BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD (1974)
(a.k.a. NIGHTMARE CIRCUS)
Article #1747 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-26-2005
Posting Date: 5-25-2006
Directed by Alan Rudolph
Featuring Andrew Prine, Manuela Thiess, Sherry Alberoni
Three women are stranded in the Nevada desert when their car breaks down. They are found by a man who offers them the use of his phone, but are instead chained up in his barn and made to perform like circus animals.
Let’s parse out this title before we start. First of all, we do have a barn. However, nobody in the barn is naked (not in my print, anyway, though I must point out that my print runs a few minutes short of the IMDB time, and there’s a jolting jump cut during a sequence with a snake which leads me to believe that the cut is there). And for most of the movie, the women in the barn are alive, but that’s before the mutant in the shed gets loose in the last five minutes. In conclusion, I would have to say that the title overplays the exploitation qualities of the movie somewhat.
As for the movie itself? When the main thing you can say about the opening of a movie is that it reminds you of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE, that’s not a good sign. Director Alan Rudolph has an interesting career; he served as second unit director on several of Robert Altman’s films, and his own oeuvre contains several art-house dramas, but he seemed to dabble quite a bit in horror at first, what with this movie and his work with Alice Cooper. Yes, the movie is a bit disturbing, but any movie about a man who kidnaps, enslaves and tortures women is bound to be. The question is whether it has any other purpose than to be disturbing on this level, and in this case, I’m not sure it does. The nature of the madman’s insanity is somewhat interesting; he sees his captives as trained animals and is training them to perform. Andrew Prine makes a decent madman, but it’s still a one-note character, and the movie really doesn’t transcend its sleazy cheapness. This one is for fans of no-budget regional horror only.