Psychotronic Ketchup: How I Met "Please Don't Eat My Mother" (1973)

Director: Carl Monson
Boxoffice Int'l, 1:38, color
Cinema 4 Rating: 3

This post started out as a completely different post altogether. Tying it up with this film, Please Don't Eat My Mother, a “nearly hardcore" softcore porn version of Little Shop of Horrors, I started to construct an elaborate treatise on how people of the past couple of generations have largely replaced the versions of films with which I grew up instead with knowledge only of a vast supply of recent remakes, with little or no recognition that the original films existed at all. I was going to use the 1986 musical remake (by way of the stage adaptation of the original Corman-directed classic) of Little Shop as a near-perfect example, where the copy has replaced the original in the minds of the current public, almost to a point where most people are no longer aware that the 1986 one is a remake, but see it as an original work instead. (Heck, most people that I talk to, outside of my theatrical family, didn't even know there was a musical stage version.)

But then, after watching the trailers attached to this Something Weird disc, from a company which specializes in low-budget exploitation, nudie films, and grotesque shockers, I realized that now is not the time and place. Mainly, this is due to my not wanting to obscure the fact that Please Don't Eat My Mother is not really a remake of Little Shop, even though both of them have nerds in the lead role who bring home tiny Venus flytraps and eventually end up feeding the ultimately monstrously sized adult versions of the plants live humans as prey. It seemed to be a long way to go for me to finally end the post describing a film which really doesn’t add anything to the discussion that would precede it. except for an ample dose of single-X rated groping and a lot of untrimmed foliage, not all of it involving the plants. The conversation would have to be based around the fact that all of the discussed versions of the story would have been fairly well known to the general public at some point along the way, which would preclude each film having a clear ancestral relationship with each other in order to ascertain their general recognition with each successive generation. Please Don’t Eat My Mother, not being a true remake by even half, and also by being a low-profile nudie flick, really cannot enter into the argument.

Please is definitely one for the raincoaters in the audience, and I am assuming that once upon a time, in the era before videotapes and, eventually, the internet made it easy to skip past the boring parts, that said raincoaters had a greater range of patience while waiting for the dirty parts. Featuring actual Hollywood character actor Buck Kartalian (The Outlaw Josey Wales, one of the Planet of the Apes flicks, Friends, ER, Octaman, and recently, How I Met Your Mother) in the lead role of mama’s boy Henry Fudd, Please actually has moments where the viewer could almost feel as if they were watching a legitimate feature. These moments are exceedingly fleeting, and it also doesn’t help that the film’s only truly intentionally humorous moments are the ones where it seems like a good deal of ad-libbing is going on. Kartalian is quite game in the role, and if there is a saving grace to watching this movie, it’s him. Not that he’s especially good, but he does seem committed to the ridiculous venture, and the bemused smirk with which he enters even the most idiotic scene is sometimes enough to help the viewer connect. And while it seems odd that an actual Hollywood actor with an ongoing career at that time would get involved with such a low-rent and possibly illegal operation in some areas, watching the aforementioned trailers and extras on the disc reveal that this may not have been a one-off for Mr. Kartalian.

Plot-wise, there is a plant that friendless Henry believes that he hears speak at the local flower shop (where, naturally, the owner is an outrageous “queer” stereotype), so he buys the homely little thing and brings it home. His mother, also an outrageous stereotype, that of the heckling Jewish mother, berates him constantly for his laziness and his insistence on maintaining his own privacy in the own. That such a son would ever ask a carnivorous plant such a thing as “Please don’t eat my mother!” seems to prove the title a lie, as that would be the first thing I would teach it to do in his situation. It turns out the plant has what Henry considers an alluring, seductive voice (I don’t personally), and he swiftly falls under its spell, starting to first bring it small insects the frogs then dogs, and, after turning down a request for elephants, he deigns to bring the plant live humans.

Where does he get these human victims? Well, the answer lies in exactly what true purpose the film has, the purpose which takes it out of being a true homage or even spoof remake of the original film, and into another territory altogether. Henry Fudd is a voyeur, and takes his lunches in the park, where he watches young horny couples have sex – in cars, on picnic blankets. It is proof of the cheapness – or the economy, of the picture that Henry will return time and again lunch after lunch to find the same couple from the day before getting it on in a continuation of what he viewed 24 hours previously, picking up where he got off, so to speak. Henry doesn’t do anything but watch, not even touch himself, in these park encounters, but he is clearly frustrated. Hence his attraction to a carnivorous plant with a sexy speaking voice, whose interest in devouring nubile young women stems directly from the fact that Henry covers the walls of his bedroom with centerfolds from his dirty magazine collection. When Henry is finally given the order to bring his new friend ever larger prey, he knows exactly where to go to get that prey.

In the meantime, before the carnage (such as it is) begins, we watch the same sex scenes that Henry does – glacially paced, supposedly erotic, generally softcore. Henry’s pervy reactions, and those of the occasional other voyeur (who comes on to Henry at the same time, before Henry offers him a sandwich), are all one has to actual stop from falling asleep during these exchanges. Perhaps an anthropologist would be interested in comparing things such as the 70s fashions, hairstyles, car interiors and, er, lawn trimming on hand in the film to today’s standards, but I am not necessarily that person. Such matters did hold a certain interest factor for me, but it pretty much dissipated after the first car scene. By then (and this has always been my problem with any form of adult material), once you know that the movie is only going to go that far, and no further, with its supposedly risqué action, then I lost interest. Nor are the girls, with perhaps the exception of the well-known loop veteran Rene Bond, all that much to write home about, especially if that home contains the hideous example of a mother that this one does.

And when I use terms such as “nearly hardcore” or “generally softcore,” while by most standards this is considered the latter, I do so by recognizing that there are quick flashes of what seems to be actual penetration. Unfortunately, this seems to be from behind the copulating pair, so that one gets a little bit more of man-ass and ball action than many of the more insecure viewers would prefer to have to see. It’s a bit much to put up with when you think you are going to see a mere titty flick with a giant plant monster. The plant itself is cheaply constructed, and even seems to actually break during one of the eating scenes. There is also little attempt to make the actions of its gaping maw match up with the voice coming out of the thing, so the precision of the puppetry was clearly never a concern.

While it might seem that I am doing nothing but complaining about what is obviously a mere attempt to separate dollars from the otherwise busy pockets of raincoat-wearing perverts, there is a grand sort of innocence to the proceedings. Despite its obvious lack of charm, charm it does in a very minor way. Like the man who brings home a pathetic wretch of a plant and gives it the attention it needs, so too does it go for the casual viewer who wanders into watching Please, and this film really turns out kind of lovable despite itself. It might seem like degradation and filth, and it is, but you can’t really hate it thanks to the sincere lack of mean-spiritedness in the film, even when Kartalian is holding a gun on stripped-naked lovers and feeding them to his plant.

After all, he’s only doing it out of love, so it can’t be all bad…

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