Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Autopsy: A Love Story (Aridzona, 2002)

Okay, we'll admit it: dunno how we did it, but when we procured the DVD to this film here, we actually though that we were getting a copy of that ancient slice of Eurotrash, Armando Crispino's 1975 horror flick Autopsy, a.k.a. The Victim and Corpse and, in Italian, Macchie solari ("Sunspots"). Our bad: instead, we got this newer and definitely far more low-budget independent flick from the state of  Aridzona that is far less horror than black comedy — not that we laughed all that much.
Trailer to
Armando Crispino's Autopsy:
If life were film school, than the Aridzona-based, independent Guy Crawford would deserve an A for concept: as the title already reveals, the movie takes on a pretty extreme topic that needs some balls to approach* and that, at least for some folk (you know who you are), definitely whets the curiosity. Unluckily, when it comes to execution, the film never rises above an F- and, as a result, Autopsy: A Love Story flounders badly and wallows deeply within the lower realms of a D filmdom. If one watches it to the final scene, one does so less because the surprisingly restrained (for its topic) movie is actually watchable than because one is simply curious to see how sloppy of a bow the narrative is going to be tied into. (Or, as in the case of our weekly Bad-Film Night, because the sacred rule is "What goes into the DVD player, stays in the DVD player" — the "until the end" is a given.)
* For other people who had balls, check out the arty Canadian film Kissed (1996 / trailer), or the wonderfully sleazy grindhouse classic Love Me Deadly (1972 / trailer) or Lamberto Bava's Eurotrash anti-classic, Macabro (1980 / trailer), not to mention Riccardo Freda's The Horrible Secret of Dr Hichcock (1962 / full movie), all of which are better in one way or the other.
Trailer to
Autopsy: A Love Story

As if often the case, the trailer (above) is better than the movie itself. Quick and to the point, its selling phrase/tagline deserves an Oscar. As it says, Charlie Bickle (John Mills) has a problem: he has met the girl of his dreams, but she died three days previously. She drowned, in fact: a suicide, we see in the film how she (Dina Osmussen*), an attractive gal in what might qualify as a semi-sexy negligee, pops some pills and sinks to the bottom of the filled bathtub. That she spends three days there, however, is hardly likely, for even if the water were cold she would be bloated and floating, and the water dirtied by the involuntary release of things that get released when the sphincter and other such muscles or organs relax in death. But who wants to let facts like that stand in the way of a love story based on immediate (if one-way) attraction?  
* Unluckily, she is not very convincing as a corpse, never coming close to the level of verisimilitude achieved, for example, by the much more nude Olwen Kelly (as "Jane Doe") in the straight-out supernatural horror movie The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016/ trailer).
That Charlie even "meets" Jane (as in: Jane Doe) has to do with his job at the sleazy morgue he works at, run by the choleric Dr Dale Brodsky (Joe Estevez*). Here, again, the mechanics of the industry is presented from the angle of truthiness rather than fact. For example, though Dr Brodsky supposedly has a lively trade in human organs, the bodies lie around for periods of time that makes tall internal organs suitable for little more than a compost heap.** Likewise, bodies resulting from a suspicious death — did Jane "Bathtub" Doe die of suicide or was she drowned? — generally require an autopsy by a coroner, and despite the film's title and the removal of the same pile of offal from a few different bodies, no actual autopsies are performed.  
*
There is a reason why more people have heard of his brother, Martin Sheen, than of Joe Estévez, and it's not just because Martin took on an Anglo Saxon name and entered the biz roughly 18 years earlier: Martin usually can act, Joe usually cannot – which explains his continuous presence in B, C, D and Z films. In Autopsy: A Love Story, he comes across as if he is working less from scripted dialogue than riffing from a vague plot outline.
** Organs that could even possibly be sold (illegally or legally) for subsequent transplantation need to be transplanted within a timeframe of, for example, 4 to 6 hours (heart and lungs), 8 to 12 hours (liver), or 24 to 36 hours (kidneys).
And as for the slice and dicing, but for one quick scene that seems to use real operation footage, the little (notably pointless) vivisection done is performed by Charlie, the morgue's Guy Friday handyman. Okay, some states don not require that a coroner has a medical degree (dunno about Aridzona), but Charlie is definitely more a janitor kind of guy.
Autopsy also agitates in a world in 99% of the dead remain unclaimed and no one cares what happens to body: up until the arrival of Jane Doe's living twin sister Jill, no family ever comes around to view any of the dead or claim any given body for burial or cremation or donation to Body Worlds. For a narrative set within the world of morgues and coroners and corpses, the apparently shot-on-video movie displays surprisingly deep ignorance of the business and dead people.
Autopsy: A Love Story — to an extent, like many Crawford directorial projects (see, for example The Catcher [1998 / trailer],* Starved [1999 / trailer] and Dark Places [2005 / trailer]) — is hampered by a mundane directorial eye, an extremely lazy script, an obvious lack of budget, laughable "gore" and make-up, and the thespian non-talents of a barely palatable cast of family and friends and a Z-actor. In turn, Autopsy is also sorely undermined by a noticeable lack of laughs for a black comedy. Most of the few that do occur arise from the interaction between the dimwitted Charlie and his demanding, physically handicapped girlfriend Mary (Ginny Harman), and there are a few scenes of Charlie and Jane's relationship in its making that garner a smile, but for the most part the movie leaves you with the feeling of, well, that you're truly wasting roughly 1.5 hours of your life. In the end, there simply isn't enough there to make Autopsy worth bothering. So don't.
* Notable for its baseball-bat male rape scene, which luckily (?) does not go too into detail... and calls to our mind a true story of our past, in the days when, if one was not into the bar scene, one used personal ads in newspapers or city mags to meet people instead of websites like Tinder. Here in Germany, once upon a time, we put a personal in a city mag for a woman we knew, timed so that we could give her all the collected responses as a birthday present. Dispersed between all the typically vanilla responses, there were also the typical dick picks, which of course made the rounds and instigated great mirth at the party. (Hey, guys: if you think you're dick picks don't get shared, guess again.) But amidst all the uncircumcised European wiener, there was a true show-stopping masterpiece: a picture of dark-skinned, nude and not-lacking young man with a full-sized baseball bat sticking out of his ass (thickest part in), adorned with the statement, Ist doch Kunst, wah? ("It's art, isn't it?"). Oddly enough, his envelope, complete with contents, was the only one to mysteriously disappear that night...

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