Retro Review: Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things
If you and your friend were wanted fugitives hiding from the law how would you hide out? Obviously the answer would be that one of you cross-dresses and takes on the identity of an elderly relative. Or at least it was obvious to the characters in the 1971 grindhouse flick Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things.
Two fugitives, Stanley and Paul have taken up residence in Miami. The duo have concocted a plan to evade the police by having Paul adopt the identity of “Aunt Martha” the guardian of the carefree Stanley. The problem arises from Paul’s mental instability as he delves into this alter ego, seeing the women Stanley crosses paths with as threats to his own tumultuous relationship to his housemate. Complicating the relationship of the two is Hubert, who is also at odds with the law and ingratiates himself into the lives of the two with the subtlety of a city bus barreling down the street. Of course a movie this strange would not be complete without a body count, and Aunt Martha/Paul has no problem taking care of that as he slaughters any woman who puts the moves on Stanley.
All of the elements of a good underground flick can be found in Sometimes Aunt Martha. You have; hippies, violence, crazy people, drugs, and everything else you would associate with 70’s counterculture. There is a definite homosexual element to the relationship between Paul and Stanley though it is never outright stated. The two men share a bed while Stanley freaks out when a “far out chick” tries to put the moves on him, and of course Paul gets murderous with any woman willing to try that on his friend. That being said this is the furthest thing from a healthy relationship, which at this point of the review really should go without saying. They are constantly arguing with AND manipulating each other all leading to a finale which will leave audiences going “what the…?!?!”. It is very much in the same vein as other cult flicks like the Gay Deceivers and Pink Angels. Given how bonkers this film is as a whole, it naturally is not looking to give a progressive view on homosexual relationships and would rather simply weird viewers out.
In his sole career acting credit, Abe Zwik is incredibly entertaining as Aunt Martha/Paul, as there is certain gleeful madness he exudes which can not be taught in any acting class. He is able to perfectly capture a murderous sociopath while still giving audiences a healthy dose of morbid dark humor. It is a shame he did not do more work considering how much of a joy he is to watch in this film.
The movie has developed a bit of a following among fans of cult cinema. With Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things receiving a home video release recently from America Genre Film Archive, in their growing collection of underground flicks, the fandom is only growing. True to the grindhouse pacing style, the movie moves rather slowly until it hits fast paced moments of sheer madness at goes off the rails. This is another movie which I am Retro Reviewing that I will freely admit is not for everyone, but for those who love movies of the strange and bizarre variety this is truly a must-see.