If your daughter ever brings home a guy named either David Schwartz or Ari Levin, throw the bum out of the house and lock her in the closet for the rest of her life for her own protection.
Okay, wait just one second before you go and assume I’m on some sort of anti-semitic tirade here. I should be clear and state that I’m referring to a couple of very specific monsieurs Schwartz and Levin here — namely, the writer-director (Schwartz) and star (Levin) of the truly unhinged 1989 shot-on-video sleazefest Las Vegas Bloodbath. I’m sure there are lots of perfectly nice David Schwartzes and Ari Levins out there who will treat your daughter like a princess. She’s free to date, or even marry, any of them — so cancel my invitation to any neo-Nazi get-togethers you might be planning. But if she brings home a David Schwartz or an Ari Levin from Las Vegas, seriously, follow my advice — send the guy packing and never let her out of the house again.
Why would I say this about the guys behind a movie I’m going to spend the next 2,000-plus (at an early, and very conservative, guess) words at least conditionally praising, you may ask? Because, dear readers, these two fellas have some issues. And that’s putting it kindly. I’ve spent literally decades now sifting through the absolute bottom of the horror and exploitation barrel, searching for that ever-elusive holy grail of truly wretched low-budget moviemaking, and last night, I think I just may have found it. The “perfect storm,” if you will — that rare, dare I say even alchemical mixture of overwhelming technical incompetence, complete disregard for anything even remotely resembling good taste, unrestrained — nay, pathological! — misogyny, wretchedly obscene homemade gore effects, unintentionally hilarious dialogue, and offensively risible acting. I’m here to report that Las Vegas Bloodbath has all of that in such excessive quantities that viewing it is a positively Bacchanalian experience.Oh, sure, I’d read about this online before here and there over the years. I knew about infamous lines like “maybe he doesn’t like daytime whores !!!!!!!!!!” and “one for me, and one for this bitch !!!!!!!” — but nothing I’d read had adequately prepared for me the sheer inglorious spectacle that unfolded before my unworthy eyes last night. I figured, as far as 1980s SOV efforts went, that it couldn’t top 555 for gore and tastelessness, and that it couldn’t match the likes of Splatter Farm on the bad acting front. Frankly, the whole thing sounded like just a middling DIY-on-Sony-Betacam affair, and I never gave it much thought. It wasn’t until I picked up the Pendulum Pictures/ Mill Creek Serial Psychos six-movie, two-DVD set (before you even ask, Las Vegas Bloodbath, like every other flick on offer in this public-domain collection is, as you’d expect, presented full-frame, with mono sound, on a direct-from-VHS transfer with no extras whatsoever — in other words, in tried-and- true Mill Creek style, and honestly, would you have it any other way?) , which I freely admit I purchased for under five bucks solely for the purpose of finally having Don Dohler’s Blood Massacre in my home video library, and later decided, on an absolute lark, to watch some of the other shit included along with it because I was bored, that I discovered how completely and unforgivably negligent I had been in always passing up on this flabbergastingly unheralded gem of sickening, beyond-prurient, sub-gutter trash before now. David Schwartz, please forgive me. But stay away from all my female friends and acquaintances just the same.
As far as basic set-ups go, there’s nothing too remarkable going on here — travelling businessman Sam Butler (Levin, who looks vaguely like the bastard offspring of a Nicolas Cage/Adrien Brody/Scott Baio threesome, if such a thing were biologically possible) comes home to Las Vegas to find his insanely big-haired, and supposedly pregnant, wife in bed with an off-duty sheriff’s deputy (who looks like a moonlighting porn star — come to think of it, so does she), shoots them both dead (not that we see a bullet coming out of the gun, or even any smoke, we just hear a canned shot as Sam points the revolver in their general direction), and then goes and hits the Strip, informing no one in particular apart from the audience along the way that all women are the same, they’re all whores, they all deserve to die — you know the drill. He then comes to the conclusion, again talking out loud to nobody else, that he’s going to teach a lesson to the next slut he sees walking the streets.
This being Las Vegas and all, his search doesn’t take too long, and soon he’s got a hooker (listed in the end credits as “The Hooker”) in the car with him. He berates her for a while but she’s a good sport and takes it (when a passer-by gives the two of them an ugly look and she asks “what’s his problem?” we get the aforementioned “daytime whores
!!!!!” line), and even agrees to let Sam tie her up to what I assume is some sort of outdoor power-transformer thing behind a sleazy motel in broad daylight. Sam kills her, of course, thrusting a knife up through her throat and out her mouth (again, we don’t see the actual act of murder itself, but we do see the end result), then ropes her corpse to the rear of his car by the leg, drives off — and rips her leg off rather than, you know, dragging her entire dead body behind him as logic would no doubt dictate (actually logic would probably dictate that he goes nowhere at all since “The Hooker” is still tied to the electricity-meter-or-whatever-it-is, which is secured to the building).
After all that hard work, it’s time for a cold one, and Sam and heads for his favorite watering hole for a beer. Not content to merely be dragging a ripped-off body part behind his car, Sam also has his (now former, if we wanna be technical about it) wife’s head with him in the front seat (again, we never actually seem him decapitate her, but her mega-coiffed noggin is a constant companion to our Sin City psychopath for the rest of the flick) and brings it into the fucking bar with him
! He orders two beers, we get that “one for me, and one for this bitch
!!!!” line, and our guy Sam shoots the bartender in the head before he even fills the glasses. So much for that refreshment.
Next, things take a really bizarre turn, even by this movie’s warped standards. We’re thrust, out of nowhere, into the middle of a baby shower for a pregnant member of an apparently-extant-at-the-time traveling nightclub act known as the Beautiful Ladies of Oil Wrestling (BLOW, get it? Sure ya do), and the next 20-plus minutes of a barely-over-80-minute movie are spent watching, and listening to, these dull, interminably gossipy, for- the- most- part -decidedly-less-than-beautiful oil wrestlers. What do they do? What do they talk about? To be overly generous here — nothing and nothing. They have beer and donuts. They talk about how they can’t wait for their pre-recorded TV appearance from New York to come on in about an hour. They play the most mind-numbingly uninteresting game of “Truth or Dare” I’ve ever seen. A few of them try on bikinis — including the pregnant one (yes, you read that right — and just in case you were wondering, she actually is quite pregnant, unlike Sam’s wife, and yes, she’s listed in the end credits as “The Pregnant Woman,” even though she’s referred to by her name — Barbara — several times, so even the fucking credits in this movie have a decidedly misogynistic spin to them), they talk shit about “The Pregnant Woman” when she’s out of earshot (apparently she doesn’t know who the father of her baby is because she fucks every guy she meets — oh, they also call her fat, one of the girls even going so far as to say “somebody needs to harpoon that whale,” and evidently they all want to kick her off the team when she gets back from her maternity leave), they order a pizza, they watch themselves on TV when the show (finally!) comes on — all in all it feels like the movie’s been hijacked for about 1/3 of its total run time by a promotional video for BLOW — and not a very good one, at that. Most of the dialogue is quite clearly ad-libbed and it’s all so hopelessly tedious that it borders, albeit quite unintentionally of course, on the sublime.
And then, bang! Just when you’ve more-or-less-completely forgotten about him, Sam’s back in the picture. He ties the girls up and kills them one-by-one in true Richard Speck style, but Speck never had a flair for the dramatic like this! First up is “The Pregnant Woman,” and honestly, they should have saved her for last, because her murder is by far the most abominably spectacular. Whatever you convince yourself Sam’s not gonna do next, he does. You don’t think there’s any way he’s going to force her to strip out of her bikini, and yet he does it. You don’t think he’d possibly paw at and maul her pregnant tits, and yet he does it. You don’t think the idea would even occur to him to cut her swollen stomach open, and yet he does it. You don’t think he’d be twisted enough to pull the fucking fetus out of her
, and yet he does it. And finally, sick and twisted as this sorry fuck so obviously is, you don’t think even he
would then go so far as to throw said (and now dead) fetus against the bedroom wall, and yet he does it. Friends, in the whole sordid history of on-screen slaughter and mutilation, this scene takes the cake. This is the one that can’t be topped. This is the one that, blatantly unrealistic as it all is (and I guess the fact that the bedroom walls are coated with straight-from-the-ream rolls of heavy-duty paper rather telegraphs from the outset that things are gonna get pretty messy) forces you to just sit back in your chair and say to yourself “what the fuck am I watching here and why did they make it???????????” This isn’t just the bottom of the barrel, this is the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the barrel. You’ll never be the same, I promise.
How do you top that? Well, you don’t, and the movie’s subsequent murders, when they’re even shown, are pretty tame by comparison, although the very last one merits special mention for one reason and one reason alone, and it’s for this reason that I said that not just David Schwartz, but Ari Levin should be avoided like the plague by all members of the female of the species (I trust that the reasons for avoiding Schwartz are crystal-clear by now). Up to this point, Levin’s pantomime-level over-the-top scenery-chewing has been, shall we say, an interesting thing to absorb. Like writer-director Schwartz, it’s pretty clear he has no actual ability to perform his job (neither ever worked in the movies again after this, in case you were curious) — he just rants and raves to a quite-often-curiously-positioned camera. It’s really not even fair to call what he does acting since he quite obviously can’t act, which leads any rational viewer to wonder — just what the hell is he doing this for? It’s damn sure not the money. It’s not because he thinks it’ll launch a career for himself, unless he’s delusional. Could it be that he, as is apparently the case with Schwartz, whose more casual employment of downright nonchalant, off-hand misogyny (think back to “somebody needs to harpoon that whale”) leads one to suspect that he’s well and truly not fucking kidding when he goes OTT with it as in the cutting-open-the-pregnant-chick scene (not to mention the fact that this is the only movie I know of where two pregnant characters, one supposed and one actual, are killed — the Manson family only killed one and we’re still talking about them) just plain gets off on this kind of twisted shit?
The answer, friends, is yes, and the final murder proves it. We start with Levin stripping down to his Zuba-style way-too-tight bikini briefs. Then we get the murder itself (I can’t even remember how it’s done). Then we have Sam setting his wife’s decapitated head next to the corpse. The we have him defy all known laws of science once again by merely ripping the poor unfortunate girl’s arm out of its socket. Then he licks the bloody stump-end of the arm and smears blood over his face and body. Then — moment of truth time — as Schwartz gives us a long, lingering, mid-range shot of the head on the bed, we see, off to the side, that there’s a bulge in Levin’s Zuba-shorts! And it ain’t prosthetic effects here, people, because a) that would cost money and b) trust me, you’d make that hard-on bigger.
And that’s what makes both Schwarz and Levin, and ultimately Las Vegas Bloodbath
itself, not just stupid, not just inept, not just tasteless, but downright sick
. I sincerely believe that these two probably-friends are acting out some of their most twisted inner desires here. The proof is in the Zuba-briefs. I have no doubt that this movie was never “banned in over 20 countries!” as its decidedly homemade promotional poster (which makes me wonder if this thing wasn’t actually screened
somewhere! Oh how I wish I’d been there, but honestly I don’t even remember ever seeing this on any video store shelves!), and in fact it probably hasn’t even been seen
in 20 countries, but these guys might just belong on the Interpol “most wanted” list regardless.
The rest of the movie plays out in a fairly slapdash manner — a guy shows up at the door to help for who knows what reason and gets killed, a Jehovah’s Witness shows up and Sam lobs his head off by slamming it between the door and the frame in our final physically-impossible-but-for-some-reason-not-presented-in-a-tongue-in-cheek-manner murder, and then a cop (in street clothes since there was clearly no wardrobe department, and who looks like another off-duty male porn star) breaks in and tries to save the day only to find blood, guts, and limbs spread all over the apartment, that dead fetus from a couple of scenes back lodged in the toilet, and Sam laughing his head off in a bathtub full of blood — then Sam shoots the supposed “cop,” closes his eyes, opens them again, looks directly into the Sony Betacam, and the credits roll.
If you’re not in a state of utter disbelief at this point, then you need to check your pulse — as in, to make sure you still have one. This is twisted-beyond-the-ability-of-mere-words-to-describe DIY/SOV no-budget moviemaking at its most uncompromising. What Schwartz lacks in technical ability (and that’s a lot) he more than makes up for in sheer, unclean intent
. While a couple of the effects guys who worked on this went on to do the same for Ted V. Mikles with The Corpse Grinders 2
(probably more due to Mikels’ proximity to the Las Vegas area than any actual skill on their part), there’s nothing that is in any way even passable
, much less believable
, on offer here. It’s so incredibly poorly paced, with such rancid dialogue and acting, and shot in such a haphazard manner, with a script that makes more or less no concessions to conventionally-accepted notions of taste, morality, or even to actual physical reality itself, that the only conceivable
reason it could have been made is not because Brian Schwartz thought he could
make a movie, but simply because he wanted
to. And this is what he wanted to make.
And God help me, that’s why I have an overwhelmingly queasy sense of admiration for this flick. The brazen temerity with which Schwartz very publicly airs his psychic dirty laundry is an amazing thing to behold. Everything about his movie is sick and wrong, and he flat-out just doesn’t seem to give a fuck. With Las Vegas Bloodbath he’s delivered a genuinely psychotic opus that doesn’t just push the envelope, or even rip it open — it denies its very existence and dares you to meet it, waaaaaay out here in the cold, unforgiving, wide-open expanse of its own reality, where simple rules of right and wrong, even good and evil, no longer have any meaning. It represents the outermost limit. Beyond its blood-soaked marker lies only the empty void of nothingness and unexistence. This is the last cinematic frontier.
I urge you to explore it both immediately and at your own risk.