Wednesday 9 November 2011

The Exquisite Cadaver (1969)

A fantastic title for an obscure late 1960s movie, matched only by its original language title of LAS CRUELES which is perhaps even better, EXQUISITE CADAVER is a weird, Spanish art-house Euro-Horror that might also be considered a giallo by some, simply because of its ingredients. The movie has a complex and quite ludicrous plotline, there's the presence of beautiful fashionably dressed ladies, and the drink of giallo kings and queens - J&B - is in evidence, although only the most eagle-eyed will spot it.
The movie opens with a girl laying her head on a railway line. For those in the know she's played by Judy Matheson, who in a couple of years will become a minor BritHorror babe by featuring in TWINS OF EVIL, Pete Walker's THE FLESH & BLOOD SHOW, and CRUCIBLE OF TERROR. A train rushes past and then we cut to an editor (Carlos Estrada) at a publishing house being sent a severed hand in a box. He tells his secretary it's wax to which the girl replies 'It doesn't smell like wax', prompting him to disappear off into a forest so he can bury it. At home, where his two strange little boys enact weird burial rites over their recently deceased tortoise while wearing spectacles with red and blue lenses, he's confronted by his wife who wants to know what the letter means that has come for him that says he's soon going to be receiving a forearm. Carlos makes up some ludicrous (but perhaps not for this film) excuse before engaging on a quest to find who has been sending him bits of a girl through the post. It turns out to be PINK PANTHER star Capucine, who may or may not have a false right hand (it's that kind of film) and who leaves him alone in her big old house after giving him drugs so he can go for a wander and find Judy's naked body squashed into the fridge. There's a lot of did-it-happen-or-didn't-it before we get some backstory, revealing that Carlos had an affair with Judy several years ago and then dumped her (I think). Capucine is now her lesbian lover who was distraught enough when all Judy would do is go on about Carlos but now Judy has died of leukaemia and Capucine is out to make Carlos pay. I think. Judy's death may actually be thanks to the ministrations of a quack doctor who ends up with his head in a bidet - the film isn't quite clear, but then it's a bit blurry on lots of things and believe me it's a far more dreamy and bizarre experience than I'm doing my best to rationally recount here.   It all ends a bit quickly and rather weirdly with a head in a box but I have to say I was spellbound by the entire picture. Director Vicente Aranda was responsible for THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE a couple of years later and this movie is possibly even more interesting. The dialogue is often stilted and the actors are wooden, but it feels more as if this is part of the deliberately strange style of the piece rather than due to incompetence on anyone's part. Those who make a start with this may be put off by what feels like a very slow, stilted beginning, but even then there are enough weird goings-on to reward the viewer's persistence. Another one that deserves a decent DVD release.


  1. Never watched this movie but have seen the director's other work Blood Spattered Bride in the cinema(in 1977) and on DVD(2008). Good movie.

    An interesting note was that I remember the poster for Blood Spattered bride was displayed in the coming soon section in the Manila cinema where I watched it until 1985!!!(well no one bothered to take it down).

  2. Oddly enough, Blood Spattered Bride will be coming up shortly!