PRIVATE PARTS (1972) Reviews and overview

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‘Cheryl is a lovely girl… But to George, she’s a living doll.’

Private Parts is a 1972 American black comedy horror film directed by Paul Bartel (Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills;Eating Raoul; Death Race 2000) – making his feature debut – from a screenplay by Philip Kearney and Les Rendelstein. Produced by Gene Corman, Roger’s brother.

The movie stars Ayn Ruymen, Lucille Benson, John Ventantonio, Laurie Main, Stanley Livingston, Charles Woolf, Ann Gibbs, Len Travis and Dorothy Neumann.


When Cheryl and her roommate quarrel, Cheryl moves into her aunt’s skid-row hotel in downtown L.A. rather than return home to Ohio.

The lodgers are strange, Aunt Martha is a moraliser obsessed with funerals, murder is afoot, and the inexperienced and trusting Cheryl may be the next victim. She wants to be treated like a woman, and she’s drawn to George, a handsome photographer who longs for human contact but sleeps with a water-inflated doll and spies on Cheryl as she bathes.

Jeff, a neighbourhood clerk, could be Cheryl’s only ally in what she doesn’t realise is a perilous residence haunted by family secrets. And, what happened to Alice, a model who used to have Cheryl’s room?

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“Bartel is in top form throughout, and his movie is a visual treat, full of audaciously creative images and rich location shooting in seedy downtown 1972 Los Angeles. His actors are expressive and interesting, with great movie faces […] Bartel sustains both the humor and horror throughout, and the lean 87-minute running time contains no padding and no fluff.” Decapitated Zombie Vampire Bloodbath

” …the picture does boast a generally disquieting atmosphere. The main location is suitably decrepit, and composer Hugo Friedhofter does a bang-up job of mimicking the wall-to-wall orchestral textures that Bernard Hermann regularly supplied to Hitchcock. As for the movie’s performances, they’re mostly beside the point, since the actors are cast to type…” Every ’70s Movie

” …more along the lines of “weirdly fascinating” rather than “repellent”. I think what makes it work is that it gradually works up to some of its more outrageous revelations; the movie has a bizarre surprise around every corner […] will probably best appeal to those with a taste for the twisted.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Interestingly, Private Parts is the only horror film that Bartel directed. Although I would argue that his comedies are superior films, he clearly knew what he was doing here. This is one genuinely unsettling horror picture. Much like the early works of John Waters, however, Private Parts is a film that I quite respect by a director that I greatly admire, but one that I find hard to revisit.” KL5-Film

” …for the most part, the movie is an excellent exercise in moody lighting, suggestive score, strange visuals and eccentric plotting that hits more often than it misses, with those added layers of voyeuristic commentary to give it some intellectual flavor. And it’s been a while since we had a good disturbing dummy in a movie, it has to be said.” Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies

“Bartel has crafted a movie that’s hard to describe. It’s packed wall-to-wall with eccentric characters, he uses sound and shadows to good advantage and even the finale (and its twist that may just have gone on to inspire Sleepaway Camp) packs in a whole bunch of out-of-place attempts at dopey humour. It’s because of all this it’s engrossing viewing for about two-thirds of its running time.” The Video Graveyard

“Sure, the flick only works in fits and starts and you’ll see the Homicidal inspired ending coming from a mile away, but you’ll enjoy the great hateful dialogue like, “We’re flat busted baby, so you better shove off!” The Video Vacuum

” …in exceptionally poor taste and the tone is quintessential Bartel.” Time Out Film Guide



” …an excellent exploitation flick with some inspired, imaginative touches and a suitably run-down, creepy atmosphere. Andrew Davis’ photography helps (he later became a director of major Hollywood product).” Clive Davies, Spinegrinder: The Movies Most Critics Won’t Write About

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” …a Psycho takeoff with black comedy ingredients, yet it avoids being mere camp […] Edgy and compelling but definitely not for all tastes.” Videohound’s Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics

Private Parts is no triumph, but it does mark a giant step forward toward the […] satiric good sense that seems the fated direction of his career.” The New York Times

private parts

Cast and characters:
Ayn Ruymen … Cheryl Stratton
Lucille Benson … Aunt Martha Atwood
John Ventantonio … George Atwood
Laurie Main … Reverend Moon
Stanley Livingston … Jeff
Charles Woolf … Jeff’s Dad
Ann Gibbs … Judy Adams
Len Travis … Mike
Dorothy Neumann … Mrs Quigley
Gene Simms … First Policeman
John Lupton … Second Policeman
Patrick Strong … Artie
Paul Bartel … Man in Park

Filming locations:
King Edward Hotel – 121 E. 5th St, Los Angeles, California (hotel)
Venice Beach, Venice, Los Angeles, California

Technical details:
1 hour 27 minutes
Audio: Mono
Aspect ratio: 1.85 : 1

Fun facts:
The film’s working title was Blood Relations

TV spot:

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