RUBY Directed By Curtis Harrington, Starring Piper Laurie (USA, 1977)
Reviewed By Michael Hauss
Some films I have avoided for years after their initial viewings because of the critical or personal issues I may have had with the film. So when Erok Hellhammer (aka Crankenstein) suggested this film for reviewing purposes I was less than enthused, but decided to do so because maybe the years in passing have tilted my negativity of this one a bit in a more positive direction. Holy Fuck was I wrong! This on a whole may have actually gotten worse if that's possible. The film begins in Florida 1935 and involves the gangland style execution of a man named Nicky at a lake at night, the woman he is with Ruby (Piper Laurie), seeing her man shot down in cold blood, she falls to the ground clutching her stomach, her daughter Leslie (Janit Baldwin) was born that night. We flash forward to 1951 and are introduced to a mature Ruby who runs a legitimate business and one by one the old gang members return because she found jobs for them. You see, Ruby was involved with the Dade County gang and it was some of the men she employed who were the ones that killed Nicky, under orders of the gang leader Jake. The old gangsters are being killed off by an unseen force and Vince, one of the old crooks, sends a letter to a doctor he met while in prison. Dr. Keller (Roger Davis) arrives to try and help figure out what's been going on around there. Ruby's daughter Leslie (Janit Baldwin of BORN INNOCENT and PRIME CUT fame) is a mute who seems a bit touched in the head at times, for Christ sakes she bites the doctors hand after meeting him. It seems that Nicky has returned for some reason and uses Leslie to try and get to his beloved Ruby, who he felt set him up the night he was killed. The doctor tries to help save what's left of the gang before Nicky kills them all.
|Go away Carrie, I wasn't masturbating|
Now let's talk about the issues this movie has and why it's such a lousy flick. The drive-in that Ruby owns that must have been the grounds of a ritzy club way back when is playing the film ATTACK OF THE 50ft WOMAN which was released in 1958, with our film currently residing in 1951. The Doctor Keller figure is not a medical doctor but a parapsychologist, which makes him a paranormal investigator, as Vince says "the guys in the pen used to say you could talk to the spirits," not sure how many prisons in the 1930's employed a parapsychologist and he states that he's another kind of doctor also, I might have been dozing off. Piper Laurie as Ruby Claire, who had a chance to be a star as a singer and an actress, but lost her Hollywood contract through her association with Jake and his gang.
|you'll need an Allison Hayes sized extra large coffee to endure this snoozer|
Laurie is so over-dramatic in the part, she reminded me of some of the lampooned characters performed by Carol Burnett on her show, where she had skits about old actresses and their over dramatic turns. Laurie is awful and grating in the part, the gun moll tough stuff is hard to get and her either drunken or crazy moments are humorous. One other note is when Vince describes Leslie early in the film as as a quiet girl, when in the movie she's a mute who had never said a word. The film was made to cash in on the hit movie CARRIE (which also starred Laurie) from the previous year and even a bit of the EXORCIST is thrown in when Leslie becomes possessed by her father Nicky and speaks in a deep manly voice, another influence is SUNSET BOULEVARD and the aged star, not coming to grips with her current situation out of the limelight.
|They modeled those 80's Glo Worm's after my likeness|
The film does have a few worthy moments and when they show Nicky who has returned from the grave, not aged but with the bullet holes and blood still fresh on his face is frighteningly eerie, a returned embodied Nicky instead of as a spirit would have helped this film considerably. The direction of the film is fine, but it's handled in soft focus, that becomes annoying after awhile and takes away from the scares. Stuart Whitman is around as Vince and does a decent job, he's the only really sympathetic character out of the lot. The killings are decent but two impaled deaths are a bit much, but they are done well. The death of Jake with a knife planted in his chest and his wheelchair rolling about is a great realized death scene. The drive-in should have been explored a bit more than it was, but still what's filmed there is very cool, including the first kill of the film inside of the protectionist booth with a death by hanging loops of film. The film took me two successive nights for me to get through and is very boring at times, with that soft, soft focus, kept making me want to wash my glasses off, like they were smudged.
|Well . . . David Letterman, do you like this fucking coffee or not?|
The film was directed by Curtis Harrington best known for his exploitation films WHAT THE MATTER WITH HELEN (1971, USA) and WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO (1972, USA). Take it from me, your life's too short to suffer through this. Uncle Leo from the SEINFELD show is there as one of the gangsters, but has precious little screen time, but does end up dead in an odd place.
One last note, Fred Kohler Jr., who's appeared in many b-movies during his long career is along as Jake, who's confined to a wheelchair and does not speak, just sits with hands trembling until his stylish demise. (Editors notes, I've fallen asleep countless times trying to watch this flick and during a Fandor trial patted myself on the back after making it through dozing off half way thru not withstanding, extra special thanks to Mike for suffering through this for us all).
NOT ENOUGH COFFEE ON THE PLANET TO KEEP YOU AWAKE, RECOMMENDED USE FOR SEVERE INSOMNIACS ONLY!
|I told you not to eat those Castleberry pit beef drive-in sandwiches Uncle Leo!|
|Orson this is Mearth calling, I'm trapped in that egg again.|