I never cease to be amazed by incredible previously unknown films. When browsing through the great video store Odd Obsession the other day, I came across a rare “horror” film titled Love Me Deadly. I think I found a strong candidate for a future horror movie lecture at Facets Night School, because this one truly breaks the perverse meter.
Mary Wilcox (who later made numerous appearances on SCTV) stars as Lindsay Finch, a young woman who has a strange compulsive urge to visit the funerals of recently deceased handsome men. Dressed rather sexily for mourning, she pays her respects by French kissing corpses once all the other attendees have left the chapel. The fixation is explained as Oedipal in scenes of adolescent Lindsay sharing close times–very close times–with her daddy.
Noticing her fondness for the darling departed is Fred McSweeney (Timothy Scott), a mortician member of a Satanic cult who is on to her necrophiliac ways. Despite his enticements, Lindsay wants to be “normal” and so finds solace with two different handsome hunks, Wade (played by Christopher Stone) and Alex (Lyle Waggoner).
From the ads and the trailers a viewer would figure that Love Me Deadly is a horror film. Certainly, there are elements of that genre in this movie, but the criticisms I’ve read about this movie being too melodramatic miss the point in an ironic way. The point is this movie is primarily a melodrama, perhaps the most perverse soap opera that Douglas Sirk never directed.
But is it gay? Um, yeah. It is. Trust me, it is.
Second, this is a movie about a “coming out” process. Lindsay doesn’t want to admit to anyone else that she loves the dead. Fred wants her to be open about who she is, but only to his select group of people–his chosen ones. A microcosm of the hidden gay world is here and it’s reinforced in a remarkable key scene near the beginning.
Fred picks up a gay hustler named Billy Jo (I. William Quinn), but only after rejecting another one, a more flaming queer he deems “not his type.” Opting for the more “masculine” gay, Fred takes him to the mortuary where he proceeds to kill him in one of the most disturbing death scenes I’ve witnessed in a long time. Before his death, however, the out and proud Billy Jo challenges Fred’s straight marriage, thus reinforcing the latter’s closet status with his own necrophilia (read: homosexuality).
On the surface, this would appear to be a very anti-gay film. However, if you pay attention to the entire film, you’ll notice some aspects that convince me this actually achieves poetic justice from beyond the grave for that doomed openly gay man.
Lindsay’s two suitors, Wade and Alex, won’t ever be able to satisfy her. Try as they might, she doesn’t want to open her legs for either guy, although she desperately wants to leave the dead lovin’ behind her. For both these guys, the chastity is a direct blow to their straight masculinity, regardless of relationship status. It doesn’t matter that Wade is promiscuous and Alex settles into marriage with Lindsay. They’re both doomed, and in a final backhanded slap to both her live lovers, Alex discovers Lindsay pumping Billy Jo’s embalmed piston. Not only is Lindsay choosing to fuck a gay corpse, but it’s done in a celebratory Satanic ritual, counteracting her own dismal bedroom scene with an exasperated Alex.
In fact, the only way Alex is able to finally get some honeymoon nookie from his frigid wife is for himself to be frigid in lifelessness. Even then, it’s insult to injury as Lindsay has to be in a drugged state hallucinating that she’s porking dear departed daddy rather than her own husband.
Seen with a homocentric perspective, you can also find moments of hilarious high camp in the film. Lindsay is almost too beautiful–almost like the desired image of a woman than an actual person. Contrast her astounding looks with Fred and the Satanic cult members and she looks way out of place indulging in such unsavory activities. When she isn’t looking like a Miss America contestant, she can be seen in pigtails and a little girl’s outfit dancing around her father’s grave. Alex finds her practically gurgling over her father’s plot, leading to a subsequent sequence of (perhaps) unintentional hilarity as both try to work through the crisis. What do you do when a spouse has a regressive psychotic episode? You plan a picnic!
Love Me Deadly owes more to Robert Aldrich than to, for example, George Romero. Much of this movie reminds me of the tone of other great Grand Guignol type movies such as What Ever Happend to Baby Jane?, which is, of course, thoroughly embraced by gay audiences. Such audiences should take note. It’s one of the most amorally entertaining takes on the very idea of relationships that you’ll ever see.