TCM Underground: Private Parts (1972) and Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989)

Private Parts (1972)

Private Parts is like if Roman Polanski’s Repulsion had been directed by John Waters.  Young Cheryl (Ayn Ruymen) gets into a fight with her roommate after apparently watching her and her boyfriend have sex, steals some money from her, and then takes off to a skid-row hotel that her aunt owns in downtown Los Angeles, filmed at the real life skid-row King David Hotel.

I myself have never visited the King David, but many years ago I had a bizarre vacation in Los Angeles–somehow, by sheer luck, my girlfriend and I had been bumped to First Class on our flight from Phoenix to LA for a super affordable fee (like $20 each), so my arrival was in luxury, but I spent my time at the Cecil Hotel which is about a five-minute walk away.  The Cecil, famously, was the home of the serial killer Richard Ramirez and was the inspiration for that one season of American Horror Story.  The media also went abuzz when Elisa Lam died there and conspiracy theorists had some… interesting theories about what happened.  I stayed there about a week before the incident.

So, watching Private Parts was kind of like a flashback for me.  The weird guests, the terrifying surrounding areas.  The decaying-from-the-inside-out decor.  Private Parts gets all of these details right and loves them, relishes them, bathes in the sketchiness.  Paul Bartel is someone who gets giddy when he gets to examine scum.  He clicks his heels together when he gets the opportunity, and damn if this isn’t a seedy, exploitative movie.  There’s a closeted-gay priest.  There’s a photographer with an inflatable sex doll he fills with water and pastes photographed faces onto.  And Cheryl’s aunt, obsessed with funerals, who says a perfect one is a funeral where you can actually feel a soul freed from the prison that is a human body.

There’s also a murder mystery to the plot, when Cheryl’s roommate’s boyfriend goes looking for her to get the stolen money back, and is beheaded and disposed of in a furnace in the basement.  Who could have done it?  As you’re watching, the answer is pretty clear from the get-go, but there’s a twist in the end, of course.

Paul Bartel’s films always look great.  Private Parts‘ cinematographer was none other than Andrew Davis, director of The Fugitive, one of the best action films ever made, as well as The Final Terror, a Friday the 13th knockoff that is vastly superior to its inspiration.

I wonder if John Waters is a fan of Paul Bartel’s films.  I tried Googling this and all I found out was that I’m not particularly original for finding comparisons in the work between the two filmmakers.  Bartel also used Waters regular Divine, as well as Tab Hunter from Waters’ Polyester, for the film Lust in the Dust.  But a curious part of me wants to know what Waters actually thinks of his films, because they both have the same obsession with the seedy underbelly of America in all its glory.  I suspect they either admired each other or hated each other.  Maybe a little of both?

Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989)

So, on this one, my PS Vue DVR is telling me “This program is unavailable.  Don’t worry – your device and PlayStation Vue are working properly, but we have not been granted permission to stream certain programs over the internet.”  It’s like, I’m not worried.  I’m just really fucking annoyed.  And, no offense, everyone, but I just don’t feel like paying to rent it.  I understand that it’s a good movie, according to multiple reviews, and that guy from Star Trek Voyager that I like is in it.

So, sorry!  Sorry, but I won’t be reviewing this movie, because PS Vue fucked me.

I was looking forward to this one, too, because I’ve been meaning to see more Paul Bartel movies.  All I’ve seen of his so far are Private Parts, Death Race 2000 and Eating Raoul.  It’s good to know that there’s a director out there whose filmography I have to discover anew.

Next Week: Next week looks like a good one with Twilight People (1972) and Island of Lost Souls (1932), a “Mad scientist makes human-animal hybrids” double feature.