A good friend of mine from back home used to have this poster in his room for a film called Psychos in Love. I never could take my eyes off of it when I was there, yet I can't recall if I ever asked him what it was or if he'd even seen it. It showed a bride and groom kissing during their wedding ceremony while also savagely stabbing and sawing the others groomsman/bridesmaid to death. It was the kind of image that burns into your head, while still remaining mysterious and intriguing. Jump ahead to the more recent past and I find Psychos in Love in the Netflix DVD section. Fast forward again to last month, and I finally got to watch this movie I'd been so grabbed by years earlier (we all know the slow process of working through your DVD queue, it took me a while to get to it). What I saw was a sort of low-budget B-movie masterpiece that was just as witty and clever as it was bloody and weird. It was an 80s slasher film by way of Woody Allen, a neurotic and deranged love story with equal measures of heart and humor, and I had to know more about the people that made it.
The story behind Gorman Bechard and Carmine Capobianco's brief film work together and beyond was really interesting and also just happened to tie in to my column about Full Moon and Empire Pictures. Bechard made his first film Disconnected in 1983 on a tiny budget with the help of Carmine Capobianco, who also acted in the film. From there, the two co-wrote and made what became 1987's Psychos in Love, with Bechard directing and Capobianco starring (in the glorious year of my birth!). While it didn't shove them into the mainstream or make them household names, it did catch the eye of Charles Band and Empire Pictures, who released Psychos on video and signed their production company Generic Films to a 4 picture deal. They released 2 of these films between 1987-88...and then the story gets a little weird.
Galactic Gigolo (1987)
This was the first film the pair put out with Empire Pictures, the same year Psychos was released, so this was a pretty quick and cheap turn around. While Galactic Gigolo isn't nearly as good as their previous film, it does contain the same humor and charm, just tossed into the 80s sex comedy genre. While this genre proves to be a bit more limiting for their goal, they still manage to insert their quirky influences and subvert some of its clichés. While filled with plenty of the standard T and A, it also relies heavily on humor akin to The Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges. The self-referential wink supplies the fuel for this picture and it is made abundantly clear that they are in on the joke: how ridiculous and ultimately dumb these types of movies are. It's mostly just refreshing that they tried their hand at a different type of movie, instead of just making a quick carbon copy of Psychos to capitalize on their first success.
Galactic Gigolo follows Eoj (simply the reverse of Capobianco's name in Psychos), a broccoli alien from a vegetable planet that wins a game show and gets to travel to Prospect, Connecticut (the horniest place on Earth!) for two weeks to sleep with all of their women (highbrow, I know). He takes his human form as a “loveable sleazebag” and arrives on Earth dressed like a low-rent Elvis impersonator (apparently Elvis was one of theirs too). Eoj then proceeds to sleep with as many women as possible with the help of reporter Hildy (Debi Thibeault) and photographer Waldo (Frank Stewart), who are using Eoj to write a book on his exploits. It becomes a race against time and a family of inbred rednecks for Eoj to complete his mission and return home. Many of the same actors carry over from the previous film and so does much of the humor, but this film is a bit more lighthearted and content with sticking to its genre roots.
There are a number of things, and specifically characters, that don't completely work in this film. While the redneck family do get a few inspired bits involving their confusing names and overall inbred-ness, most of that is played far too often and gets run into the ground pretty quickly. Waldo is another character that has his moments, but like the redneck family is played so broadly that it borders on annoying. This is a particular shame because Frank Stewart is one of the best parts in both Psychos in Love and Cemetery High, but his character just doesn't really click here. While a lot of that acting misses the target, what really saves the film is Capobianco and Thibeault as the two leads. They are both so charming and have an instant chemistry that carries over from the last film, breathing new life into Gigolo whenever it's in danger of derailing.
The strongest part of the film is the ending, where they subvert the standard finale of the 80s sex comedy. Usually, the horny male lead will pursue one or a slew of unattainable beauties, only to discover in the end that what he wanted was right in front of him the whole time, in the form of a best friend or sidekick character. She may not be as traditionally beautiful (by warped movie standards), but she stands by the male lead through his escapades until he wises up and comes crawling back to her so they can live happily ever after. They play on this trope all the way until the final scene, where they surprisingly don't hook up and just go their separate ways, both better for having met each other, but not needing to spoil that with a typical unrealistic romantic ending. Despite not being as strong of a film, Galactic Gigolo is another solid entry from Bechard and company. It still contains their signature style of humor and a lot of subtle comedic moments that make it an easy and entertaining watch. It suffered from a bit of the sophomore slump, but they pick up the pace again with their next and final entry.
Cemetery High (1988)
This one threw me for a bit of a loop. Reading the description, this seemed like Bechard's foray into the female revenge exploitation realm, but the execution (Ba Dum Tss!) proved to be a bit different than expected. The film was still directed by Bechard and co-written by Capobianco, but Capobianco is practically not in the film (not even as one of the girls' victims!). He shows up in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo with no lines, though he is still credited as the main characters' father. So I suppose his scenes were cut, but this did make me realize how much of an asset Thibeault is in these 3 collaborations, with her playing the lead character Kate in this film (same character name as in Psychos). I began to view Bechard's trilogy in a new light. Using so many of the same people in different roles from film to film gave a vibe akin to the early work of Paul Thomas Anderson, just with a bit more blood and boobs. With the style of humor and DIY filmmaking, it almost feels like an old vaudeville act stabbing there way into the talkies. It's just a group of like-minded performers coming together to put on a show and jump in and out of different genres.
Cemetery High is about a group of high school girls that start vengefully killing all the sleazy men in town after they are brutalized by a group of jocks. As meta as the previous films were, this one takes it to the next level and raises it far beyond a Death Wish/I Spit on Your Grave mash-up with slapstick. The film starts with a disclaimer warning about the graphic violence and nudity, saying they will warn the audience throughout the film with a “Gore Gong” and “Hooter Honks” (a literal cut to a gong hit or bike horn squeeze to warn of upcoming blood and boobs). This is a funny gag by itself, but the film's placement of these interjections and absence of them in certain scenes makes it feel like this picture is a bit more clever than you'd expect.
The “Hooter Honks” rarely show up, but when they do it's for scenes that linger so long on the T and A that it goes beyond gratuitous, almost to the point of satire. The honks won't show up before disturbing rape scenes or a murder taking place in the porn section of a video store, but it will warn you when they try and titillate your gaze prior to an abuse or murder. The “Gore Gong” pops up right before the violent scenes, but usually takes place of the actual violence and steals your gory gratification, leaving you with the aftermath and a little spilled blood. At first, I thought the film was just making a joke and looking for the typical excuses for gratuity wrapped in the facade of a feminist empowerment tale, but it flipped those expectations and set itself apart from so many others like it at the time. It may not have been intentional, but the effect is one of subverting your eager expectations for these genre tropes and leaving you feeling gross or guilty for wanting them.
Cemetery shares a running theme with Psychos in its characters awareness of the film itself. They cut to the girls in talking head interviews explaining their motives and end game of getting a movie/book deal out of their murderous rampage. The film then moves into the realm of the women referring to the movie as the story plays out, making adjustments and giving notes to tweak it along the way. Characters will call out the flashback scenes before they happen and even complain for the audience about the lack of “Hooter Honks” compared to “Gore Gongs” in the film. Bechard even uses this film as a platform to reference and promote his previous work. There are more subtle references like the Disconnected poster on the wall of a casting agent's office to a more on the nose conversation about Psychos in the video store scene (which made me laugh at my own cliché observation of it being a slasher by way of Woody Allen). Wearing their techniques and influences on their sleeves give Cemetery a healthy dose of the charm that makes these films work so well.
What started as a simple interest in a poster on a bedroom wall led me down a rabbit hole of incredibly smart and funny filmmaking usually not seen in these circles. After this film, Empire Pictures went under and we sadly never got to see what genres this group would have played with for the other 2 pictures in their deal. Bechard, disillusioned with directing, spent the next decade focused on writing, publishing several acclaimed books (themselves sought after or optioned for movie adaptations). He came back to directing with 2002's The Kiss, but didn't really find his success until directing a documentary on The Replacements in 2011. He is still working comfortably in the documentary genre. Carmine Capobianco also disappeared from the film scene until the early 2000s, when he started showing up in modern B-horror movies. I'm sure his 80s cred helped with this and he was an added bonus for the knowing horror enthusiast. Debi Thibeault took a couple more shots at acting in 1988, but that was it for her and I can't seem to find anything on her now (which is a damn shame). Jeff Spicoli saved Brooke Shields from drowning and blew the reward money on hiring Van Halen to play his birthday party. And Willam eventually saw the sailboat...