As hardcore horror fans, sometimes it feels like you’ve seen it all. There are no surprises left to discover, no classic slasher film waiting around the corner to thrill you and slap a childlike grin on your face. You try to feed the fix by searching through lists of “The Scariest Films You’ve Never Seen” only to come across titles like “May”, “The Descent”, and “Suspiria”. These are, of course, films that us diehards know and love all too well. That’s where I come in, dear reader. We’ll be taking a deep dive into the bowels of obscure horror from decades past and uncovering titles that might have fallen “Through the Cracks”.
AKA: Olivia, Double Jeopardy, Beyond Sin (and about five other different titles)
Prozzie is a psycho-sexual romantic thriller from once promising director, Ulli Lommel. Lommel, was the director of quasi-classics (or, at least, well remembered), The Boogey Man (1980), and the feminist witch-revenge flick, The Devonsville Terror (1983). His career later devolved into a string of incoherent, bargain basement, DTV dreck. Most of which chronicled true crime tales of serial killers from various periods. It’s a shame as Lommel showed such promise with his earlier outings behind the camera. This, being one of his most obscure efforts, is quite possibly his best.
While scouting locations for 1983’s poor excuse for a clip-show, Revenge of the Boogeyman, Lommel toured Arizona where he discovered the original London Bridge, now looming over Lake Havasu, had been relocated meticulously stone by stone. This struck the director as such an odd tourist attraction for a small lakeside community and ultimately became the impetus for a tale of dual identity and “sexual revenge” (or so says one of the many taglines adorning the film’s various covers).
Starring Lommel’s then wife, Suzanna Love (The Boogey Man) in the role of Olivia. She’s quite the damaged soul, having witnessed the death of her very own mum as a child. In the film’s opening, her mother, a prostitute, is entertaining an American soldier in their small flat overlooking the Thames River in London. When the ole’ kinky stuff gets out of hand, the mother’s “John” ends up brutally murdering the woman, all while Olivia watches through a keyhole. Flash forward to a now adult Olivia living out her days in similarly cramped quarters with an overbearing and occasionally abusive louse of a husband who demands she stay confined at home with no job and no life.
While her husband is out working late nights, Olivia longingly watches the prozzies (slang for prostitute) outside her window as they work the area up and down the London Bridge. One night, fed up with her current state and egged on by the disembodied voice of her long dead mother, something snaps. Olivia dresses in her skimpiest outfit, throws on some dark shades and bright red lipstick and starts walking the streets. It isn’t long before she is picked up by a man who’s up for anything. She ties him to the bed, and before you know it she begins to reenact the tragic scene she’d witnessed so many years before. Only this time she is the aggressor. Don’t worry, this isn’t a big spoiler as it happens about ten minutes into the film. From there it would appear the story we are settling in for is in fact a tale of a repressed woman gone wild while meting out her own “sexual revenge”. It’s not…not for a while anyway.
Feeling the rush and excitement from her first kill, Olivia waits patiently for her husband to leave for work so she can escape to work the nighttime streets. Driven made by the ghostly voice of her mother, it seems clear Olivia is intent to continue killing the would be suitors who seek to pay for her body. That is until she meets Mike Grant (Robert Walker Jr.), a man working for the government trying to determine if the crumbling bridge is salvageable. He winds up courting Olivia back to his place where they begin a passionate affair. From here on out the movie is more of a tense romantic drama with sporadic bursts of violence peppered throughout. I’ll speak vaguely on the rest of the developing plot as to avoid the film’s twisted surprises.
What is so exciting about Prozzie is that it fails to follow any type of expected story structure. The direction shifts abruptly halfway through only to do so again as it all rumbles towards a climax. After a series of unfortunate events, we cut forward four years from London to Lake Havasu in Arizona and Mike becomes our “in” to the proceedings as we switch to his point of view. It became very clear to me at this point Lommel was attempting his own take on Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Several shots on the shores of Havasu are lifted directly from that film and the plot dovetails into a mix potential doppelgängers, obsession, and revenge. There’s even shades of Psycho with Olivia’s dead mommy complex slowly chipping away at her sanity.
Lommel keeps things moving at an entertaining clip (the film is right at 80 minutes) and while the budget was extremely low, there is some style on display in certain scenes. Take for example a vase being used as a murder weapon with the flowers inside scattering, the petals slowly falling across the victim’s face. While the majority of the film is more drama than fright, there are some fun gore gags. Though, they feel slightly out of place in such a serious-minded film. Death by electric toothbrush? You betcha, and it’s pretty sweet…if nonsensical. Nonetheless, these moments remind the viewer they’re watching a horror flick, and the sense of fear only grows that the outcome for our star-crossed lovers is likely bleak.
Love delivers an incredible performance relying mostly on her eyes to express all the crazy emotion flying around her character’s warped brain. Walker as the broken hearted male lead is effective as someone determined to reunite with the love of his life. Overall, the acting is far and above what one might expect from a 500k quick and dirty low budgeter from the 80’s. Lommel manages his cast and interesting script into one hell of a twisted romance. For those readers who love Hitchcockian style suspense, I highly recommend hunting down Prozzie. Just be aware that you’re getting yourself mixed up in a dramatic thriller with squishy bits of exploitation (sex, nudity, gore) thrown in to spice it all up.
Prozzie is available on all region Blu-ray from UK’s 88 Films. This is one film that’s fallen through the cracks that is surely ripe for a modern reevaluation.