Mardi Gras Massacre Review (1978). Still Banned in the UK, Tame Slasher in the Vein of HG Lewis…

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Mardi Gras Massacre, directed and written by Jack Weis, would be one of those titles which should be put in the ‘movies that time forgot and they really need to stay there’ vault had it not been for the hoo-ha surrounding its ban under the video nasties charade. Why this film was actually on the list is especially puzzling as it seems so tame in comparison to some of its contemporaries. I would imagine that no one involved in compiling the list actually bothered to take the time to watch it going only from its shock title. This really is testament to the fact that the BBFC and Mary Whitehouse had no sense of humour given that the film plays out more in comedy fashion that anything else, it literally had me roaring in parts, especially at some of the appalling dialogue. The film remains banned in the UK and this is not for any shock value contained within, but more to do with the fact that no distributor has seen fit to pick up the title and resubmit it for a classification, therefore leaving it to float around in lost movie limbo. There is an official release in the U.S and I have seen that import copies go for a ridiculous amount of cash over here on British shores, as nasty completests struggle to gather all the titles from the official list. This fact is both shocking and shameful as the movie without its associated scandal is nothing more than a poor effort of 70’s sleaze and recycled effects.

mardi gras 5The ‘story’ borrows heavily from HG Lewis’ seminal Blood Feast, being comparable in quality of acting and gore effects. Where Lewis can be forgiven as a trend setter this film sadly cannot. Do not let the title fool you, as there is virtually no Mardi Gras, and definitely no massacre involved here. It should have been more aptly titled ‘porn club killer’ or ‘prostitute murders’. I do not normally like to give away too much of the plot in my reviews but as there is not anything in particular to spoil here I am going to make an exception because if you watch the first ten minutes of this film you are basically going to see that same series of events repeated on a loop for much of the duration.

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‘Not as gutted as we were watching this same scene over and over again…’

Creepy guy John (Bill Metzco) who has a distinct air of Austin Powers Dr Evil about him, especially in the way he likes to say ‘Evil’ a lot strolls into a retro 70s hookers club looking for ‘The most evil woman in there’. ‘Excuse me’, he says to a couple of ladies of the night ‘who is the most evil woman in here?’ Directed to victim number one he lays out a whole $200 on the table which leaves the hooker suitably impressed enough to follow him to his evil lair complete with sacrificial altar. On arrival he informs his companion that he is looking for something different and would like her to get undressed and lie on his special ‘bed’. This bed comes in the form of a sacrificial slab. You really cannot feel any sympathy for this girl as the killer leaves a 5 second gap between ‘I would like you to lie down on the……..’ ‘bed’, as he struggles to come up with a non threatening description of it which gives just more than a clue there is an element of danger here, if the fact it looks like an altar surrounded by strange cult decor is not enough of a hint. So cue upbeat funk which accompanies the slaying scene, victim gets a couple of body parts violated with a knife for guess what ‘being evil’, before being gutted and the heart being scooped out. Now I did not have a problem with the effects, they really aren’t bad for the time, but I did have an issue with the fact that this same scene then plays out over and over again, with the same effect, as a series of forgettable female victims parade in one after another.

Dispersed in amongst these lacklustre murder scenes is a story of a bumbling vice cop Frank (Curt Dawson) with some of the most ridiculous dialogue known to man, who then embarks on a romance with one of the hookers from the club. In true useless cop style he limps through the plot failing to see what is right in front of him, not especially proactive as he is more wrapped up in getting it on with the new apple of his eye prostitute Sherry (Gwen Arment). Included along with this are some of the most fantastically staged fight scenes which would not look out of place in a low-budget western.

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‘How could anyone resist that epic 70’s porn star moustache?’

The plot follows pretty much a stolen premise from Blood Feast, although this time the killer is not making a feast, but sacrificing the blood of evil women to resurrect his Egyptian God. While it plods along at a fairly slow pace until the anticlimax ten minutes before the end where at least you get to see some Mardi Gras, but sadly no massacre. You have to wonder when the shocks are going to start coming, sadly though there is none in this fairly generic piece of grindhouse trash. However toward the ending it does strangely seem to morph into a 70’s cop show.

mardis gras 3With all that said and done though Mardi Gras Massacre was not a complete waste of time. It was amusing I will give it that, it gave me more than a few laughs, especially when the same murder scene was repeated over and over. For lovers of complete trash this is going to appeal as it is fairly competently shot, it doesn’t have bad overdubbing, and the print is a nice clear transfer. It is also a brilliant time capsule for awful 70’s pop culture with cheap fashion and porn moustaches galore, and a unrelentless  funk/ disco soundtrack which does not let up for most of the film even during dialogue scenes. There is some superbly bad scripting to enjoy as well which is littered with 70’s clichés. But one of the highlights of the film was when a potential murder victim bursts into an impromptu ballet rendition in front of the killer dressed only in her knickers.

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‘Why hello there, didn’t I see you play Swan Lake at The Royal Opera House last year?’

For all its obvious flaws I enjoyed Mardi Gras Massacre much more than it deserved , but not for its intended reasons. Unintentionally funny and not very gory at all, I am left confused as to why anyone saw fit to ban this. I would be really interested in what certificate it would achieve if anyone did ever have the gall to resubmit it. But given the full frontal female nudity contained I am sure it would still be considered shocking to the upright moralists at the BBFC. That said though I cannot see that it would fail to obtain a certification as I have seen more murder in an episode of Dexter or The Walking Dead. One for the video nasty purists, or anyone wanting a cheap laugh at some awful 70s bad filmmaking.

For anyone interested you can watch the whole movie here:

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Categories: 70's horror, Reviews, Slasher, Splatter and gore, Video Nasties, Witchcraft and Satanic

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