• Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: August 18th, 2015.
    Director: Thomas Casey
    Cast: Abe Zwick, Wayne Crawford, Don Craig, Robin Hughes, Yanka Mann, Brad Grinter
    Year: 1971
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    The Movie:

    Here’s an odd one. Think of 1971’s Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things as The Odd Couple reinvented as a low budget crime film combining the bitchiest elements of Andy Milligan’s output with the low rent Florida charm of The Guy From Harlem, but with way more homoeroticism built into pretty much every aspect of the film.

    The story revolves around Paul (Abe Zwick) and Stanley (Wayne Crawford), two jewel thieves who have split Baltimore to hide out in the suburbs of Florida. Paul poses as a woman named Martha while Stanley struts around the local pizza joint in snakeskin pants and talks up the local ladies. This doesn’t sit well with Paul, who claims only to be concerned that Stanley’s girl-chasing will bring the heat down on him. There’s more to it than that thought, that much is obvious.

    Their relationship is a tense one and it gets only more insane when a foxy waitress named Alma (Marty Cordova) tries to put the moves on Stanley. Aunt Martha’s cover is blown and so Paul has to commit the ultimate sin to cover their tracks. When Alma disappears, her roommate, Dolores (Maggie Wood), starts sticking her nose into their business, a bad situation made even worse by the arrival of a ‘friend’ of theirs from Baltimore named Hubert (Don Craig) who basically moves in and makes himself quite comfortable in their home.

    This little scenario gets even screwier when Stanley maybe/maybe not falls for the cute girl across the street, Vicki (Robin Hughes), which is all well and good until her pregnant mother (Yanka Mann) starts snooping around. No, this will most certainly not end well for anyone….

    If at first glance this one doesn’t star anyone of note, take another look – this is actually a pretty cool cast. Abe Zwick doesn’t appear to have done much aside from this movie (which is a shame as he’s like Andy Kaufman’s cross-dressing psychotic brother!) but Wayne Krawford played Big Daddy in The Guy From Harlem and also showed up in God’s Bloody Acre. Yanka Mann from Flesh Feast (also directed by Thomas Casey) shows up here as one of Stanley’s lady friends and fucking Brad Grinter of Blood Freak and Brad Grinter: Nudist fame plays one of the cops who shows up in the last five minutes. While this is more or less Zwick and Krawford’s show from start to finish, it’s hard not to get excited any time Brad Grinter shows up in a movie.

    Basically a really low budget crime film with an ending that takes the movie damn close to horror film territory, this is a ridiculously entertaining film. Zwick is constantly over the top whether he’s in drag or not while Krawford gets to do some pretty amazing freak-outs any time on of his pretty girlfriends gets too close to him. The homoeroticism in the film (the verdict would seem to be eternally out as to whether or not this was intentional on the part of the filmmakers or not) is amped up pretty high and while we don’t see the guys ever do anything with one another it’s obvious that Paul is quite obsessed with Stanley. His excuses for protesting the younger man’s promiscuity in the name of keeping their identity safe is nothing more than a way to not having to admit his jealousy. The lighter tone of the first half of the movie dissolves pretty quickly by the time that the surprisingly dark ending rolls around. It’s not as gory or sexploitative as you might want it to be but it’s zany enough without the trash factor turned up that you won’t really mind, not when the movie is as entertaining as Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things.


    Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things arrives on DVD framed at 1.78.1 widescreen from Vinegar Syndrome who have given the American Genre Film Archive’s 35mm print a 2k scan and compared to previous collaborations (the two so far being Night Of The Strangler and Super Soul Brother) it’s a big step up. There is still plenty of print damage and periodic color fluctuation but it’s more than watchable and detail isn’t bad at all, considering the elements available. Compression issues are never a problem and the disc is well authored, presentation a transfer that looks like the beat up print that it was sourced from.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono track is on par with the video – not perfect by any stretch and limited by the elements available but serviceable enough. The score and occasional effects sound fine and if the dialogue bounces around up and down a little bit, it’s a minor issue.

    The only extra on the disc is an audio commentary track that comes courtesy of Mondo Digital’s Nathanial Thompson who is joined by cult filmmaker David Decouteau. These guys do what they can in regards to detailing the history of the picture, pointing out some familiar faces in the cast and talking about the Florida filmmaking scene of this era and some of the other cinematic oddities that came out of it. There’s just not a ton of information available for this one, however, so expect it to go off topic and cover the homoerotic elements of the film and some interesting discussion regarding how it is handled here compared to other pictures of its time.

    The Final Word:

    Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things is definitely one of a kind but it’s definitely a movie fans of low budget seventies regional oddities should get a kick out of. Vinegar Syndrome’s presentation is a little rough around the edges but the very fact that this movie has been released on DVD at all is reason enough for some of us to celebrate.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      Good job getting Bill Kerwin in that last screen shot! MARTHA and SCREAM BLOODY MURDER have two of my favorite title sequences in exploitation film history.