Private Parts (1972 film)
Private Parts is a 1972 psychological thriller film with some elements of horror and black comedy, directed by underground film director Paul Bartel as his feature film debut. The film stars Ayn Ruymen, Lucille Benson, and John Ventantonio.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Bartel|
|Produced by||Gene Corman|
|Written by||Philip Kearney|
Paul Bartel (uncredited)
|Music by||Hugo Friedhofer|
|Edited by||Martin Tubor|
|Distributed by||Premier Pictures (subsidiary of MGM)|
When Cheryl and her roommate quarrel, Cheryl moves into her aunt's skid-row hotel in downtown L.A. rather than returning home to Ohio. The lodgers are strange, Aunt Martha is a moralizer obsessed with funerals, murder is afoot, and the inexperienced and trusting Cheryl may be the next victim. She wants to be treated like a woman, and she's drawn to George, a handsome photographer who longs for human contact but sleeps with a water-inflated doll and spies on Cheryl as she bathes. Jeff, a neighborhood clerk, may be Cheryl's only ally in what she doesn't realize is a perilous residence haunted by family secrets. And, what happened to Alice, a model who used to have Cheryl's room?
Private Parts began with the working title "Blood Relations"; the change came at the order of MGM studio head James Aubrey, but Private Parts as a title was problematic because some newspapers would not print it; in Chicago, the film was advertised as Private Arts.
Producer Gene Corman – the brother of Roger Corman – convinced MGM to allow New York City-based underground filmmaker Paul Bartel to direct his first feature-length film for them. It originally was supposed to have been directed by Andrew Davis, who remained the cinematographer when he was replaced by Bartel. Location shooting took place in the King Edwards Hotel near Skid Row in downtown L.A. The screenplay by Philip Kearney and Les Rendelstein was based on real-life people they had met in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Bartel also made uncredited contributions to the screenplay.
The role of Aunt Martha, played by Lucille Benson, was intended for Mary Astor.
When the film was test-screened for audiences, the results were so bad that the studio decided to release the film under its "Premier Productions" subsidiary, along with two standard horror films; it was then shelved. Nevertheless, the film was copyrighted by MGM and not Premier Productions. Despite MGM's obvious lack of interest in promoting the property, the studio passed the opportunity to sell it to Roger Corman's New World Pictures when they expressed interest in buying it.
Roger Greenspan, who reviewed the film for The New York Times on its release, wrote:
[Bartel] succeeds in some details and fails in others. But the attempt, even when it isn't quite working, is a good deal more interesting than most...Private Parts is at least a hopeful occasion for those of us who love intellectual cinema and at the same time care for the menacing staircase, for the ominous shadow, for empty rooms shuttered against the light of the afternoon...Bartel is a young director whose previous short films have shown a genius of title (Secret Cinema, Naughty Nurse) not entirely matched by their content. Private Parts is no triumph, but it does mark a giant step forward toward the successful blending of precocious perversity and satiric good sense that seems the fated direction of his career.