Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things is a really bizarro exploitation film from the sunshine state of Florida. It’s one of those post-Psycho horror/thrillers that plays up the crossdressing angle of Psycho for a quick cash-grab. Joseph Bracci plays the dual role of Paul and the “Aunt Martha” of the title.
Paul dresses up as older lady as a “disguise,” but clearly is really into it. Stanley (Wayne Crawford) is his male lover, and they fuck and kill their way through Florida. It plays like the bastard spawn of Ed Wood and Andy Mulligan ,and predates John Waters’ features—and they are fleeing Baltimore after a bank robbery!!!!! Stanley faints at any opportunity of straight sex with hippie girls, there is a junkie thrown into the mix, and lots of other odd ‘60s vibes on offer.
The film doesn’t really work, and it shouldn’t be any surprise to anybody. It’s director Thomas Casey’s only directorial credit, although he also worked on some nudist films and other Florida exploitation films. The dialogue is pretty memorable, however, and you can’t help but wonder if John Waters saw this at a drive-in suburban Baltimore.
The various juxtapositions of style throughout are very unnerving, including the music cues. The film increasingly falls apart and even becomes a little dull by the climax. Still, it’s such an odd film that it’s worth checking out, even if it’s not an objectively good movie by any means. The film barely played theatrically but found its way onto VHS in the ’80s from Active Home Video, and Video Treasures had the even cheaper budget version. It would make a good double bill with Miss Leslie’s Dolls or William Castle’s Homicidal (if you want to be a little classier).
The release from 101 Films, which is a part of the American Genre Film Archive range, has some interesting extras. First up is a commentary from queer film historian Elizabeth Purchell and AGFA’s Bret Berg. The rest of the extras are short films and trailers for various ’60s/’70s queer cinema, from documentary to exploitation. The highlight is the short Gay-In III, which is a short documentary on a happening put together by the Gay Liberation Front in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park—there is an interview with a biker who is being fairly homophobic, which at the end has one of the funniest reveals I’ve ever seen on-screen.