Monday, February 1, 2010

Death Game (Peter S. Traynor, 1977)

Only the most ardent of perverts and masochists will be able to endure the screeching spectacle that is Death Game (a.k.a. Tödliche Spiele), a spirited home invasion movie (with a slight twist) that was made right smack-dab in the middle of the 1970s. (My definition of "smack-dab" is a tad on the wonky side.) Anyway, being neither a pervert nor a masochist, I had to approach the film utilizing my unique brand of resourcefulness. It wasn't easy, but I was pretty darn effective when it came to extracting the necessary nourishment to render my impromptu screening of this half-crazed masterwork an unambiguous success. Grabbing you instantly with the insanely catchy dementia of "Good Old Dad" by The Ron Hicklin Singers (a nursery rhyme-tinged ditty that is accompanied by pictures of crude children's drawings), director Peter S. Traynor points his inelegant camera at what he wants to visually take possession of, and proceeds to accidentally create one sexy mess of a motion picture. On a rainy night, two aantreklik ladies, Jackson (Sondra Locke) and Donna (Colleen Camp), show up at the door of George Danning (Seymour Cassel), a happily married Bay Area resident. Looking for the location of a killer party, the wet and bewildered women ask if they can come in to use his telephone. And so begins a nightmare of epic proportions, one that will... Wait a second, how is this nightmare? I mean, when are Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp gonna knock at my door?

Sure, some of the bondage play they have in store for me might look a little dodgy on paper, and violently tossing my cat out a window would be totally uncool. But the extended threesome that takes place in my non-existent hot tub more than made up for any chafing my ankles and wrists may have weathered during this so-called "nightmare."

Seriously, call me a debased fiend with not enough time on his or her hands, but the scenario this film repeatedly paints sounds more like a delightful fantasy, than it does a perilous date with malice. His whole "boo-hoo, I wish these attractive women would stop trying to fuck me" act was annoying. What a tool.

There's no doubt in my mind that this film was initially conceived as a cautionary tale against the dangers of letting rain soaked hippies–even alluring ones with slender legs and ample breasts–fiddle with your expensive stereo system. And while I agree that inviting flower children you don't know into your home is the kind of action that could be fraught with lurking complications, you should really apply it to everyone, not just pushy hippies with ashen thighs.

I don't why I keep calling them "hippies," the gals in this flick, while displaying many characteristics of your average hippie (playful table manners, unafraid to be naked, prone to swaying), have more in common with the burgeoning punk movement. Okay, that's not accurate, either. Let's just say they fall somewhere between free love and anarchy. Hippie punks.

Of course, I've chosen to ignore all the high-principled nonsense that Death Game tries to espouse (family good, chaos bad), and have decided to celebrate the film for what it really is: a shameless piece of trash cinema.
Erotic in an unconventional manner, the film is man torture at its finest. The equivalent to watching shrill harpies on the warpath in their unnatural habitat, the way Jackson and Donna childishly go about destroying George's grotesque den of materialism and greed was an act of pure subversion.

Similar to wasteful conduct the Czechoslovak gals display in Daisies, these squawking she-beasts will not stand idly by while some mustache-sporting, croquet-playing jackass takes advantage of their lively vaginas. When you ejaculate on/in/near someone, you owe them at least a slice of toast and a comically large bowl of Boo Berry.

The epitome of female beauty under duress, Sondra Locke is unbalanced flawlessness as Agatha Jackson, the more aggressive member of the off-kilter duo (though Miss Camp does have her moments). A deranged lunatic masquerading as my ideal life partner, Sondra is sexy, frightening, radiant, and cruel all at once. The way she subtly built up "the crazy" was an exquisite example of how to properly construct a character who is clearly not playing with all the contents that constitute your standard deck of cards.

I think the exact moment I fell lunch pail over sock garters for Sondra's Ms. Jackson was when she started to apply makeup to her face in a highly unorthodox manner.

Whether lustfully lounging with her legs akimbo or lustfully eyeballing Colleen's full-bosomed curviness, Sondra makes savagery look bewitching.

The first time I ever saw Sondra's luminous visage was via the glowing television in the room of a Motel 6 in the Orlando, Florida area back in the 1980s. Lying face down on the floor and suffering from a severe sunburn, I distinctly recall looking up occasionally and seeing Sondra Locke prancing about in some movie about an impotent vigilante with a large revolver and a freakishly small collection of Aretha Franklin record albums.

I realize there's no way of proving this from a scientific point-of-view, but I like to think that it was Sondra's ornate loveliness that put me on the road to recovery. How else can you explain the fact that I was frolicking with the pronounced vigour of a recently shaved Albanian by the time we got to St. Augustine? You can't. So thanks, Sondra Locke. Thank you for being my healing angel in my time need.


  1. One of the great pleasant surprises of the last couple years. Death Game took me totally by sneak attack and has held me enthralled ever since.Nice work.

  2. "man torture at its finest"
    Sums things up completely and perfectly. Sondra Locke totally made this work for me. And God, those eyebrows gone wild...psyche personified.

  3. This sounds so brilliant, I'm ashamed I've never heard of it before. Great write-up, too!

  4. @The Goodkind: Thanks.

    @Scandy Tangerine Man: I was gonna go with something like, "an emasculation sensation." But I figured "man torture at its finest" was a little more straightforward.

    @The Vicar of VHS: Thanks, T-VOV. Don't be ashamed. I first became aware of Death Game while tooling around on Flickr of all places. Anyway, I knew I had to see it the moment I saw a picture of Sondra Locke looking all unhinged and junk; it was like love at first sight.

  5. nice picture and completely brilliant death game rent in singapore nicely done film.

  6. Colleen Camp is the sexier and prettier of the two.I wish we'd seen more of her legs and feet!If only Cassel had been a little nicer,and humoured them in the morning,he might have been able to get rid of them and have them stay gone.

  7. Colleen Camp was the prettier and also the sexier of the two.I'd wish we'd seem more of her legs and feet.Too bad she's gotten so fat in the last 40 years.