Private Parts – USA, 1972 – reviews

private parts poster

‘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 (Eating Raoul; Death Race 2000) as his feature film debut from a screenplay by Philip Kearney and Les Rendelstein. The movie stars Ayn Ruymen, Lucille Benson, and John Ventantonio and was produced by Gene Corman, Roger’s brother.

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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]:

” …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

“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!” Mitch Lovell, The Video Vacuum

“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

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

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“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.” Dave Enkosky, KL5-Film

” …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.” Roger Greenspan, The New York Times

Cast and characters:

  • Ayn Ruymen as Cheryl Stratton
  • Lucille Benson as Aunt Martha Atwood
  • John Ventantonio as George Atwood
  • Laurie Main as Reverend Moon
  • Stanley Livingston as Jeff
  • Charles Woolf as Jeff’s dad
  • Ann Gibbs as Judy
  • Len Travis as Mike
  • Dorothy Neumann as Mrs. Quigley
  • Gene Simms as First policeman
  • John Lupton as Second policeman
  • Patrick Strong as Artie
  • Paul Bartel as Drunk that lives in the hotel [uncredited]

Filming locations:

King Edwards Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, California, USA

Trivia:

The film’s working title was Blood Relations

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