No Vacancies – Rediscovering ‘Private Parts’ (US 1972 – 87 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - September 23, 2014
No Vacancies – Rediscovering ‘Private Parts’ (US 1972 – 87 mins)

A terrifically dark horror-comedy; ‘Private Parts’ is a rarely seen oddity from the early Seventies underground era. While the pacing is sometimes erratic, its titillating premise, eccentric characters and bizarre situations, keep you watching throughout.

Teenage Runaway Cheryl Stratton (Ayn Ruymen) takes shelter in a dilapidated hotel run by her creepy aunt Martha (Lucille Benson). Among the eccentric residents is a transvestite photographer; George (John Ventantonio), a psychopath with a very bizarre fetish. It’s not long before Cheryl’s snooping and sexual curiosity get the better of her, leading to mischief and murder in this very sinister hotel.

‘Private Parts’ has an air of 1960’s ‘Psycho’ about it, as we have a strange hotel (instead of motel), peeping toms and shower scenes. But, while it’s not quite the horror flick it’s sometimes labelled as, the very dark subject matter does take in sex dolls, decapitation and porn-loving vicars. It’s also been said that there is an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme here, as we have an overly curious girl, peering into peep-holes of rooms occupied by various colourful characters. There is a fairly good twist at the end involving young Cheryl’s transformation, which is both intriguing and unnerving.

In her screen debut lovely Ayn Ruymen is suitably mysterious as the giggling Cheryl, and has tremendous screen presence. It’s a shame Ruymen didn’t go on to do more movies as I thought she was one of the most exiting young actresses of her day. Apart from a brief bit in ‘Jaws’ (’75) her only other roles were in television, including the nice little part of a mysterious gypsy woman in an episode of the cult 1973 series ‘Circle of Fear’.

Director Paul Bartel is one of the most recognisable faces of exploitation and cult cinema, both in front of and behind the camera. As well as acting roles in ‘Piranha’ (’78), ‘Chopping Mall’ (’86) and ‘The Usual Suspects’ (’95), Bartel also directed cult favourites ‘Death Race 2000’ (’75) and the wonderful ‘Eating Raoul’ (’82), and was often seen alongside another cult icon; Mary Woronov.

Although not for all tastes, ‘Private Parts’ is a true one-off and is one my favourite cult movies. Full of surprises and oddball characters it may not quite work as a whole, but for fans of the offbeat there is certainly enough here is satisfy. It does have a Hitchcockian feel about it, although unlike the earlier ‘Psycho’ this one may actually leave you wanting to take a shower afterwards!

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2 Comments on "No Vacancies – Rediscovering ‘Private Parts’ (US 1972 – 87 mins)"

  • chris cameron

    Please send me a copy…well, it’s worth a shot O.T.O Happy Day’s.)

  • Saw it at Midnight showings in high school. Just terrific. Ann was a great beauty and you couldn’t take your eyes off her. All the players are terrific and Paul had a great sense of dread and humour. Wish to see it again.

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