Midnight Confessions #04: Mary! Mary! (1977)

    So if you meet me
    Have some courtesy
    Have some sympathy, and some taste
    Use all your well-learned politesse
    Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

    (The Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil)

A Faustian tale about a man who unwittingly exchanges his soul for a peculiar ointment specially mixed up to cure his premature ejaculation problems in nature, Bernard Morris sole directorial effort „Mary! Mary!“ sure sounds similarly destined to rely on clever puns and mouths spouting wordy exchanges. Instead it opens up with what is more or less the Golden Age Porn equivalent to Micky Dolenz‘ famed leap of faith in Bob Rafelson’s late blooming classic of New Hollywood psychedelia „Head“ (1968) – an extended underwater ballet featuring elusive fan favorite Constance Money. Seeing this film today, clued-in on her by now uniquely spotless reputation as something of a goddess of only the highest class smut, one can only feel irritated by Morris‘ choice to exclude her face from his cadrage while title and credit go by without a second glance at titular character and actress alike – mind you, not by mercilessly chopping it off by force of the mighty paper cutter that is framing, but rather through simply keeping her head above water level at all times. Money, who was at the height of her short but prestigious career following Radley Metzger’s immensely revered „The Opening of Misty Beethoven“ (1976) – perhaps the only American porno film considered high art by just about everybody – must simply seem exempt from the credits sequence to all except those who thoroughly studied each and every nook and cranny of her body in a laborious declaration of love.

Instead her body is declared the main attraction in a veritable play of shapes and forms that excludes all hints of facial features even during an underwater somersault by setting up the camera low enough to let gravity work her own miracles. Rushing down Money’s eyes are already turned away from us when her backside finds itself vertically strectched in front of ours – soon the force of action ceases and where there was once a complete lower body to be admired only a naturally set up shot of Money’s vagina is left. Only now, in an all to insignificant twist the person inhibiting the eagerly caressed frame is exposed for the first time on screen: Mary is actually fooling around with Ned (John Leslie) in their pool. Back below the surface they continue their little dance with his face now apolaustically stuck between his mop of dark black hair and her red pubes. Morris‘ ideas on how to separate the individual from its host body constantly evolve, never cease to move along. Little heads turn into overproportationate bodies over just a little diving trip and the magic that is refraction. „Mary! Mary!“ understands water as a barrier disconnecting us from the limitations above, be they physical or intellectual in nature. Well, almost, as Ned quickly and quite nonchalantly discharges in what would have likely been his pants hadn’t he submerged himself in the nude. There is a problem blocking Morris‘ cult of the body and it is quickly solved by an invocation of the gods, who in the form of the aforementioned cure do not only make go of all premature problems but also provide a MacGuffin gobbling up all narrational concerns on the audience’s side.

„Mary! Mary!“ might have been sold as a funny comedy film grounded in characters and their respective stories, but is actually as far removed from this as physically possible. Perhaps the most enthusiastic celebration of entangled bodies the Golden Age can offer up and yet nowhere close to a dull humping revue. On the contrary, there is an intricate methodic linking all seemingly isolated encounters: Imagine the screen as a simple Cartesian coordinate system. And now visualize interacting genitals arranged around the middle of this grid. This is more or less how most of the action in Morris‘ film plays out – tongues gliding over vaginas, a dick pushing deep into the stomach, the corresponding faces at the outmost edges of the composition or not visible at all. As the director favors music over enthusiastic aural responses as well, he ultimately deprives the people behind the bodies of their emotional responses, leaving only natural bodily reactions discernible. A notable exception to the former mathematical rule drives the latter impression home. While trying on their new dresses Mary seduces the lesbian designer first and her gay assistant (?) second. No intercourse is presented for a remarkably long time, just gentle touches and variations of reaffirming phrases like „You’re so sweet.“, „So soft.“, „Like velvet.“ intercut with Ned talking boisterously about upcoming exploits during a car ride. Then the scene suddenly turns into the most nonchalant rape you’ll ever witness. „Put it in my little asshole!“, demands the insatiable predatress from her male victim – a scene still highly offensive in recent times for its insistence on not just reversing and bending the traditional gender roles but putting a laughable homosexual caricature through an assault played straight. It’s no use – the body performs his basic duties even when the head effeminately protests.

Gender, even gender identities are fluid, of no significance. In „Mary! Mary!“ everybody fucks everybody, not because they desperately want to, but because their bodies say so, dictate lifes made up of sex alone. Mentioning your true preferences is to no avail, a couple of balls in your visually separated mouth will shut you up and leave various legs, butt cheeks, backs and stomachs to party hard. Another key scene has Mary and Ned suggestively feasting on rather large pieces of meat; cut up animal carcasses in essence – an often avoided realization that is of particular importance here as they begin to rub them all over their own torsos. Prominent hand and arms partially obscure faces with cutlets, pour a glass of red red wine on Money’s face for a decidedly fake but nonetheless undeterminably unpleasant blood effect. What ensues could be presented as the very defination of „animalistic lovemaking“ in any dictionary broad enough to include such a flowery turn of phrase. For a sophisticated romp in the mold of Radley Metzger’s similarly witty dialogue pieces this is a confusingly tribalistic affair. Like some sort of modern movie shaman Bernard Morris picks up on and instigates primitive urges with unrivaled precision. He is an authorial master of ceremonies akin to the blurred out by the sun instigator of cures and doom dancing around in many an ostensibly unrelated interlude. Sex is a voodoo trap that voids all rational thought, even erases the latter’s origin entirely. Goal reached, the camera starts humping up and down alongside Constance’s shaking backside, feverishly creating more motion than immediately evident. This is what’s really on that coordinate system – a profound sense of interacting movement. Grinding hips nullifiying intellectual objections, the differings intensity of oscillations over and under water, later an egregious car chase that puts entangled extremities on a set of wheels, motion in an altogether different motion system. All in playful, borderline experimental fashion.

At last, the almost obligatory final orgy scene combines all of these divergent impressions for answers and a new set of questions. A decidedly Ciprianiesque combo provides an overlay to small talk even before bongos begin to slowly herd couples together. Discussing voices are gradually melted into one inaudible stream by a blooming percussion solo, Tyler Reynolds, who provides apparently outrageously funny party chatter to a girl, is reduced to fragments of audible quipping amidst bodies successively shutting off all blood flow to the mind. Conversely the coupling of carnivorous imagery and sex rushes to prominence once more. Some ground meat arranged in form of the male appendix is served, the carnal cathedral to unhinged disciples. Almost cannibalistic delight wets collective lips before the dish even smudges them. During this feeding the music reaches an interlude, trumpets blaring, skin shaking, hands, gazes, an atonal, shimmering organ, increasing drum rage. A religious chant, a black mess. Sex as an act of devouring and being devoured. His only feature film paints Bernard Morris as a man devoid of what self-proclaimed realists would likely call delusions. But „Mary! Mary!“ ventures out even more than they ever could, right into circles, circles of indulgence, the upper hell of Dante’s „Divina Commedia“. This truly is the divine comedy of porn, its humor, the exhilarating tableaus, they are a ruse, temptation employed to mask the director’s profound pessimism until it is too late. Accordingly the arranger and wish granter that periodically reappeared ever since Ned’s invocation of the gods is finally revealed to be the master of ceremonies present at this very party. Dancing around the entangled bodies with an unmistakable air of grace, he collects each and every participant while green tinted negative shots encompass their features in orgasm. Souls being claimed, sheep herded towards one final dance of doom outside. Faces only halted for eximination in death.

Sounds remotely familiar? Sure! A certain cineaste favorite by the Swedish master of self as well as world doubt, Ingmar Bergman, ended just like this. You can’t hide from a mercilessly stalking incarnation of death, neither through engaging in a metaphysical chess match nor cosiderably more earthly activities. In this „Mary! Mary!“ is among the few truly unearthly Golden Age films, a strange oddity ripe for rediscovery through even cinephile circles a bit too timid for the more hands down fare. Go for it – it’s a ton of fun, even if you’ll have to go straight to hell afterwards.

    Det sjunde inseglet (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)

Mary! Mary! – USA 1977 – 79 minutes – Direction: Bernard Morris – Production: Bernard Morris – Screenplay: Bernard Morris – Cinematography: Henning Schellerup (as „Hans Christian“) – Editing: Basil Breach – Music: B.F. Sharp, Bernard Hermann (excerpts from „The Twilight Zone“) – Cast: Constance Money, John Leslie, Sharon Thorpe, Sandy Pinney (as „Sandi Reagan“), Angela Haze and many more

Dieser Beitrag wurde am Dienstag, November 19th, 2019 in den Kategorien Ältere Texte, André Malberg, Blog, Blogautoren, English, Essays, Filmbesprechungen, Midnight Confessions, other languages veröffentlicht. Sie können alle Kommentare zu diesem Beitrag über den RSS 2.0 Feed verfolgen. Sie können diesen Beitrag kommentieren, oder einen Trackback von ihrer eigenen Seite setzen.

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