I really miss the good ol' days when these films were mysterious little rarities. Now you can find them quite easily on Amazon and other online retailers. But when I began collecting, part of the thrill was discovering rarely seen shockers that few people knew anything about. Mardi Gras Massacre was one such film. In my mind, it was almost a snuff video. Not because it had realistic gore or that it had "found footage" (neither is true), but because no one knew anything about the people who made it. For 25 years, the only way it could be seen was by obtaining the original VCII VHS release (in the U.S. at least). It wasn't until the 2010s when the film finally found its place in the digital age (legitimately). Yet despite its resurgence, we still know very little about its production.
The film revolves around a well-dressed, mysterious man who solicits "evil" hookers at his local strip club. The reason? To tear their hearts out in the name of Quetzalcoatl, an ancient Aztec god. To the gorehounds out there, the plot is very similar to the granddaddy of them all, Blood Feast from 1963. Throughout the film, he successfully sacrifices three women by strapping them to a table and slicing them open. We're never told much about our Aztec fanatic, other than his first name is "John." Fitting, since all we ever see him do is pick up hookers. While on the prowl, two detectives are hot on his trail. A worthless subplot emerges when one of them has an affair with a hooker, who he slaps around. When Mardi Gras finally arrives, John has something special in store. The bartender sends three hookers to John's apartment, where they're drugged and chained to the wall of his sacrificial chamber. But before he could get his hands dirty, the party is crashed by the two detectives, who were tipped off by a gay dude in an afro. John escapes out the back, steals a cop car and drives it off a dock. When they fish it out, John is nowhere to be found. All that remains inside is his mask (which he wasn't even wearing, so how did it get there?). As it turned out, there was no massacre on Mardi Gras.
As one would expect, the film's construction is incredibly crude. Nearly the entire movie is composed of medium to long shots, with crosscutting virtually non-existent. Weis basically sat the camera on its tripod and walked away. In other words, the film was shot with the least possible effort. The score on the other hand, is mostly composed of 15 second music clips sloppily looped. One of these clips is from the Mike Theodore Orchestra song, Cosmic Wind. Despite IMDb listing the song as "uncredited," the artist actually is credited during the end credits (if you look closely). Other than the music loops, there are in fact two full songs with vocals, one during a strip dance, the other during a romantic outing between a detective and his hooker girlfriend. Like Cosmic Wind, these songs aren't specifically credited, but they're likely related to Westbound Records, the corporation who supplied the music (also credited). The film's director, Jack Weis, made a few other regional horror films at the time and basically disappeared. Although the majority of the cast had never appeared in another film (probably real prostitutes), a few of the crew members would find some work in Hollywood.
Mardi Gras Massacre is the quintessential 70s grindhouse movie. It has it all - nudity, murder, gore, strippers, hookers, affairs, corrupt cops, cultists, domestic violence... the list goes on. As a likely result, it became a video nasty in the UK when it landed the 31 spot of the DDP list in 1983, and for this its probably most famous for. Oddly enough, the film was released to the home video in the U.K. before it received its own home video release in its native land. I can't help but recommend this film. I appreciate it a lot more now than I did when I first reviewed it on YouTube (video below). Its by no means a well made movie, but it has all the elements one would expect from a sleazy grindhouse masterpiece, if you're into that sort of thing. In 2012, Code Red released the film to DVD, which includes an interview from Wiliam Metzo, the man who portrays "John." The interview is brief and offers very little insight into the movie's production. Its too bad that Jack Weis or perhaps anyone else from the crew could't be found for an interview. I still feel there are secrets waiting to be revealed about this little late 70s shocker. Since the DVD, it has been been released on Blu-ray, a revelation compared to the original VHS. Pick it up!
Note: I had to censor two of the screenshots above for including nudity :(