Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Seppo Huunonen's exploitation flick from the seventies

Finland has nearly never produced a good share of trashy exploitation flicks. Teuvo Tulio's noir films from the fourties and fifties had some of that quality, as did some of Veikko Itkonen's films, but the only real entrepreneur in that category has been Visa Mäkinen whose indie-produced films have been very poor indeed, almost up to the so-bad-it's-good point.

There's a serious contender, however, lurking in the early seventies. Seppo Huunonen's Karvat (Hair - don't get this mixed up with, well, Hair) from 1974 is just that: trashy exploitation flick. I think it purports to be something else, since there's a good dose of parody, irony and metafictional narrative in the film. There are many things in the film that make it a forgotten classic (it was released in video in the early eighties, but otherwise it has disappeared completely, it has never been shown on television, for example): Paroni Paakkunainen's great funky music (which I'll steal when I make my feature film debut), some very bloody violence (this was X-rated, which is very rare for a Finnish film), lots of sex and nudity plus all-encompassing sleaziness. The most exciting fact is that this was based on Lionel White's Obsession (1962), American paperback original classic that was earlier filmed as Pierrot le fou by Jean-Luc Godard! I don't know whether Seppo Huunonen knew about Godard's film, but it's still amazing. And this must be the only film made in Finland that's based on an American crime novel. (White's first name is written as "Lionell" in the credits.)

The film is a mixed bag. As I said, there are some self-parodic moments, and several leave with a strong WTF sensation, especially the scene in which a couple making love is photographed with animated handkerchiefs! There's also a weird allusion to an European Disney character, Super-Goofy (Superhessu) and one friggin' weird resurrection. This makes the film pretty awkward to watch at times, but it also makes it wild and unpredictable. What also makes the film pretty awkward is that the actors are all pretty bad, without charisma or even good looks. You'd think that with this kind of noir story the femme fatale should be a knock-out, but not in this one, no sir! The film isn't a total turkey, though, as this review says it is.

The film is coming - on my suggestion, even though I watched it only now - to the festival of Finnish film in Turku in the beginning of April, but I'll be posting details later. Strongly recommended, if you're anywhere near Turku. Determined to be a cult classic!

Ah, by the way: there's a scene in the film in which the protagonist reads Shakespeare's condensed plays. There's another book on the sofa. It's upside down, but the cover up. I recognized it immediately, but had to go to the shelf to verify: it was the Finnish translation of Margaret Millar's noir classic A Stranger in My Grave/Muukalainen haudassani.

Sorry, no pictures!


Rittster said...

Isn't Seppo one of the Marx Brothers?

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Anders E said...

Sweden certainly did not have a shortage of low budget, low talent rubbish cinema. This webpage might be of interest:

(Note English laguage link)

I've seen a few of the titles mentioned, but unfortunately they are really not worth anyone's time. They are the kind of movies more amusing to read about than to actually watch, so to speak. Any lack of equivalent Finnish material might not be such a bad thing after all.

Juri said...

Thanks, Anders, interesting! Sweden is a bigger country and you also never had to deal with the so-called people's educators who wanted everything to be solemn and serious in Finland. That diminished low-budget trash in Finland, in almost any line of culture (even the paperback publishing was somewhat minimal to other European countries).