Thursday, March 22, 2012
Minnie & Roman's 42nd Street Memories: Hotter Than Hell (Al Mamar, 1971)
Unlike most of the grindhouses on "The Deuce" (42nd Street), The Harem was not the grimy ruin of a once palatial movie house, but instead the result of several retail establishments -- including a shoe store specializing in "lift" shoes for short men -- failing all at once. The marquees of the surrounding theaters attempted to seduce through desperation, their colored lights chasing one another with a sped-up, jittery aimlessness that would appeal to an amphetamine addict down to his last crumpled dollar & the triple-feature movie titles covering as much carnal, violent territory as possible, primal word jumbles fired into the hungry, squalid night like scattershot. But The Harem had a specialty, at least for a time & having a specialty made the venue seem confident, which drew in a less ghastly clientele.
People who could be said to have friends frequented The Harem. People who were not too dead inside to go on dates frequented The Harem. For the most part the clientele were only one or two bad breaks from becoming the jangled loners who darted into the other theater lobbies on the promise of someone being tortured, raped or murdered, but these evolutionary baby steps were magnified in the sour false noon of a hundred blazing marquees. The Harem's specialty was occult-themed roughies, sex films with a dollop of Satanism & fuck-filled parodies of 1930s monster movies.
The spring of 1971 we put Rosemary & her son on a ship bound for Europe, where the child could be reared in our beliefs & customs without coming under undue scrutiny. This left us, once again, to our own devices. We went for long walks, spent hours pawing through antique book stores & boutiques specializing in oddments whose proper names were forgotten centuries ago. We spent whole weeks attempting to recreate dazzling meals we'd eaten a lifetime before in Budapest or Istanbul. We perfected spells which had once been cause for trepidation & indulged in sex magick for which we now had unlimited time & patience.
And early evenings we walked the two miles down 9th Avenue from The Bramford on West 72nd Street to The Harem on West 42nd, where we'd bask in strange films with titles like Rites of Uranus, Suburban Satanist, Waltz of the Bat, Suckula & of course, Hotter Than Hell. The memorable Hotter Than Hell told the story of an underworld made nearly vacant by a sudden outbreak of earthly virtue. Unconvinced that it's anything but a passing fad, Lucifer & his horny sons journey to our conflicted plane in order to sell its populace once more on sin. Who would not delight in seeing perfect pleasure & perfect pain reintroduced to a race of newly-minted, wide-eyed innocents?