Just got done re-watching the classic 1980s exploitation horror flick Mausoleum, starring ex-evangelist turned actor Marjoe Gortner, and the delectable Bobbie Bresee, a sadly short-lived scream queen of drop-dead gorgeous Eighties glamour...and demonic tits; in this movie at least. If you can believe that.
(I first saw Mausoleum (or parts of it, at any rate) the year after it came out, on a cheap Betamax bootleg my mother was watching--and all I remember about it was the creepy, hooded, monk-like guy at the end, laughing maniacally as someone drives away from a cemetary. Scared the bee jabbers out of me, at the time.
In the Nineties, I watched it again, renting it just as we did, back in the day, on VHS cassette from a VIDEO STORE (check your history books, Millenial, to find out what those were); and, at the time, I was a confirmed horror miscreant retard, one who worshiped bands like the Misfits when I wasn't palling around with my buddy Buff, riding bicycles, and dreaming of one day making love to smokin' hot MILFS that all vaguely resembled Bobbie Bresee.
Cut to the chase.
This film has little dialog. It doesn't demand a lot from the viewer, who can take a mental backseat for once and just enjoy the ride. It use to turn up on old cable TV "creature feature" programs back in the Eighties--programssuch as USA's "Saturday Nightmares", a show I fondly, oh so fondly, remember. Nostalgia aside, here's the skinny on Mausoleum.
Bobbie Bresee is Susan Walker, the first-born daughter hailing from a clan whose original sobriquet is Nomed ("demon" spelled backwards, get it? Harhar), and her mother has died; and her and her aunt Cora are at the graveyard mourning in mourning clothes that would have been more appropriate in the Roaring Nineteen-Teens. Anyway, Little weeping Susan is all Aunt Cora's responsibility now, so Susan breaks away and goes to the family mausoleum, and the next thing we know a demonic shadow is killing a vagrant.
Then, Susan is all grown up, and living with Oliver (Marjoe Gortner), who must be a fabulously wealthy brain surgeon, and who drives some sort of custom-made sports car with doors that open skyward, like weird bat wings.
They go to disco dancing, and some drunk masher gets burned up in his car when Susan's demonic self (her eyes glow green) decides, "Enough is enough, mister!"
Susan then lounges around the family mansion half-nude, while Oliver is called to New York on business. The gardener, an unattractive, middle-aged man named Ben (Maurice Sherbanee), is tempted by her ta-tas into the sack. He gets it nice and hard and slow from the Playboy bunny supermodel scream queen; but right after, while patting her on the ass and commenting on the fact that she was the best he had ever had, she transforms partially into her gnarly demonic self, scratches his face with long, claw-like fingers, and kills him with a garden trowel. She is shown partly in shadow here, but there is a good amount of splattering movie blood.
When hubby gets home, she tells him the gardener has "gone on vacation."
Aunt Esther from "Sanford and Son" (LaWanda Page) is their housemaid, and she serves as comic relief in a role that can best be described as perilously close to being a racially-offensive stereotype. At any rate, it wouldn't pass muster in our oh so politically-correct day and age. She goes into Susan/Bobbie's room, sees her half-transformed, and then sees a weird misty green glowing light. Going downstairs, she takes a swig of hooch before disappearing out the door, not to be seen anymore.
Aunt Cora (Laura Hippe), who looks suspiciously as if she once mothered Richie Cunningham, comes over with papers related to Susan's inheritance. The Nomed demon, alas, comes out yet again, causing her to levitate over the banister, burst from the inside-out in bloody grue, and fall to the bottom floor to her death. What the hell this woman did with the bodies of these two, I don't know.
Next, she kills the flower delivery guy, who tries to rape her in the kitchen (she comes to the door wearing an old negligee that looks as if it were shoplifted from Victoria's Secret), and then tells him they can go upstairs for a quickie after he "calls his boss." Or something. She demonically alters again, and he begins to bleed massively from the ear. And then dies. No surprise.
Marjoe/Oliver (handsome devil with a curly, permed, old-fashioned Seventies white man's afro) comes home and, seeing his wife's demonically-inspired neurosis or lack of motivation or whatever, asks her to go see her shrink. She complies, and he hypnotizes her.
She right away regresses to a child-like state, before becoming full-on Nomed demonic, and growling with glowing green eyes and lips pulled viciously back over her teeth.
(For some reason, I'm reminded here of that ancient skit on "Saturday Night Live," wherein Laraine Newman tells Richard Pryor, 'Your mother sews socks that smell!" in a send-up of a scene from The Exorcist.)
The shrink (played by Norman Burton), Dr. Andrews, gets a hold of an old family diary kept by her grandfather, or great-grandfather, and decides, after consulting his colleague Dr. Logan, that he must go to the Nomed family crypt and get a "crown of thorns" to put on Susan's head, to cast the demon out. And so on, and so on.
Meanwhile, Oliver comes home, and Susan freaks and breaks a bunch of dishes on the floor. He's concerned (dishes notwithstanding) about a weird painting she has brought home, which depicts sort-of psuedo demonic or occult themes of altars, candles burning, people riding satyr-like beasts, cadaverous women-- you get the picture (haha). She has stolen this item from a palatial shopping mall (where else?), wherein the man in the picture store gives her shit because she "Can't have the painting. It's already sold." Nomed, just KNOWING she/it HAS to have this painting, demons-out and levitates him, right before exploding him and dropping him to his death. He's impaled on a statue in the atrium food court below.
Strike another blow for Nomed.
Surprisingly (or maybe not), she kills Oliver next.
Magnificently lounging in a bubble bath, her impressive, if Satanic knockers on dripping display for all and sundry, she invites the handsome Oliver to come and embrace her exquisite form. We then see the reaction on his face as he screams in agony.
Transformed, in his arms, into the full, grotesque Nomed demon (which bears a weird resemblance to the thing on the wing of the airplane that tormented that poor, anxiety-ridden John Lithgow in the ill-fated, maybe cursed, Twilight Zone the Movie), Bobbie reveals one of the most striking innovations in a horror movie of this caliber that I have ever seen: each of her terrorific titties become teeth-snapping, slime-oozing, devil monsters; like little heads, projecting from her chest. Great stuff.
Oliver/Marjoe is killed in a bloody manner, wherein the front of his chest looks ripped-out. He dies reclining in the bubble bath. Poor Marj.
Next, the psychiatrist or whatever pulls up, with the crown of thorns, gets out, and goes upstairs to find Susan in the attic, which looks as if it were stolen from Pet Sematary's closing scenes. She is sitting in front of an old steamer trunk, playing with a dolly, having eerily regressed to little girlhood. She then goes full-on Nomed, and the Doc slams the crown of thorns on her head. This releases the demon, who is transported magically to the mausoleum.
I actually can't finish this rather long synopsis. Spoilers, you know. (And, also, I never finished the last ten minutes of the picture, as I got up to write this review.)
Bobbie Bresee is the chief attraction of Mausoleum. The short-lived (as noted on IMDB--Internet Movie Data Base) scream queen was in Troma's Surf Nazis Must Die, Ghoulies, Evil Spawn, etc. She also appeared on shows such as "Charlie's Angels," "Simon and Simon," and "The Fall Guy." Ah, so-sweet nostalgia.
Paired with Marjoe Gortner she is, herein, beyond camp classic. Marjoe started his Hollywood career as a hellfire-and-brimstone spewing tiny tot, the World's Littlest Evangelist, before becoming disillusioned with the God Biz, and making tracks for Show Biz. He's Day of the Locust extraordinaire. Ed Wood would have snapped him up for his stock company of players.
But, really, what is there to say about this movie? Is it good? Depends by what yardstick you measure "good." It's certainly entertaining, memorable; even exciting at times. Does it frighten me, as a horror film is supposed to? No. According to Wikipedia, it did win a "Special Jury Prize at the 13th Paris Film Festival of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Films" that year. Bobbie Bresee apparently won a Saturn Award for her performance. I'm not certain what that is.
Happily, according to that unimpeachable source the Internet, both Bobbie and Marjoe are still with us. Bobbie, I'm certain, is just as stunning as ever.
So what's the subtext here? How does one interpret Mausoleum? What is it trying to say, really? That Reagan-Era America, so wealthy and affluent and self-assured and, well, WHITE, was, in point of fact, hiding beneath the surface, an ancient, familial curse, something buried beneath the well-clipped lawns and expensive homes, the plastic surgery and tanning salon good-looks of the young, upwardly mobile, and demonically possessed?
It was an era that, as beautiful and innocent and bygone and wonderful as it now seems, saw the creeping, festering boiling murk creep in, like the living tendrils of some cyclopean, Lovecraftian horror, to strangle our world in its crib. It was the era of tabloid sleave, serial killer worship, punk rock, perfect bodies, cocaine, porno, and American Psycho. Thrash metal, ghetto rap, and drive-by gang banging competed with Madonna, Cindy Lauper and the best of shopping mall pop. We, currently, thirty years or so on, are still living the resultant nightmare.
Chat show hucksters peddled perversion and paranoia for profit, for audiences that were still ten or fifteen years away from the World Wide Web. We thought the good times would never end. We knew, somehow they would, oh yes indeed but maybe not all at once. However, life evolves, and times change. Curses and maledictions, once buried, come screaming, like teeth-snapping tit demons, from the cold, green-misted mouth of....the Mausoleum.