Saturday, 2 February 2013
Mongrel (1982) Robert A Burns
I feel sorry for anyone who rented the Paragon tape of this back in the day, invited by its snarling Cerberus that appears in no way, shape nor film during the actual film. And I feel sorry too for those closer to now who noted written/directed by Robert A Burns and thought it might reflect something of his genius for art direction as seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or, erm... Don't Go Near The Park), or his acting prowess of Confessions of a Serial Killer. Alas, cry nay!, the most distinctive furnishing of the boardinghouse on which Mongrel focuses is a Deep Throat pinball machine, and the acting is just competent. In fact the only people liable not to be disappointed by this are those already steeled by the drudging disappointment of what seem to be the majority of reviews out there. Having read up before hand I expected nothing and hence was actually somewhat pleasantly surprised. For most of the runtime a slow, meagre thing, it nonetheless manages a certain dull, vacant watchability. Of the two key events that drive the plotting one occurs after the twenty minute mark and the other after the thirty, with little in the way of exploration of either character or location beforehand to make the wait especially worthwhile. Yet there's some tension to the set-up, nice guy Ken arrives at a boardinghouse of stereotypical boardinghouse tenants (oddballs, ass-holes, good guy, nervous guy, nice girl and hippy lady), and immediately grates, while there are no substantial sign-posts to indicate where the story is heading. Things are slow even when the story does get moving, some ten minutes odd could have been shaved to good effect on the films interest level. But things never quite drop from dull into boring, and when the film really breaks a sweat in the final twenty minutes or so it's agreeably offbeat stuff, mildly intense, a little unsettling, a satisfying capper. No gore to speak of and only a bit of blood, it still works quite well. X-Files fans may be amused to note that Mitch "Skinner" Pileggi makes his debut here as the ass hole of the film (and is effectively repellent) and classic film fans may chuckle at a boisterous cameo from Aldo Ray, who presumably palled up with Burns while appearing in the aforementioned Don't Go Near The Park. No one else really stands out, though no one is too notably bad. Altogether there aren't many likely to have much time for this, it's really just a film for obscurity fiends. But with an interesting atmosphere and decent finale its about worth the effort, so reasonable kudos from me.