Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Oracle (Roberta Findlay, 1985)

Her arms--sheathed, no doubt, in sleeves that are puffy in nature--always hang stiffly at her side, especially when she investigates strange noises in her apartment. And her tongue has a peculiar habit of periodically protruding from her mouth whenever she finds herself wearing a saucy beret in the vicinity of The Magickal Childe. Who am I describing, you ask? Why, I'm talking about Caroline Capers Powers, a woman who winds up on the fast-track to becoming an oracle in Roberta Findlay's spine-tingling The Oracle. (Are you sure the reason your spine felt tingly didn't have something to do with fact you watched the film without a shirt on an itch-inducing couch?) Ha, ha. Very funny. No, I'm sure the only plausible explanation for my lumbar-based predicament is the frightful temperament of this supernatural masterwork. Exact causes relating to backbone distress, notwithstanding, I have to say, Caroline Capers Powers is a pretty cool name for a character. What's that? You say the name of the character at the centre of The Oracle is actually Jennifer, and that Caroline Capers Powers is the name of the actress. (If that's the case, why did you imply that Caroline Capers Powers was the character's name?) Oh, I don't know, I just kind of wish it was. Either way, that doesn't diminish the fact that Caroline Capers Powers gives a breathtaking performance as a suddenly clairvoyant fashion icon. (First of all, "breathtaking"? You're aware that this film is listed as Caroline Capers Powers' lone screen credit to date? And secondly, "fashion icon"? She dresses like a matronly schoolmarm; one who looks like she just fled a sparsely attended square dance being held on the outskirts of a poorly run polygamist compound.) You sniveling little weasel. How dare you talk about Caroline Capers Powers that way. Why, I ought a pound you. (Calm down, buddy.) Okay, I'm sorry. Let me gather my thoughts and come back at a latter date to make a staunch defense of my new favourite actress. How's the next paragraph sound? (Perfect.)

Since when does an actor have to appear in dozens of movies in order to be called "breathtaking"? (Yeah, but, if she's so "breathtaking," as you claim, why didn't she appear in any other movies?) Again, genius doesn't work that way. And besides, maybe Caroline Capers Powers felt that she had hit the peak of her acting game with her breathtaking turn in The Oracle and decided to go out on top. (Actually, that's a pretty sensible theory.)

The real reason I got so upset was because you had the unmitigated gall to call Caroline Capers Powers' wardrobe square. You cellar-dwelling reprobates and your unhealthy obsession with cleavage, when will you ever learn that's there more to sexiness than fissure-exposing low-cut garments? Not one to follow the trends, Caroline Capers Powers dances to a different beat when it comes to fashion.

Filled with frilly collars, stuffed with puffy sleeves, not bereft of berets and chock-full of chokers, Caroline Capers Powers' closet is the closest thing to perfection. What I mean is, her closet is the envy of the world. (Did you happen to see the red overalls she wears in her first scene? I don't envy them at all.)Yeah, but, to be fair, though, those were her, "I'm doing laundry in the basement" overalls.

Looking for the laundry room in the new building she and her reporter husband have just moved into, Jennifer (Caroline Capers Powers) stumbles upon some boxes containing the belongings of a fortune teller/oracle who, according to the building's superintendent, Mr. Pappas (Chris Maria De Koron), disappeared recently.

Taken with a mysterious box she finds in a trunk, Mr. Pappas informs Jennifer that it let's you speak to the dead. Since it's the Christmas season, Mr. Pappas generously allows Jennifer to keep the box. And so begins Jennifer's ardous relationship with the planchette. (A plan what?) A planchette. It writes notes written by ghosts and demons. (How does it work exactly?) Well, let's see... No, wait, Jennifer will give us a demonstration in a minute.

In the meantime, we're introduced to a fascinating character named Farkas (Pam La Testa), a woman who is currently scouring 42nd Street in search of low cost poontang. A three hundred pound lesbian assassin with severe mental problems, Farkas looks like she just wandered off the set of an early John Waters movie. Channeling the likes of Divine, Nancy Parsons, with a little Joe Spinell thrown in there for good measure, Pam La Testa is the gift that keeps on giving, as her bizarre performance is just what this movie needed.

Picking up prostitute named Tammy (Alexandria Blade), a Marlene Willoughby-esque vision of loveliness in shiny, black thigh-high boots, Farkas takes her to a cheap motel and proceeds to stab her repeatedly with her trusty switchblade. As you might expect, the mess she leaves behind is quite grisly (the bed and the walls are covered in blood).

If you're wondering why Farkas' voice sounds strange throughout the film, it's because Roberta Findlay, who thought Pam La Testa's real voice was too girly(!), decided to change its pitch to a much lower octave during post-production. You really get a sense of how odd her altered voice is she's talking on a payphone at a diner. In an ironic twist, the Pam La Testa's new voice has a distinct Baltimore flavour to it (all of John Waters' films take place in Baltimore).

This is Joan Leonard, she plays the diner waitress. She wears pink lipstick and chews her gum in a nonchalant manner.

You know how I mentioned earlier that Caroline Capers Powers is a bit of a fashion inspiration? Well, while Farkas was out killing hookers and the diner waitress was out chewing gum in a nonchalant manner, C.C.P.'s Jennifer was debuting the first of her many awesome shirts.

The shirt she wears on Christmas Eve--her husband, Ray (Roger Neil), have invited their friends, Cindy (Stacey Graves) and Ben (G. Gordon Cronce) for dinner--is my favourite, as it combines all the attributes that make her shirts the must-have items of the season. This particular one is not only frilly, it has puffy sleeves as well. And get this, she's wearing a choker with it, too. (Wow, I guess you call her shirt a triple threat.) You got that right, voice in my head. If you had hands, I'd give you a high-five.

(Not to rain on your shirt admiration parade, but didn't you find the fact that Ray and Ben had the exact same mustache to be somewhat distracting?) Now that you mention it, I did find it somewhat distracting. Here I am, trying to drink in the majestic splendour of Jennifer's shirt, and along come these two mustachioed prats doing their darndest to kill my shirt buzz. Assholes.

(Since your shirt buzz is already starting to wane, I should inform you that Mr. Pappas and a soon to be introduced male character all have mustaches as well.) What the...

Dying to show Ray, Ben and Cindy her new toy, Jennifer breaks outs the planchette. A box containing a pad of paper, a creepy bluish hand and quill (which you attach to the creepy bluish hand), Jennifer invites them to partake in a demonstration. This, however, doesn't go as well as she had planned, as Ray, Ben and Cindy act like a bunch of goofballs. I don't know if Ben knows this or not, but he ain't getting any tonight because of his goofy behaviour. (You mean no Christmas Eve pussy?) Nope.

It's too bad the planchette store is probably closed on Christmas, as I would have suggested that Ben try to make it up to Jennifer by buying some paper for her planchette.

(Why would the planchette need paper, she just got it?) Well, first of all, you can never have too much planchette paper. And secondly, the planchette is going to be writing up a storm over the holidays.

Getting written messages from a dead man named William Graham, Jennifer learns the truth regarding how he really died. Contacting his widow, Jennifer slowly but surely pieces together what really happened the night he died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his car. Guess who's front and centre in one of Jennifer's visions? Yep, it's Farkas. Except, Jennifer thinks she's a man.

In order to speed things up, the planchette causes weird shit to occur. (What kind of weird shit?) Well, let me tell you. Despite its length, the scene where Jennifer is blown around her apartment is my favourite of these occurrences. Mainly because Jennifer wears a check shirt with puffy sleeves (dig the red belt, girlfriend). And, to a lesser extent, because we get out first real taste of Caroline Capers Powers' powerful shriek. Now, those with sensitive ears might be put off by Caroline's unique manner of screaming, so be careful when watching The Oracle. I, other other hand, got used it after awhile.

Remember when I said that Tammy the prostitute sort of looked like Marlene Willoughby? Well, Marlene makes a bit of a cameo in The Oracle when we see a brief clip of A Woman's Torment playing on the television Jennifer is watching in bed.

You know the film is about to get good when Jennifer dons her sauciest beret and heads down to The Magickal Childe for some free advice. If you didn't think Caroline Capers Powers' performance was interesting enough already, she starts doing this strange thing with her tongue. Wasn't there someone, like, Roberta Findlay, to tell her not to do that? Actually, what am I saying? I'm glad she sticks her tongue, once outside the magic shop, and once inside the magic shop, as it does nothing but elevate the cult status of her performance.

Who wants to watch a film that features a female protagonist whose scream doesn't hurt your ears, who wears shirts with sleeves that are not even close to being puffy, and never sticks their tongue out like a lizard who is tasting the air and the temperature of their environment? (Oh, you're asking me? No, I don't want to watch that film.)

As expected, the deeper Jennifer gets involved, the more her life is danger.  However, Jennifer is a lot harder to kill than you would think. Don't believe me, just ask Farkas; Jennifer goes all Eating Raoul on her chunky ass during their confrontation in her kitchen.

Boasting an eerie atmosphere, authentic New York City locations, a memorable villain, effective gore, great shirts, and an unorthodox female lead, The Oracle, despite the abundance of mustachioed men, is low budget horror done right. In fact, I'd be comfortable putting this film alongside the work of Tim Kincaid. I know, you're thinking to yourself: Is it that good? You better believe it is.


  1. Ooooooo! This looks nummy. She's gorgeous and I'm totally down with her clothes, too. Especially the berets and that hot Mid-Atlantic pre-Civil War era red dress with matching period accurate choker. I think she's using her tongue to pick up majickal vibrations in the winter air. Should track this down.

    1. "Period Accurate Choker" is one of my fave Skinny Puppy B-sides. ;)

      Her wardrobe doesn't scream 1985 at all.

  2. The way Caroline's lying in bed with the moustachioed guy bears an uncanny resemblance to the pose of a slain hooker from the poster for Fulci's the New York Ripper.

    1. I was going to say, maybe you've been watching too many horror movies. But then I looked at her lounging technique again. And my god, you're right, it is uncanny. Her body language practically oozes slain hooker from the New York Ripper poster..

  3. You only gave us ONE picture of Farkas?!

    1. I clear oversight on my part. In my defense, however, the one I did give you has her dressed as a maid.