• Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things (AGFA) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: AGFA
    Released on: September 29th, 2020.
    Director: Thomas Casey
    Cast: Abe Swick, Wayne Crawford, Marty Cordova, Maggie Wood, Don Craig, Robin Hughes, Brad Grinter
    Year: 1971
    Purchase From Amazon

    Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things – Movie Review:

    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. And yes, it’s as great as it sounds.

    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 show 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 – Blu-ray Review:

    Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer taking up 15.9GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Taken from a ‘2K preservation from the only 35mm theatrical print in existence,’ this obviously doesn’t look as good as something taken from the original negative would have, as the print has seen a fair bit of use. Still, this inarguably a really nice upgrade from the 2015 DVD release. Detail is much improved over that standard definition offering, and there’s more noticeable depth to the image as well. There’s some noticeable print damage here and there, but nothing to get too concerned about, it’s never really all that distracting. Colors look a tad faded in a few spots but generally fare pretty well here, leaving little room to complain given that this was taken from the only existing film source known to man!

    Audio is handled by a 16-bitEnglish language DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track and while the limitations of the source are noticeable, it’s fine for what it is. There’s a bit of hiss here and there but nothing major. Levels are balanced well enough and dialogue is clean and most of the time quite clear. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    The commentary track by Nathanial Thompson and David Decouteau that was on the DVD release hasn’t been carried over to this Blu-ray, it’s been replaced by a track from film historian Evan Purchell and AGFA's Bret Berg. The start by talking about the creativity of the opening credits despite the fact that they spoil the entire movie, the way that the state of Florida is portrayed in the film and the locations that are featured in the picture, how they came to discover the film, the film's foggy distribution history both in theaters and on home video, how the two main characters both go insane in two very different ways, interpretations of the relationship between the two men in the movie and where this movie falls in with other Florida-lensed exploitation movies. They also cover the odd editing of the murder set pieces, information on the cast and crew involved with the picture, details on some of the furniture and background items in the movie, getting exposure to movies like this via Something Weird Video, the portrayal of drag and the transvestite character in the movie and more.

    AGFA has also included a bonus film called The Drag Queen’s Ball, culled from an S-VHS source from the Something Weird Video archive. This forty-eight-minute piece (which uses a title card that reads ‘Belles Ltd Presents at Holiday Inn Dinner Theatre Memphis Cotton Festival 1970 All-Male Cabaret Review’), shot in 1970 at the Holiday Inn Dinner Theater in Memphis, Tennessee documents a night with some drag queens getting ready to do their thing. It starts out with a look behind the scenes, as these colorful characters get into their wardrobe and makeup selections, but the bulk of the movie is made up of footage of them on stage, strutting about in all their glory and lip-synching with more passion than you’ll see at most karaoke joints.

    Two short films are also included here, the first of which is called Gay-In III. This ten-minute short was shot at a park somewhere, possibly California, and it's basically just a document of a bunch of people, mostly men, dancing together to a live band with some 'gay power' balloons floating about. The words 'GAY LIBERATION ARMY' are on the back of the stage. A newscaster interviews two older lesbians about their relationship and problems that they've had with landlords and cops before then interviewing a pair of guys the perils of dancing nude and the occasional harassment they've dealt with. He then interviews a tough guy in a rad sleeveless denim vest who is about as homophobic as they come and who boasts of screwing thousands of girls (the newscaster encourages him to go in and join the crowd). We won't spoil how it ends, but this is a pretty fascinating artifact.

    The second short film is called Caught In The Can, a seven-minute bit directed, photographed, written and edited by Charleton Roberts (an alias for Joseph F. Robertson) from 1970 that is taken from a pretty rough print. Regardless, it begins with two guys talking about how much they don't like work, and how they can make some fast money. They decide to 'dress up like chicks' and use those disguises to commit crimes! They hang out in the bathroom together and get into drag, work on some effeminate voices and make some douche jokes before then tucking themselves into some women's clothing and heading out to 'get those G.I.'s' - but it doesn't end well. It also ends very abruptly, as this is essentially just the first few minutes of a longer feature (the full-length version appeared on Alpha Blue Archives’ Nympho Cycler DVD).

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a nice selection of bonus trailers for Gay Liberation, Lusting Hours, My Third Wife George, The Queen and Sins Of Rachel. Menus and chapter selection are also included.

    We do get some nice reversible cover sleeve art, however, and the first 1,500 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome (who are distributing this release) get a very nice limited edition, matte finish slip cover with some cool spot varnish embossment on it to make that blood really pop!

    Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things – 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. AGFA’s Blu-ray offers fans of the film a very nice high definition upgrade and a sweet selection of bonus features as well. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things Blu-ray screen caps!