Cast & Crew
Cheryl Stratton, who has run away from Cleveland with her friend Judy to start a new life in Los Angeles, is at loggerheads with Judy over Judy's sexual escapades. After Judy corrosively suggests that Cheryl leave the apartment they share at the beach, Cheryl steals Judy's wallet and heads downtown to the King Edward Hotel which is run by her aunt, Martha Atwood. Upon arriving at the seedy hotel, Cheryl is met by the brusque Martha, who states that because the King Edward is one of the "last respectable hotels in the city," she has to be extremely selective about the clientele. Martha relents, however, and allows Cheryl to stay for a few days if she promises never to wander the hotel alone and to remove her vulgar makeup. After Cheryl settles into her room, she is unnerved by strange noises and a vague feeling that someone is watching her. Soon after, when Judy's boyfriend Mike comes to the hotel to look for Cheryl and Judy's missing wallet, he is met in the lobby by Reverend Moon, an eccentric guest garbed in a priest's cassock. Moon directs Mike to room 319, admonishing him to wait three minutes while he "slips into something comfy." As Mike walks down the long, dreary hallways toward 319, a pair of hands spring out from behind a closed door, after which an unseen assailant beheads Mike and tosses his body into the furnace. Later, Cheryl joins Martha for dinner, and when she asks about her aunt's daughter, Martha matter-of-factly explains that the baby, a product of artificial insemination, is "in the hands of the Lord," but if she had lived, she would have been several years older than Cheryl. That night, Cheryl hears the floorboards creaking outside her door, and the next morning, when she asks who occupies the room next to hers, Martha avers that the room is an empty, locked storeroom. As Cheryl helps her aunt with cleaning chores, she meets one of the lodgers, the disheveled Mrs. Quigley, who asks if anyone has seen "Alice." In the lobby, Cheryl glimpses the strange but handsome George, who, Martha explains, is a photographer with a darkroom in the basement. While unpacking her belongings, Cheryl comes upon a pornographic manuscript hidden in the drawer of a bureau in her room, with a handwritten note inside asking "how do you like it, Cheryl?" The following day, Martha informs Cheryl that she is going to a funeral so that she can take a photo of the departed's "spirit as it leaves the body," her favorite pastime. Asking Cheryl to stay secluded in the kitchen while she is gone, Martha presents her with her pet rat Whitey for company. As soon as Martha leaves, the rat climbs onto a cupboard shelf and is electrocuted when it brushes against a key ring. After disposing of the rat's body down the garbage disposal, Cheryl takes the keys and unlocks the storage room, where she finds peepholes that look into her room and the shared bathroom. Next, she unlocks the door to Reverend Moon's room and finds statues of Christ crucified on the cross alternating with photographs of beefy, half-naked bodybuilders. Upon returning to her own room, Cheryl discovers a package containing a skimpy stripper's costume accompanied by a note reading "wear this for me." Some time later, Cheryl filches the keys again and sneaks into George's room, where she finds an inflatable, transparent, life-sized doll of a woman sprawled on his bed and sees enlarged photographs of naked women lining the walls. Shocked, Cheryl runs out of the room, after which George emerges from a side door from where he has been watching. One day, Judy comes to the hotel looking for Cheryl and Martha, suspicious of Judy's claim that she wants to repay some money, tells her that Cheryl is in the basement darkroom. Finding the darkroom deserted, Judy is intrigued when she spots some blow-ups of dime-store photographs that she and Cheryl had taken. As Judy is examining the photos, the door creaks open and she screams in fear. At the same time, Martha, upset over the disappearance of her "child" Whitey, explains to Cheryl that the body is just a prison that entraps one's "natural spirit." Their conversation is interrupted by a phone call from Jeff, the boy whom Cheryl met at the locksmith's while she was having copies of her aunt's keys made. Although Martha vehemently disapproves, Cheryl accepts Jeff's invitation to attend a rock concert. In his room, meanwhile, George fills his inflatable doll with water, fastens an enlarged photo of Cheryl to her face, then pierces his arm with a hypodermic needle. After extracting a vial of blood, George injects it into his inflatable doll, turning the clear water red. Later, George calls the hotel and asks to speak with Cheryl. Answering the phone, Martha recognizes his voice and upbraids him, warning that women try to degrade men by tempting them with their bodies. After George accuses Martha of ruining his life, because the only pleasure he can experience is with his dolls, Martha begs him to leave Cheryl alone and warns of repeating a fiasco like the one that happened to Alice. Soon after, Cheryl, dressed in the stripper outfit, enters the bathroom, sensuously removes her clothes, then erotically caresses herself in the bathtub, aware that George is watching. After finishing her bath, Cheryl leaves the outfit behind. George then enters the bathroom, and after fondling the outfit, slips it onto his inflatable doll bearing Cheryl's photograph. The following morning, when Martha finds the doll discarded in the trash, she becomes alarmed, and after forbidding Cheryl to speak to George, orders her to return home. Later, George phones Cheryl, who eagerly offers to pose for him and arranges to meet him that night. Cheryl has also made a date with Jeff that night, and after Jeff picks her up at the hotel, he casually remarks that he was friendly with a girl named Alice Rogers, a professional model who lived at the hotel. When Jeff mentions that Alice was afraid of the photographer who was also living at the hotel, Cheryl becomes angry and returns to the hotel to keep her assignation with George. Meanwhile, George is playing a conversation he has taped of Alice talking to him, and as she begins to scream about a needle, Jeff, who has followed Cheryl back to the hotel, hears the screams and bursts into George's room. After smashing Jeff in the head with a bottle, George drags his body into the darkroom. When he returns, George finds Cheryl, dressed in her stripper outfit, stretched across his bed, waiting for him. Becoming aroused, George pulls out his needle, but Cheryl recoils in fear, overturning the photographic equipment which lands on George, killing him. Alerted by Cheryl's screams, Martha rushes into the room, and when she unbuttons George's shirt to feel if his heart is still beating, Cheryl sees that George has breasts and is not a man at all, but a woman. Grateful that George's spirit has been liberated from his body, Martha reveals that George was her daughter, whom she reared as a man to prevent her becoming tainted by wanton female sexuality, then offers to let Cheryl become her new son. Suddenly changing her mind, Martha brandishes a giant knife and reassures Cheryl that the blade did not "hurt" Alice or Mike. The following day, Jeff's father, accompanied by the police, comes to the hotel to look for Jeff. Hearing a knocking coming from the darkroom, they find Jeff locked inside, and Judy's body stuffed in the sink. After ascending to the third floor to investigate, they find George's body, and next to it, Martha's bloodied corpse garbed in Cheryl's stripper outfit. After they leave, Cheryl, a dazed look on her face, wanders into the lobby repeating that "this is one of the last respectable hotels in the city" and that she has to be "extremely selective about our clients."
John B. Bennett
Produced for Penelope Productions by Gene Corman (brother of Roger) and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Private Parts was shot by cinematographer Andrew Davis, who was originally slated to direct but was replaced with Bartel. Davis would go on to direct big budget films like The Fugitive (1993). Filming took place on location at various sites in Los Angeles, including The King Edward Hotel in the city's downtown area, which is currently in the middle of a revitalization effort, but in the 1970s more closely resembled Skid Row.
The script for Private Parts came to Bartel's attention through his friend Chuck Hirsch. Rendelstein and Kearney had known Bartel at UCLA while he was studying drama, but they had not been in contact for nearly a decade. Once Bartel secured a deal for the script, he began a rewrite himself, unaware that his agent was shopping it around without Bartel's knowledge. The project was eventually brought to Gene Corman's attention. Corman was looking for low-budget projects for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and liked what he read. Within six weeks, he had met with Paul Bartel in New York, made a deal for the picture, and production began.
MGM had agreed to distribute the film but company president James Aubrey demanded a change of title from Blood Relations to Private Parts, a title Bartel complained was "unprintable in major newspapers" at the time. Some regions, like Chicago, actually advertised the film under the title Private Arts. Bartel had hoped to find another distributor in Roger Corman, who he had met during production as Gene Corman had his offices in Roger's New World company's building. "[F]or the first few months [Roger] looked right through me as if I were invisible, but gradually we got to know each other and he was rather interested in Private Parts. In fact when it was finished, the guy who was his sales manager then suggested to Roger that since MGM didn't seem to know what to do with Private Parts that he, Roger, buy it away from them and distribute it." MGM wouldn't sell the film, despite the lack of interest, which Bartel would later say was due to his having made the film "so kinky and offbeat, MGM didn't know what to do with it and it wasn't worth marketing."
On Private Parts' release, New York Times film critic Roger Greenspun was lukewarm in his review, writing that Bartel "succeeds in some details and fails in others. But the attempt, even when it isn't quite working, is a good deal more interesting than most. [...] Private Parts is at least a hopeful occasion for those of us who love intellectual cinema and at the same time care for the menacing staircase, for the ominous shadow, for empty rooms shuttered against the light of the afternoon." In one respect, Greenspun's review proved to be prophetic. He wrote, "Bartel is a young director whose previous short films have shown a genius of title (Secret Cinema, Naughty Nurse) not entirely matched by their content. Private Parts is no triumph, but it does mark a giant step forward toward the successful blending of precocious perversity and satiric good sense that seems the fated direction of his career."
Private Parts' failure at the box office would not be the end of Paul Bartel's career by any means. He bounced back in 1975 with Death Race 2000 and would continue to make dark, quirky films as both an actor and a director until his death in 2000, the most famous being the black comedy Eating Raoul (1982).
Armstrong, Stephen B. Paul Bartel: The Life and Films
Greenspun, Roger "'Private Parts,' Film by Bartel, Arrives" The New York Times 2 Feb 73
Hogan, David Dark Romance: Sexuality in the Horror Film
Lukeman, Adam Fangoria's 101 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen: A Celebration of the World's Most Unheralded Fright Flicks
Yoram Allon, Del Cullen, Hannah Contemporary North American Film Directors: A Wallflower Critical Guide
By Lorraine LoBianco
Private Parts - Paul Bartel's Underrated Debut Feature
"If Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girl had been co directed by Alfred Hitchcock and John Waters it would come close to this directorial debut by Bartel."
Whoa. I stopped dead in my tracks and thought, "I have GOT to see this movie!" As a connoisseur of cult and trash films, this sounded like a long-lost gem that I needed to find.
The name of the film? Paul Bartel's Private Parts from 1972.
Boy, was I not disappointed! A few words to describe it? Creepy. Kinky. Gross. All of the things I look for in a film!
Ann Ruymen (whose other memorable acting credit is the 1973 TV movie, Go Ask Alice) plays Cheryl, a young, bored and curious teenager who has run away from home and decides to stay with her mysterious Aunt Martha, who runs a large, old hotel in seedy, downtown Los Angeles.
Clearly, Aunt Martha (played with gusto by the always interesting character actress Lucille Benson) is keeping some secrets, as she warns Cheryl to not go snooping around the huge, labyrinthian building. Cheryl disregards her aunt's warning (where would the movie be if she did?) and begins exploring the hotel and meeting it's collection of odd tenants, including an S&M obsessed reverend, a demented, giggling old woman and the handsome, yet sinister photographer George who has a darkroom in the basement and an eye for Cheryl.
The film is clearly influenced by several suspense and horror films from the 1960s, most notably Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Michael Powell's Peeping Tom due to the film's ongoing obsession with voyeurism, transvestism and other sexual "perversions". The wonderfully atmospheric score by Hugo Friedhofer is even reminiscent of the work of regular Hitchcock composer, Bernard Herrmann.
The film dabbles with kinky plotlines and images but is never overly graphic- the film leaves a lot to the imagination and certain plot points (particularly the scenes and back story of Aunt Martha) are deliberately left ambiguous, giving the film a truly fascinating edge that allows the film to be revisited several times.
The cast is made up of a hodge podge of odd, yet memorable faces- including Laurie Main (best known as the voice of the narrator in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons!) as the leather-wearing Reverend Moon and, perhaps the most unusual actor to appear in this sordid tale is none other than Stanley Livingston who played Chip Douglas on the wholesome TV series, My Three Sons! Again, just a few more touches of weirdness thrown in to keep the viewers on their toes.
The director of this underrated cult classic is none other than Paul Bartel who would go on to find even more success and cult stardom with his 1982 film, Eating Raoul, in which he starred (alongside frequent co-star Mary Woronov) and directed. Like Private Parts, Eating Raoul was an over-the-top mix of sick humor, kinky sex and horror elements all wrapped up in a perfect package for the midnight movie crowd and cult film fanatic.
Dark humor and trash aesthetics was clearly Bartel's forte, as other films in his work (as well as his acting appearances) followed this style. Other notable films he directed during his career include 1975's Deathrace 2000 with producer Roger Corman starring David Carradine and a young Sylvester Stallone and 1985's Lust in the Dust with Polyester co-stars Divine and Tab Hunter.
Like fellow filmmaker, John Waters, the late Bartel (who unfortunetly died in 2000) told stories that focused on the absurd and grotesque and celebrated filth and decadence. Private Parts would make a perfect double feature with one of Waters' early 1970s films, such as Female Trouble or Pink Flamingos, as they all share an affinity for society's misfits and a penchant for tacky and gross comedy.
The only supplemental feature on the disc is a typically exploitative 1970s trailer that plays up the "psycho-sexual" angle of the plot as well as basically giving away the entire ending!
For more information about Private Parts, visit Warner Video. To order Private Parts, go to TCM Shopping.
by Eric Weber
Private Parts - Paul Bartel's Underrated Debut Feature
The film's working title was Blood Relations. Premier Productions, the film's distributor, was a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Several reviewers remarked that M-G-M May have distributed Private Parts through their Premier subsidiary because the studio was embarrassed by the sex and violence in the film. According to a 1974 article in Cinefantastique, Private Parts was shelved after several disastrous screenings. A 1978 Los Angeles Times news item added that the film was released with two rather innocuous horror films, prompting outraged parents, who had brought their children to see the other films, to protest the showing of Private Parts.
According to studio publicity contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, location filming was done at the King Edwards Hotel, a once-elegant hotel located in downtown Los Angeles near Skid Row. Private Parts marked the feature length directorial debut of New York underground filmmaker Paul Bartel. The 1978 Los Angeles Times news item stated that producer Gene Corman convinced M-G-M to let Bartel direct the film.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972