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2.12.08

Barn of the Naked Dead (1974)


aka "Nightmare Circus"


Director: Alan Rudolph
Starring: Andrew Prine, Manuela Theiss, Sherry Alberoni, Gyl Roland
Released by Legend House

Well, let's just go ahead and address the first problem: false advertising. There is a barn (though it is more of a ranch), but there really isn't much nudity (certainly not enough to include the word "naked" in the title) , and there aren't that many dead people. All of the corpses are also fully clothed, so that's a double violation of the fair advertising rules. Now that I've run off a good portion of this film's potential audience, I will do my best to review BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD for the two or three of you that have decided to stick around.

Three showgirls en route to Las Vegas experience car trouble in the middle of the desert. Being predictably ignorant of basic auto mechanics, not to mention the fact that the film takes place in the time before cell phones, they are forced to spend the night in their car. In the morning they are awakened by the seemingly friendly Andre (Andrew Prine), who offers to take a look at their car. While these showgirls think that Andre is a Good Samaritan who happened to come their way, we know better because Prine's first onscreen appearance depicts him watching the showgirls through his binoculars, sneering in a not-too-subtle manner. Andre says there's nothing he can do, and convinces the girls to accompany him back to his place where they can use the phone, and give the audience a chance to marvel at the big, big mistake the women are about to make.

If I told you that Prine is a circus-obsessed lunatic with mommy issues, would you believe me? Probably not, but that's what he is, and these three ladies become the latest addition to his collection of exotic animals and chained up lady slaves. When he's not talking to himself or playing with a wind-up big top toy, Prine acts as ringmaster in a circus where the slave women are forced to perform. The women are whipped, tormented with a snake and a mountain lion, and a few are killed. Unfortunately, none of this is filmed with much creativity or enthusiasm, and the film drags until the somewhat fun conclusion where Prine's mutant Daddy makes an appearance.

This was the first film directed by Alan Rudolph, who would go on to make several better, and more interesting films a few years later. Rudolph would like to forget BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD ever happened, and now disowns the movie. Just as well, because other than his name appearing on the credits, there is nothing here to indicate that Rudolph had a hand in this. Cult fave Prine is solid as usual, taking his role as Andre very, very seriously. He is actually too good for this movie, which is not the "lost gem" it is purported to be. While it may be decent Saturday afternoon viewing, it is too lifeless and inept to qualify as more than an amusing timekiller.

The best thing about this Legend House release is the "GOREBEAT" bonus feature. The always fun Johnny Legend pals around with John Landis, Fred Olen Ray, Brian Yuzna, and Ray Dennis Steckler. It's assembled in a somewhat haphazard manner, but it is a ton of fun for lovers of exploitation films, and is reason enough to give BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD a spin.

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