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Retro Review: MAUSOLEUM (1983)

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MAUSOLEUM
(US - 1983)

Directed by Michael Dugan. Written by Robert Barich and Robert Madero. Cast: Marjoe Gortner, Bobbie Bresee, Norman Burton, LaWanda Page, Maurice Sherbanee, Laura Hippe, Sheri Mann, Julie Christy Murray, Chu Chu Malave, Gene Edwards, Di Ann Monaco, Joel Kramer, Bill Vail. (R, 97 mins)

"There's some strange shit goin' on in this house!" 

One of the great garbage horror movies of the 1980s now resurrected in an uncut, pristine Blu-ray restoration by Vinegar Syndrome (because physical media is dead), MAUSOLEUM is a ludicrously tacky demonic possession outing notable for a game performance by Bobbie Bresee as a woman transformed by a family curse into a nymphomaniacal succubus, with even her breasts turning into growling, chomping miniature Cuatos. Already in her mid 30s by this time with numerous TV guest spots to her credit, Bresee had a very short-lived run as a C-grade '80s scream queen, following her work here with roles in Empire's GHOULIES, Troma's SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, and a trio of Fred Olen Ray joints with ARMED RESPONSE, STAR SLAMMER, and EVIL SPAWN. But it's most definitely MAUSOLEUM that's cemented her place in exploitation history. Bresee stars as Susan Farrell, a 30-year-old woman who's been traumatized since childhood by the death of her mother. Raised by her aunt Cora Nomed (Laura Hippe) and under the care of fatherly psychiatrist Dr. Simon Andrews (Norman Burton), Susan lives a life of privilege as the wife of successful businessman Oliver (Marjoe Gortner!), but a family curse has come to stake its claim, taking possession of her as she succumbs to her carnal urges, her eyes glowing green as she kills Aunt Cora, and seduces and slaughters the lecherous gardener (Maurice Sherbanee) and a dopey delivery boy (future Andy Sidaris regular Chu Chu Malave). She also scares the shit out of Elsie (LaWanda "Aunt Esther from SANFORD AND SON" Page!), her put-upon, comic relief stereotype of a housekeeper, who flees the house in arm-flailing terror to the tune of her own wacky theme and stopping just short of exclaiming "Feets don't fail me now!"







Dr. Andrews is well aware of what's wrong with Susan: it's a curse on all first-born women in the Nomed family, which shouldn't surprise anyone who's ever seen a vampire movie with a character named "Alucard." The Nomed curse stems from a demonic spirit housed in a mausoleum at the cemetery where Susan's mother is buried. Susan's demonic histrionics are effectively conveyed John Carl Buechler--who would soon go on to be Empire's go-to mechanical FX guy on gems like THE DUNGEONMASTER, TRANCERS, TROLL, TERRORVISION, FROM BEYOND, and DOLLS among others--and once seen, Susan's possessed breasts cannot be unseen. Released by Motion Picture Marketing, a company known for picking up gory Euro imports like Lucio Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (which they retitled THE GATES OF HELL) and Bruno Mattei's HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (retitled NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES) and run by future convicted mobster-turned-Christian motivational speaker Michael Franzese, MAUSOLEUM was co-written and co-produced by one-and-done Robert Barich, and it even opens with the credit "A Robert Barich Film" even though Michael Dugan is the credited director (in a new interview on the Blu-ray, Buechler says that Dugan was on the set and "learning," but Barich was calling all the shots). The Blu-ray finally allows some impressive technical aspects to take center stage, as the film is revealed to demonstrate a nice use of garish color schemes that vaguely recall Mario Bava and Dario Argento, and there's a Euro batshit vibe to the whole thing, but don't think Barich is going for high art: it's all largely on the cheesy and often sexploitative side.





There is one legitimately creepy moment when Oliver wakes up in the middle of the night and sees Susan, in her demonic state, slowly rocking in a creaking chair in the corner of the room, but it's ruined by Gortner's underplaying the response in the way Oliver calmly walks out of the room and...calls Dr. Andrews? Wouldn't you just get the fuck out of the house? It makes even less sense when he's acting like nothing happened the next day and his wife wasn't sitting there looking like a creature spawned from the bowels of Hell. It's also amazing how nonchalant Oblivious Ollie is about the missing Aunt Cora, the missing gardener, and blood all over the kitchen from Susan killing the delivery boy. There's also a memorable sequence in a shopping mall and some spirited splatter throughout, capped off by a nonsensical, fourth-wall-breaking ending. In short, MAUSOLEUM is a bad movie, but it's an absolutely wonderful bad movie


MAUSOLEUM opening in Toledo, OH on 5/20/1983



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