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  Human Experiments Fail In Jail
Year: 1979
Director: Gregory Goodell
Stars: Linda Haynes, Geoffrey Lewis, Ellen Travolta, Lurene Tuttle, Mercedes Shirley, Darlene Craviotto, Marie O'Henry, Wesley Marie Tackitt, Caroline Davies, Cherie Franklin, Aldo Ray, Jackie Coogan, Bobby Porter, James O'Connell, Rebecca Bohanon, Phil Proctor
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Rachel Foster (Linda Haynes) is a country singer from Florida who has been booked to perform at various bars across the South and is taking care of the trip entirely by herself, without even a manager to help: she must lug her equipment around from the back of her car on her own, for example. In one isolated location she has to deal with bar owner Mat Tibbs (Aldo Ray), who not only comes onto to her in unwanted advances, but also cheats her out of her fair share of a fee. Seeing as how his brother (Jackie Coogan) is the local Sheriff, there's not a lot she can do, and cursing her bad luck she drives off hoping never to see either of them again. But some hope of that...

If Human Experiments is recalled today it's because it landed on the United Kingdom's notorious list of so-called "video nasties", though it is far from the highest profile member of that exclusive club, and after watching it you may ponder why it was ever included compared to some of the items that were. As often with these sorts of movies, much of the amusement can stem from trying to work out which scenes or shots were the ones responsible for damning it in the eyes of the Department of Public Prosecutions, albeit this was not the most deplored of the titles, having not spent too long on the banned roster. Nevertheless, there is a perverse attraction for its appearance there.

Really this was a Women in Prison flick with pretensions, and the presence of Geoffrey Lewis in the mad scientist role may alert you to ponder if this was some not-so-veiled attack on the psychiatric profession, as he was a dedicated Scientologist. That said, despite an apparent seriousness of intent in depicting the harrowing experiments of the title, Lewis's part as Doctor Hans R. Kline (which he portrayed sans cod-German accent) was interchangeable with any number of crazed boffins of the era, a holdover from a far older strain of horror that predated Scientology, though bearing it in mind, so to speak, you could perceive what had drawn Lewis to taking the prominent role of chief villain.

If your idea of a cinematic good time was watching a young lady getting victimised by life and the system, then you would have a ball with Human Experiments, previously named Beyond the Gate until a trashier moniker was chosen, possibly to attempt to link it to the Nazisploitation genre that came to disreputable prominence in the grindhouses of this decade, though the seventies were almost up by the point this was released. Haynes was a game lead, her only protagonist role in a career that bubbled under in supporting appearances without making it as a bona fide star - in fact, she left the business the next year, to start a family and an alternate career that presumably held a lot more job security. Here, at the very least, she proved she could carry a film, as she was in practically every scene.

When Rachel is back out on the road, she demonstrates you should not compose and drive as a bloodied woman runs out in front of her car, forcing her to crash. The vehicle stuck in the dirt, Rachel goes to a nearby house for assistance, but in a bizarre bit of bad luck finds a teenage boy has just massacred his family inside, forcing her to pick up a rifle and shoot him before he shoots her. He lands in a coma, and Rachel is blamed for the killings, placing her in prison where Kline takes notice of her, as he likes his subjects to have no ties and no friends: she has trouble making allies inside thanks to her trauma. It doesn't exactly play out predictably, but it was presented with such a lacklustre pace that such potentially dynamite material was squandered, leaving you identifying the censorable bits: the camera lingering on a masturbating Rachel's erect nipples, for instance, or the escape that ends up with the actress genuinely suffering through insect attacks that she doesn't look happy about at all. Oh, and Aldo calling her the C word. Aldo! Music by Mark Bucci.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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