing, probably more by accident or the slapdash, get-it-in-the-can necessities of ultra-low-budget filmmaking than by design, somehow kinda works. You feel like you need to take a shower to remove the stain of the entire affair afterwards, and while that isn’t necessarily the sign of anything that might be called a good film, it’s the sure hallmark of a memorable one. You might not be glad that you saw Mardi Gras Massacre, but it’ll stick with you — hell, it even feels like it’s sticking to you —afterwards.
Mardi Gras Massacre has recently been released on DVD from Code Red as part of their “Maria’s B-Movie Mayhem” series hosted by former WWE “diva” (there’s a word that sure doesn’t mean what it used to) Maria Kanellis. It’s presented full-frame from a highly flawed, showing-its-age master (as it should be), the sound is strictly (for the most part serviceable) mono, and extras include the requisite Kanellis framing sequences, a short-but-interesting conversation with William Metzo (from which, I noticed, the most memorable anecdotes are cribbed for Kanellis’ introduction), a handful of trailers for some other Code Red releases, and the music video for Kanellis’ rather lackluster” power-pop” single “Fantasy” that accompanies all of these things.
Like a lot of what we take a look at here at TFG, this most definitely isn’t a movie suitable for all tastes, maturity levels, mental states, social sensibilities (strong feminists would do especially well to avoid this one unless they’re actively seeking to have their blood pressure raised for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom), or political persuasions — it knows it’s there to do an admittedly unpleasant job and it gets in, does it, and then gets the hell back out. Call it unflinching misogyny-by-the-numbers. It’s brutish, nasty, sleazy, unapologetic, and cheap.
You know, like some of the best nights of your life. Maybe even like life itself.