wicked_wicked_2Year: 1973
Director: Richard L. Bare
Writer(s): Richard L. Bare
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.65:1
Rating: PG
35mm, Color, 95 mins

Synopsis: A tongue-in-cheek psycho movie about a killer who preys on women at a hotel. (Source)

WTF Cinema is a column that dares to bring you the weird, the bizarre, the WTF. These are the kinds of films that’ll challenge the limits of sanity, or offer a taste of the unforgettably strange.

Released in the same year as Brian de Palma’s Sisters, the lesser-known Wicked, Wicked would take the former’s split-screen bravado to new levels of paranoia. A gimmick film which almost exclusively exhibits two side-by-side perspectives for the duration of its runtime, the results are a horror film with disco flowing through its veins, touches of Hitchcock-blonde fetishism and a cat-and-mouse plot brimming with eccentric defiance.

The story has to do with a Californian hotel called the Grandview, in which blonde visitors who check in, don’t check out. Filmed at the famous Coronado Hotel in San Diego, CA, the film has a very unique setting for a story of this nature – more in line with the Italian Horror films of the era and far removed from the slashers which would populate the next decade. Easily the best element in the Grandview however, is its quirky in-house detective, played by a very hairy chested David Bailey. The odd duck character fits in alongside the film’s insane death sequences, some of which are scored to disco music, and carry a campy tone which blends comedy and suspense.

wicked_wicked_1Ever since its theatrical release, the film has presented an interesting problem for the home video market, which would help lead to its fade into obscurity. Released theatrically in “Duo-Vision”, the film was originally presented with a wide 2.65:1 aspect ratio featuring two simultaneous viewpoints on screen, including a stereo audio track which separated sound to the corresponding sides of the screen. Thanks to today’s widescreen televisions, history and technology seem to have corrected the issue, leading to the film’s eventual rediscovery and broadcast on Turner Classic Movies’ TCM Underground, which caters strictly to a grindhouse-hungry crowd. The current DVD transfer from Warner Archive is not great, but serves as a decent method to ensure this movie’s survival for someone’s eventual decision to remake it. Believe me, there’s so much potential here, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t eventually happen.

For such a daring concept, the filmmakers played it far too safe. The characters are borderline comical so won’t appeal to everyone, the killer is revealed very soon, and the dancy music at times seems to break the tension. For those with the right palate however, the film will be the perfect retro-getaway, perfect when paired with other whodunits like Motel Hell or even the more recent, Identity.

Wicked, Wicked is now available on DVD via Warner Archive at the WB Shop.

EDV