The Video Nasties #63 – I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses (1978, Murray Markowitz)

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‘All she’s got is that face, those tits, 

and an ever open door of a cunt.’

I try and go into every film hoping for the best, but sometimes your gut instinct is right. I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses is as bland and innocuous as its title. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Columbo or Murder, She Wrote and wished for a bit more necrophilia and swearing, then you may be able to wring some enjoyment out of this dull courtroom drama/whodunnit, but I simply couldn’t.

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Based on the true story of the murder of Christine Demeter, the film opens with Magdalene, played by Euro starlet Elke Sommer, being bludgeoned to death in her garage by an unseen assailant. Her husband, Charles, is a wealthy businessman who years earlier had escaped from a war-ravaged Hungary. What follows is his trial intercut with numerous flashbacks. It just about manages to hold your interest for the first half, but once the trial takes over it just becomes lawyers interrogating suspects, which is one of the least cinematic movie tropes imaginable. I began to lose track of who was who, and by the time a necrophiliac serial killer was introduced as a suspect I just gave up trying to follow.

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It’s not a total dead loss; there’s some talent behind the camera, including the first movie score by Howard Shore, who would go on to work on most of David Cronenberg’s movies as well as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s a humble beginning, but his score is the best part of the film, adding atmosphere where there would otherwise be none. Another key Cronenberg collaborator, art director Carol Spier, also worked on the film, though the scratchy old VHS that I watched hid much of her work. In front of the camera, the actors perform perfectly adequately, and Donald Pilon’s final monologue is actually quite touching, though star Elke Sommer doesn’t speak a full line of dialogue until about 20 minutes into the movie…

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It’s a real head-scratcher why this of all films was ever deemed liable to deprave and corrupt. There is footage from a real life chicken slaughterhouse (what was our fascination with slaughterhouses in the 1970s?) and the ending shows poor Elke having her brains beaten out about five times in a row, showing each of the suspects performing the deed. I’m just surprised that the DPP managed to sit through the preceding 80 minutes to get to that moment. It’s not a bad film, just one that has no place on the Nasties. It’s a slightly boring Canadian courtroom drama, and if that idea sets your pulse racing, then by all means, track this one down. Just don’t invite me over to watch it with you – I’m busy that evening.

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