Saturday, July 22, 2006

Scream of the Butterfly (1965)

Cheesy, enjoyable potboiler about the murder of a slutty woman by her vapid lover, much to the consternation of her cuckolded husband; the film is told in flashback by a roomful of lawyers, making it a sort of low-rent Rashomon. The tale itself is modest sleazy fun, especially the further it goes and the kinkier it gets (there's some surprising reveals here for the time period), but I think the best parts are in the scenes without sex or violence, i.e. the current-day segments wherein the lawyers hash out what happened and whether the lover will go to jail or an asylum for it. The dialogue in these sequences is properly overripe and benefits from a willingness to not take itself seriously; this is, for instance, the only film in history in which a character is referred to as "Miss Slutsy-Wutsy." Furthermore, there's a level of craft here that elevates this above the average '60s B-trash. While I can't exactly call it visually inspired, it is crisp and confident - there's a terseness to the directorial style that fits the pacing and keeps things moving along at a nice clip. Also of note is the sound design -- director Eber Lobato, interestingly enough, beat both Altman and Cassavetes to the overlapping-dialogue punch! What this is, in essence, is a grindhouse-circuit film that, unlike much of its take-the-money-and-run brethren, aspires to be a real movie. Funny how that can make a difference.

Grade: B-


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