Friday, 22 June 2012

Inferno Carnal (1977)


One of the cruellest films I’ve seen in a long time, this 1977 Brazilian oddity from the never very pleasant mind of Jose Mojica Marins (writer, producer, director and star of this) takes us to a world of big-haired ladies, abysmally loud furniture and oft-hilarious mistranslated subtitles to deliver Marins’ version of a conte cruele.
Marins stars as Dr George Medeiros, a mild-mannered cardigan-wearing pipe-smoking scientist whose wife Raquel is having an affair with his best friend Oliver. The two decide they can’t be apart any longer so rather than get a divorce Raquel throws acid in George’s face and Oliver sets fire to George’s laboratory. George gets taken to hospital where we are treated to some actual eye surgery (it looks as if they’re removing a sliver of metal) in graphic detail. Meanwhile Oliver sets about spending all the money Raquel keeps giving him on Brazilian prostitutes. George is discharged from hospital with his face looking like a cross between Cropsy from THE BURNING and the scary mask used by Baird Stafford in NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN. Anyone unfamiliar with these two movies is advised to steer clear of them by the way, especially the latter which is quite frightfully sleazy. 
Raquel and Oliver split up and George stabs Oliver to death. Raquel, consumed by guilt, begs George to take her back and, in a scene that didn’t go the way I was expecting at all, picks up the jar of acid that just happens to be sitting on the dining room table and empties it all over her own face. Off she goes to hospital for some plastic surgery that doesn’t work at all. She is discharged and comes back to the family home where the acid-scarred wife comes face to face with her acid-scarred husband in a bizarre scene that almost makes this film worth watching. And then there’s a twist that absolutely does make it worth having stuck with the film thus far. George isn’t scarred at all! He’s wearing a mask! “The acid you threw at me was much weaker than what you poured on yourself,” he sneers as beautiful Virginia walks in. She’s the redhead we’ve seen naked in the shower a few time throughout the film for absolutely no reason at all whose gratuitous nudity is now wholly justified in terms of the plot. George embraces her and as the two of them prepare to go out to the theatre he orders his acid-scarred wife to be thrown out onto the street. “What’s the play about darling?” asks Virginia as the immaculately-attired couple prepare to leave. “Oh infidelity,” he replies, “as so many stories are these days.” Freeze frame on George’s  mutilated wife being dragged out of the house. The End.
Jose Mojica Marins is famous for his Coffin Joe series of films, of which I have seen a couple. Those movies veer from uncompromisingly nightmarish to incompetently filmed rubbish but are never less than interesting provided you yourself have a fairly solid grounding in reality (otherwise I suspect they’re capable of tipping people over the edge). INFERNO CARNAL (or HELLISH FLESH as the rather poor English translation would have it) is much more The Pan Book of Horror Stories Goes to Brazil, and despite being a bit rough around the edges (the credits look like a five year old’s school arts and crafts project) this is actually worth sticking with for the final nasty twenty minutes. I may have created a rod for my own back here, but I now realise I’m going to have to watch all of Marins’ other films to see what else he can come up with.

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