Saturday, November 10, 2012
WINTER OF DISCONTENT: The Loreley’s Grasp
Wotan … Lorelei … the sirens … the Rhein-gold … the treasure of the Nibelungen. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with Richard Wagner’s epic cycle of four operas – neither are the makers of ‘The Loreley’s Grasp’. They can’t even spell “Lorelei” properly, FFS.
We open with a woman shooing off her husband-to-be the night before their nuptials, reminding him that it’s bad luck to the see the bride before their wedding. Bad luck for her in this case. A scaly creature in a black robe comes crashing through her window, inflicts some heavy lacerations and tears her heart out.
The townsfolk are gripped by superstitious fear, particularly a blind Hungarian violinist (I’m not making this up) who babbles to anyone who will listen about the legend of the Lorelei. Elke Ackerman (Silvia Tortosa), a tutor at a nearby girls’ academy, petitions the mayor (Luis Induni) to provide protection for her charges.
Local huntsman Sigurd (Tony Kendall) offers his services. Quite what he’d find to hunt along the banks of the Rhein is left unexplained, but when he turns up at the academy on his motorbike with a rifle slung casually over his shoulder he certainly looks the part. The academy, by the way, seems to have just one subject on the curriculum: pool parties.
The girls take a fancy to Sigurd and some early scenes suggest rivalry for his affections and his distraction by their nubile charms … but director Amando de Ossorio doesn’t go anywhere with it. Then we seem to be going down the route of fractious-relationship-thawing-to-romance between Sigurd and Elke … only for de Ossorio to completely sideline this aspect until the final reel when he needs to pile on the motivation for Elke’s ludicrously contrived woman-in-peril sequence.
The mid section consists of: Sigurd being a little too late in responding while various subsidiary characters are slashed by a scaly claw prior to organ removal; Sigurd receiving screeds of exposition from a professor (Angel Menendez) who performs arcane experiments and quite randomly keeps a sheep in his lab …
… and Sigurd becoming infatuated by a mysterious flame-haired woman (Helga Line) who only ever seems to appear near bodies of water and is carried away from him, just seconds before any hanky-panky can occur, by a manservant clad in archaic garb who wades into the Rhein with her. Failing to connect this odd behaviour with the ramblings of the violinist and the scaly appearance of the beast, Sigurd and Elke puzzle over the enigma:
Sigurd: All its traces were lost in the water.
Elke: Can it be something aquatic?
Sigurd: It’s possible.
No shit, Sherlock!
Eventually, our copper-topped temptress introduces herself as Lorelei and even king of the fuckin’ dimwits Sigurd realises that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Or rather, someone is immortal in the hall of the Nibelungen.
The penny having dropped, it’s a race against time to end the Lorelei’s reign of terror. (Incidentally, for anyone who’s narked at me for not hoisting the jolly spoiler alert, ‘The Loreley’s Grasp’ tips you off about four minutes into its running time. Believe me, there’s nothing to spoil.) While the mayor uses all of his diplomacy to talk down a torch-bearing mob hellbent on getting themselves killed hunting the Lorelei by moonlight …
… Sigurd tangles with manservant Alberic (Luis Barboo), is mesmerised by Lorelei herself and only manages to escape thanks to resentment between the sirens. A word about the sirens: in legend, these are the fabled mer-women who are so beautiful and beguiling that sailors unthinkingly steer their craft into the rocks. In the world according to Amando de Ossorio, they’re a trio of bleached blondes in costumes more suited to a go-go bar than the epic grandeur of Teutonic legend.
De Ossorio is best known for his ‘Blind Dead’ sequence, four films that positively drip with atmosphere, the very fabric of them swirling with the misty dream-logic of folklore. ‘The Loreley’s Grasp’, his antepenultimate directorial outing, lacks any such vibe. It’s a disjointed affair, with entire scenes either truncated just as they’re beginning to develop a dynamic, or simply not revisited or referred to again. Continuity often seems to be an afterthought with one sequence in particular flitting from night to day to night in the space of about 15 seconds – I was unable to determine if this denotes the passage of a day and a half in the narrative or whether the editor had been drinking.
As an exploitationer, it’s similarly confused: De Ossorio lingers over the ripped-out-heart sequences, filming the viscera beneath the skin in gloating detail, but goes all coy when it comes to nudity. The pulchritude factor can’t be argued with, though. Helga Line in particular is a vision and her seductive Lorelei single-handedly gives the film its iconography and memorability.