Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Anti-Sex Lady: Evil Come, Evil Go (1972)

Today marks my debut coverage of the notoriously fantastic output of Vinegar Syndrome, and (gasp) this one is softcore. I know, I know, GGG only covers hardcore, but allow me to explain. I went into this thinking it was hardcore, but by the time I realised, "Wait a minute, these two are just rubbing against each other," I already had something to say and so here I am, writing about a soft flick. [Editor's note: I often ponder and regret my lack of interest in softcore, as I miss out on a bunch of great films]. I should also warn you that now VS has started releasing a bunch of GGG favourites, this might turn into something of a VS lovefest. I will do my best to diversify.

The distinctly Flannery O'Conner-esque Evil Come, Evil Go tells the tale of Sister Sarah Jane, a traveling evangelist set on carrying out a mission from God. As she explains in voice-over during the opening sequence, "The lord come, and he told me, Sarah Jane, he said, you have a pre-ordained purpose in life. Your mission is, you are going to rid this world of all evil! Evil things, and evil men! Them men, with their honey sweet words and horny cheatin' ways, usin' them words to charm poor innocent girls, then laughin' and leavin' 'em like they was dirt! That's men for ya'. Evil. Eeeeevil things they be!" Sister Sarah plans to seduce men in bars and then kill them, and this she does in rapid succession, managing a little street evangelism, hotdog snacking, and accordian playing along the way. In addition, she picks up Penny, a sympathetic lesbian who is swiftly indoctrinated and put to work seducing men in bars so they can both "do them in." Penny is also useful in that she provides Sister Sarah with money, a bed to sleep in, transport, and the funding required to start Sister Sarah's evangelist TV show. You have to feel for Penny.
The 1970s: when shirts matched cups.

While Evil Come, Evil Go does have a lot of fun at Sister Sarah's expense, the film also presents her anger and disgust as righteous to an extent.
"I'm coming!"
Her second victim, for example, embodies classic misogyny and chauvinism. He fucks three or four women a week, has been married more than once (with no divorces), has a number of children scattered across the country, and doesn't pay child support. "Think you're a real he-man, don't you, Albert," Sister Sarah growls, "A real man show.[...] Not gonna' let no woman get the best of you." "There's no woman smart enough to get the best of me," Albert replies, adding, "Hey, look, why don't you give me some head -- that way your mouth will be full and I won't have to listen to your yakking. You know, you women are all alike. Yak yak yak yak or bitch bitch bitch bitch." Sister Sarah obliges, but when he climbs on her from behind, and announces, "I'm coming," Sister Sarah opens the knife on her switchblade and drives it into his back at (presumably) the moment of ejaculation. Empathy rests on Sister Sarah's side, then, but not for long. Soon, her message, "I'm against pleasurable sex in any form," accompanied by a healthy dose of hypocrisy, takes the floor and the sexual politics of the film emerge.
God is "Love" not SEX

--> While the film itself is ridiculous, it is also a strangely astute and timely piece of satire on conservative, religious sex panic. Sister Sarah's railing against "the new love generation" -- "Sex generation, that's what it is!" she spits at a couple of innocent hippies -- is comparable to the current state of things as concerns antiporn feminism. Sister Sarah herself appears to be an embodiment of antiporn feminism of the time and its strange bedfellow, the Christian Right (Editor's note: it is important to note that antiporn feminism did not reach its height until the late 70s, and while it existed in the early 70s it was accompanied by vibrant sex radical feminist voices that have since been buried. See Whit Strub's fantastic Perversion for Profit). The hypocrisy of these groups becomes clear after Sister Sarah has recruited Penny. On seeing Penny, Sister Sarah cries out, "Hey! I'm the anti-sex lady from the street! You gave me ten dollars!" So begins a relationship grounded in various forms of financial and emotional exploitation; while men exploit women by using their bodies for pleasurable and meaningless sex, Sister Sarah exploits Penny for her money, her lodgings, and her car within approximately 30 seconds of sitting down with her. Later, at Penny's home, Sister Sarah effortlessly rationalizes asking for a glass of Scotch via some liberal interpretations of the bible, and sets about indoctrinating Penny. Ordering her to kneel and vow to "do whatever Sister Sarah says, without any question. Complete secrecy and obedience to Sister Sarah."
Complete secrecy and obedience to Sister Sarah.

 While watching this film, I had a mixture of reactions. I found the film satisfying in its mockery of sex panic, grating in its female embodiment of sexual hypocrisy and conservatism (and in comebacks such as, "You know what you need? A good lay!" *shudder*), and satisfying once again in its violent disposal of creeps. I think these conflicting feelings go some way in unraveling the conflicting feelings many women currently have around being sex-positive and supportive of sex workers' rights, while simultaneously experiencing anger at a visual culture that routinely depicts women in distorted and harmful ways, sexual discourse that disregards female pleasure, and a pervasive rape culture that disregards female consent. In other words, what these conflicting feelings can show us is that there is no real conflict concerning these feelings, and that it is antiporn and religious dogma that has taught us that these feelings conflict in the first place.

--> So, I am left at a quandary as to whether we should jump for joy at the film's conclusion, which hints at the continued violent adventures of Sister Sarah and Penny, or whether we should feel horror at her strangulation of Penny's badass girlfriend Junie. (Seriously, Junie is a badass, and dead so soon!).

--> Feminist politics aside, Vinegar Syndrome live up to their stellar reputation. The picture quality is sublime, the colours oh-so rich, with audio to match. The DVD also comes with two other films -- the notorious Widow Blue (1970) and Cleo O'Hara-starrer Oh! You Beautiful Doll (1974) -- outtakes from Widow Blue, trailers, and a video interview with producer (and GGG favourite) Bob Chinn. I'm looking forward to digging into the rest of the impressive VS catalog.

Cat in shot.



Lord Crayak said...

Widow Blue!/Sex Psycho is possibly even more off-the-wall crazy.

Gore-Gore Girl said...

So I've heard! I'm looking forward to watching that one. :)


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