Troma Entertainment has made a name for itself based on their outrageous, home-grown feature film franchises such as Class of Nuke 'Em High, Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD and The Toxic Avenger. However, in recent years they've also seen fit to acquire and distribute a large number of films that while not made under the auspices of the Troma umbrella, fit in with the overall style and tone of their self-made flicks. These include the Dirty Harry meets Sixteen Candles black comedy The Hall Monitor, Ernest Dickenson's Hip-Hop Horror film Def By Temptation and Trey Parker's hilarious debut feature Cannibal! The Musical.
While Michael Paul Girard's dead stripper epic Body Parts (1994) isn't up to the same level of those previously mentioned films there is a goofy charm to the proceedings, as well as a copious amount of late 80's/mid 90's bump n' grind T&A. The story begins like any other night at LA strip club, Body Parts, except that someone is killing off the dancers. Most of the murders happen off-screen, many of them stabbings with one exception being a fire breathing stripper who's choked by her own torch. What happens next is a subtle ode to Kurosawa's Rashomon as Detective Otello questions the various suspects – the bartender, the new owner, a tourist and a recently disgruntled stripper – each recounting the events of that night from their perspective.
It's an effective cinematic technique, but everyone's got an alibi so Jacoby the psychic is called in. Now, Jacoby, played with aplomb by the phenomenally named Austrian actor Clement von Franckenstein (and YES, his family's name was the inspiration for Mary Shelly's infamous scientist), spins a tale of an Egyptian Pharaoh who sentences his court magician to death for sleeping with members of his harem. However, before the moment of his death, he curses the Pharaoh's harem and is somehow able to transfer his soul into one of the Pharaoh's 300 cats. When his concubines mysteriously begin dying, the Pharaoh hears word of the curse and has his cats killed and mummified, but has the wizard cheated death a second time?
Dismissing Jacoby's tale as bunk, Detective Otello begins to take more than a professional interest in Norma Jean, the stripper who was recently fired from Club Body Parts. She has a fixation on Marilyn Monroe and bears more than a passing resemblance to the Hollywood icon. Otello discovers that after she was fired, she found a small dog who she named Pee Wee. After finding Pee Wee, it seemed that things in her life began to change. Besides having an obedient "lap dog" (get it, the dog laps her… never mind) she also has newfound confidence and felt an overwhelming need to bring Pee Wee to the club she was just fired from to show him off to the girls.
As it turns out, Jacoby was right all along and the spirit of this Egyptian magician has been around for centuries, possessing people and turning them into killers. Otello and Jacoby must find Norma Jean before she can kill again, and after an extensive psychic reading (and sniffing) of her used panties the duo find her latest victim, the club's bartender. While in the bartender's apartment, the scummy new owner of Club Body Parts shows up claiming he got a call from Norma Jean looking for her job back. She attacks him, but Otello stops her and breaks Pee Wee's spell by professing his love for her. At this point the owner becomes possessed and kills Jacoby before he's gunned down by Otello. The End.
I know that this is an absolute Z-grade flick, but I still felt that the lack of a concrete resolution involving the Egyptian magician in the dog's body was unsatisfying. I mean, there's a shot of the dog running down a hallway before the "happy ending" of Otello and Norma Jean going on vacation. The very fact that they would use the words "The End" before the credits roll says to me that there were never any plans for a sequel, so why leave the dangling thread of the wizard still o the loose? Also, there was a plot device used where the "killer" taped his kills, but this was used so poorly in the film that it only existed as an excuse for some additional sex and gore.
One thing that I will give the film credit for is the evocative songs, eight total, from writer/director Michael Paul Girard. Apparently this isn't the first film he's contributed songs too, he's served as composer on several films including Getting Lucky, Lust: The Movie, The Seductress and Babes 2: Lost in Beaver Creek. His songs, which mostly appear during the various stripper sequences, are evocative of the kind of high energy fashion metal that would have been in vogue at the time the movie was made. The tunes are really catchy and add to a lot of the fun.
Picture: The film is presented in a 1.33:1 full screen transfer and while the print is clean, the video suffers from its age and extremely low budget.
Audio: There is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Track which sounded fine, the dialogue was crisp and clear, but the music was the real star.
Extras: Troma has always been known for including tons of extras on their discs, even if the extras don't have anything to do with the film and Body Parts is no exception. Included here are the theatrical trailer, a lesson on "Special Effects" from Troma President Lloyd Kaufman's Make Your Own Damn Movie box set, assorted Troma trailers and, most interestingly, a pair of public service messages from PETA ("Free Me") and The National Dance Institute ("Radiation March").
Conclusion: In my opinion, no one comes closer to a modern day P.T. Barnum than Troma's own Lloyd Kaufman. He's a modern day carnival barker, ringmaster and snake oil salesman. Who else would think to release this 1994 stripper/slasher saga with the tagline, "A Dead Hooker's Guide to the Galaxy!" tying it in to the upcoming release of Disney's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? While it doesn't live up to the reputation set by Troma's own releases, it's still got their D.I.Y aesthetic and there's enough boobs and blood, and even some bloody boobs, that should satisfy fans of their films. Rent It.