Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Imagine if LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER had superpowers much like the Batman villain Poison Ivy - and there you have the premise of 1973's THE GARDENER (Released in 1975 as SEEDS OF EVIL). I came across this oddity last year during the Tower Records' 'Going Out of Business Sale' and finally decided to pop it into the DVD player. It was worth the wait...and the three dollar price!!!
Set in Costa Rica, Andy Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro and Katherine Houghton (Katherine Hepburn's neice) co-star in this gothic horror/D.H. Lawrence/STEPFORD WIVES mash-up. Joe plays Carl, a mysterious and constantly shirtless gardener named Carl, who Ellen (Houghton) hires to bring her lackluster garden to life. He immediately plots to get rid of her elderly greensman- who mysterioiusly starts bleeding from his nose and needs to be hospitalized! Within weeks, Carl makes the plants bloom and everyone seems to love it - except Ellen's superstitious maids, and eventually her often absent plant-hating husband (lets just call him "Darren"). I figurde out that Darren gets jealous when he discovers that Carl does not own any shirts and that his workpants appear to be painted on his perfect body. Ellen's Bloody Mary-chugging socialite friends all think hunky Carl is a dream come true. So do we.
A couple of cocktail and costume parties later, Ellen starts to get freaked out by Carl. Especially after an erotic dream about him skinnydipping in her pool. Later Ellen's visiting neice disappears while she's out shopping with her fabulous, but lonely, friend Helena (played by Rita Gam) - and Helena convinces her that Carl should work for her now. No mention is ever made of her neice again. Hmmm. Outta sight, outta mind.
Ellen decides to investigate Carl's past - and it turns out that almost all his former clients are now either dead or insane. Stage and soap actress Anne Meacham (she played the Cory housekeeper Louise on ANOTHER WORLD for 10 years) almost steals the whole movie with her one scene as a former employee. There's an epic grande finale that I won't spoil, but suffice to say - Ellen flips out.
Acting wise, Houghton (primarily known for GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER) is highly watchable, but other than Gam and Meacham - the rest of the cast seems to be phoning it in long-distance from Costa Rica. Dallesandro has about five whole lines, which he delivers with his usual wooden style. Gotta love that Joe! The sound quality is miserable, but score is quite magnificent. The DVD has some great grindhouse trailers as well as a few fun featurettes and interviews, including director James H. Kay.
We rate this one 6 outta 10 "huhs".