Saturday, February 11, 2012

Crawlspace (1986)

"You've got to have a sense of humor, it makes life much easier if you can laugh." - Dr. Karl Gunther.

Well, he's no Patch Adams, but Klaus Kinski's Dr. Gunther does have some crazy ideas. Gunter runs an apartment building exclusively for women, equipped by the good doctor (and coincidentally son of a Nazi) with secret air-duct passageways, hidden torture rooms, and booby-trap-style murder devices. In the opening scene it is revealed that Gunther has a woman held hostage in a cage. Her tongue has been removed and she resembles a Holocaust victim.

Much of the movie consists of Kinski hiding in the air-ducts and spying on his tenants. One of the early scenes that cracked me up involved Kinski spying on a young aspiring singer as she cuts holes in her bra. The music builds ominously as a man enters the room, presumably without her knowledge, and forces her onto the bed. Kinski just watches as what looks like a rape is about to occur, and then the musical changes to a sexier theme and it's revealed not to be a rape at all, but merely complicated, intesne foreplay.

Kinski's character keeps a journal of his exploits, which is somewhat fortunate for Josef Steiner, a man who is investigating Dr. Gunther over the wrongful death of Steiner's brother, and several others. Will Steiner be able to stop the evil Dr. Gunther? Well, no, but he does have one of the best death scenes. Dr. Gunther ritualistically plays Russian Roulette every night to determine if his psychopathic destruction will continue, and thus far, he's undefeated. Every time he survives he punctuates it with the refrain, "so be it."

So how is it? Overall, I liked it a lot. At only 80 minutes long, it's efficient and effective. The last 20 minutes is especially good, escalating the tension with shock after shock (and swastika after swastika). By the time we reach the point where Klaus Kinski is gliding through the air-ducts on a trolley, full insanity has set in.

"Crawlspace" is directed by David Schmoeller, who also made the underrated "Tourist Trap." One last stray observation: Talia Balsam, who is the main victim (I guess that how you could describe her) in "Crawlspace" kind of reminded me of a female version of Jarvis Cocker for some reason, I think perhaps the hair or teeth?


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