Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why Remember Anything? (The Abducted Saga, part one)



Part One: Before I Re-Watch The Abducted Saga

I will state upfront that I haven’t had time to watch the movies I’ve selected for review this time around.  So this first part is technically what one of my old professors would call “vamping.”  

Here’s a Bit of a Road Map

There’s a bit of a complicated agenda for this piece.

Such as?
    • I will be making a case for why I remember something as gut wrenchingly terrible as what I will hear by refer to as “the Abducted saga.”  I’ll be rather vague about exactly what that is for now.  Abducted (1986) and Abducted II (1995) are films that I remember from my misspent youth.  They are loosely connected by a father (Grizzly Adams himself, Dan Haggerty as Joe) trying to keep a hold on his mountain man son (Lawrence King-Phillips as the immortal Vern).  Vern kidnaps women and drags them into the mountains while his father attempts (notice the word attempts) to help his son evade the law.  Sounds sleazy?  Yes, it is.  
    • I already mentioned the fact that these movies were sleazy.  Did I also mention that I used to find them somewhat frightening?  There was nothing remotely scary about them on the surface; but these films definitely bothered me.   
    • That’s all well and good, but I haven’t alluded to exactly why these movies frightened me so much.  There’s a few answers I can point to: being kidnapped was always one of my worst fears.  On top of that, from what I remember the father/son relationship was deeply disturbing.  (“It’s okay, buddy: just go out and find the right girl to drag back here and rape.  Daddy will cover for you.”) 
    • The most difficult part; watching these movies again for the first time in close to twenty years.  Do they still hold up?  Was I just falling asleep in front of the TV and having nightmares?  (That’s a high probability as it has happened before.)
    • Just to add in another healthy bit of digression: I’ll talk a bit about the exploitation classic The Sadist (and why it’s bizarrely effective when it shouldn’t be).  
    • All of these thoughts will come together in a beautiful tapestry of deep insight.  

Are you confused yet?  I am.  Where to start?

Ah, yes, primal fear.  



Primal Fears and Hazy Memories

I have never liked the idea of being forcefully taken hostage.  I would say that is a somewhat irrational fear; I’m a bit too old to be kidnapped.  I can’t imagine that I will find myself in a terrorist situation anytime soon.  (I just knocked on my wooden desk.)  Also, though I have no statistical proof, I believe that women are more often abducted than men.  That said, I can vividly imagine what it must be like to be stolen from home and held against your will.  That thought alone terrifies me...and it hints at deeper psychological issues which I am bereft to comment on.  

Let’s just put it this way: every time I hear an “amber alert” my blood runs a bit cold.  
What does this have to do with the Abducted saga?

I was watching these films in the dead of night...way past any reasonable bedtime.  The volume was low, and I was on the verge of sleep.  My worry about the films’ “quality” went right out the window.  I was more concerned with the fact that they were catering to my silly private fear.  Should I check to see if the windows were locked?  There was a tad of “nightmare fuel,” and that sticks around in the psyche.

The fact that I’ve seen countless other films since I first watched the Abducted saga does nothing but confuse the issue.  Movies that were effective (even if they were as equally disreputable).  

Without further adieu, here is an incredibly abrupt transition.  


Part Two: The Sadist (or How I Remember The Abducted Saga)

Yes, I keep pulling the carpet out from under myself.  I recently watched the obscure fright fest from the ‘60s known simply as The Sadist.  I will not bore you with an in depth summary of the film, but I will hit the high points.   

That would be:
    • There is an oddly plausible set up.  A group of teachers is on the way to a baseball game.  They have a car issue, and end up stopping at what appears to be a broken down gas station.  That in turn ends up being a deceptive trap cultivated to perfection by the Sadist of the title (Arch Hall Jr.)
    • There is non-stop tension: the plot is rather well constructed.  There are plenty of false moments of hope and a few narrow escapes.  You can’t help but put yourself in the shoes of the two main characters as they try to outsmart the captor.  What would you do?
    • The entire film feels “seamy,” like something you should feel unwholesome for watching and enjoying.  
    • The villain is genuinely terrifying; his relentlessness is balanced out with an almost child like perversity.  He’s the worst school yard bully you could ever not want to meet.  The overgrown kid that traps you behind the school and torments you until the bell rings.  

The Sadist manages to be genuinely, surprisingly unnerving.  You forget you are watching a dodgy little B-movie from the ‘60s.  This starts to feel a bit too much like real life.    

Did I think Abducted during my watch of The Sadist?  I couldn’t help myself.  Yes, constantly.  
My dishonest memory begged the question: Are the Abducted movies as scary as I remember them?  

Well, are they?

Stay tuned for part three, in which this mystery will be solved (after I watch the movies).   

3 comments:

  1. When I was little, we went on a family outing to Veedauwoo park in Wyoming. On the way, my older brother and sister made up a story about a crazed hermit who lived up in the rocks and survived by eating moss and kidnapping kids to gather it for him. Scared the bejeezus out of me and I spent the whole day looking over my shoulder. When I saw Abducted years later, I thought Vern was exactly what I imagined the 'moss man' looked like. As you point out, the fact that his dad kind of sanctions his behavior makes it all the more disturbing. Can't blame him for snagging Roberta Weiss though, she is kind of cute. Looking forward to your additional thoughts as the saga unfolds.

    I inexplicably love me some Arch Hall Jr and The Sadist is definitely a gem. The cinematography alone is head and shoulders above anything else Arch was ever in and the film creates some genuine tension. The most shocking part of the movie, involving the title character and one of the teachers, had to be Rob Zombie's inspiration for the scene with the sheriff in House of a Thousand Corpses.

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  2. So I'm not the only one who is afraid of ole Vern? That's good to know. And yeah, the relationship is still there. (A bit of a spoiler for my review...since I just watched the first one again last night).

    I am almost totally ignorant of Arch Hall...I've heard about him for years, but never watched any of his movies. I am almost afraid to watch anything else he is in now because it will tarnish my view of him as the titular Sadist. Judging from I saw, he had some talent and could have had more of a career if he had wanted it. (Did you know he ended becoming a commercial air line pilot?)

    Part two is in the works. Looking forward to writing it.

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