Private Parts (1972)

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Teenage runaway Cheryl moves from Ohio to L.A. with her best friend. However, as our movie begins, the friendship has already turned sour because Cheryl likes to spy on her friend having sex in their tiny apartment’s one bedroom. Thrown out of the love shack, Cheryl moves to a huge flophouse hotel which is conveniently owned by her Aunt Martha. Among the odd tenants are a drunk guy, a flamboyant fortuneteller dressed as a priest, a crazy woman who keeps asking for someone called Alice, and a strange photographer. Aunt Martha will only let Cheryl continue to stay in the hotel if Cheryl does not poke around the hotel, but the mysteries of the hotel are too much for the nosy teenager to resist, especially since someone is watching her and leaving her weird erotic gifts, and the keys to all the rooms are kept on an electrified hook. Oh, and someone is chopping people up and burning the bodies in the furnace, but only we the audience know that. Which one of these nut cases could be the killer?

It says a lot about the movie that I had to add the fact that there is a killer as an afterthought, because there is so much weird shit going on that the murders really were not my main focus while watching. Private Parts is listed on IMDb as a black comedy, but I fail to see what’s funny about it. That’s not to say that it’s not an enjoyable watch, it’s just that I expected something a bit more camp, especially since it was directed by Paul Bartel. At least he shows up as an indignant pervert in a park near the hotel, but even he was a bit too subtle for me. Private Parts is effectively creepy and sordid, however, and the set director did an excellent job decorating the hotel rooms to make them both quirky and artfully trashy. The overall effect was like a cross between John Waters and Andy Warhol.

I was not terribly surprised at the identity of the killer, but there were some twisted details that I did not see coming. One major character had a fetish that I could never have imagined, and I’m still not sure exactly what was going on with that, but I still get the sense it would have been more shocking and over the top when this movie was new. Private Parts made me want a hot shower (although not in Aunt Martha’s hotel), and also made me want to someday buy my own formerly plush hotel to run, though I can’t explain exactly why. There’s just something about a grand old hotel fallen into disrepair, at least in film. Maybe I just want, like Aunt Martha, to have the power to throw out people who displease me. Anyway, if you’re into grimy cult films, Private Parts is a film for you. And if you have already seen it, please tell me what the funny parts were.

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