Headless Body in Topless Bar
directed by James Bruce
(Northern Arts, 1995; 2002)

The New York Post ran the headline "Headless Body in Topless Bar." The article underneath described how a "maniac" forced a patron to decapitate the tavernkeeper. This loose frame and gruesomely vivid metaphor is the foundation for this brutal and direct film.

Much like a play, the film relies on dialogue, characterization and a single setting, or scene, to tell the story. That is, rather than a single episode of splattering gore or running violence, the filmmakers chose the more difficult path of a conflict largely in words and situation to which the murder is incidental. Fortunately, the cast contains the talent and experience to pull this off: Raymond J. Barry (Dead Man Walking, Year of the Dragon), David Selby (Dying Young, Falcon Crest), Taylor Nichols (Barcelona, Congo), Jennifer MacDonald (Dream On, Red Shoe Diaries) and Rustam Branaman (The Rapture), along with composer (turned actor?) Paul Williams (Picket Fences, The Doors).

From these actors we are invited to watch the twisted circus run by a ringleader who is an ex-con with such a fetishistic desire to leave no forensic evidence at the scene that he walks out with a head and a box and every other head left behind gasping in garbage bags. Stripper Candy not only watches her life complicate as her john, a corporate lawyer with a taste for rubber, meets her lesbian lover, who is also a mortician with a sense of humor, but finds her near naked advances rebuffed. Apparently, that is because the M.C. here is more stuck on recalling his own rapacious homosexual prison experiences summoned by one of young men attending the bar. Also here is a wheelchair-bound man of tragedy who, along with others, participates at gunpoint in the killer's probing game of "Nazi truth."

Headless Body in Topless Bar is a street-level film with the added dimension of gritty urban stereotypes that reveal more intricate psychological motivations.

[ by Tom Schulte ]
Rambles: 22 June 2002

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