The Devil's Cleavage

(1973, 16mm, B&W, Sound, 122min.)

Preserved by Pacific Film Archive with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

"... George Kuchar's lovingly farcical re-creation of those (Forties and Fifties) melodramas, THE DEVIL'S CLEAVAGE, is a camp parody that sometimes directly steals from the genre, sometimes burlesques it, and often travesties it. As you might expect, it soon begins to mock all kinds of cinematic references, from Hitchcock to Preminger. But leave the exact details to pedants, laughter's the thing here. Kuchar manages terribly well in terms of imagination and inventiveness, and just plain terribly in terms of such humdrum details of filming as using a light meter and tape recorder. Technical ineptness aside, we end up with a marvelous hybrid, as if Sam Fuller and Sternberg had collaborated in shooting a script by Tennessee Williams and Russ Meyer. Which is to say that excess is the most basic element of Kuchar's method, even when (almost paradoxically) it's an excess of cliche ('Such language! Bite your tongue!' 'Bite it for me ...') ... Douglas Sirk tells us, 'Cinema is blood, tears, violence, hate, death, and love.' Kuchar reminds us that cinema, like life, is also bedpans, earwax, sleazy fantasy, ineptness, compromise, and laughter."– Chuck Kleinhans, Film Center program

“Toward the end of this paralytically funny film, a Kucharian buck blurts out, ‘If there’s no food for the peasants, give them cheesecake, give them beefcake.’ Fortunately, there’s plenty of both: cheesecake in the form of luscious, high-cholesterol drama, and beefcake in the form of firmly faceted physiques swathed in the attire of shame. Kuchar’s heady brew froths around a pent-up nurse named Ginger whose marriage is on the rocks when she would prefer it to be straight up. Leaving behind the heaving hills of San Francisco, she heads for new misadventures in the rollicking town of Blessed Prairie, Oklahoma. Kuchar’s rousing cast, including the ever-pouty Ainslie Pryor and the provocatively prim Curt McDowell, pass through a jungle of moodily-lit interiors whose effect is dime-store von Sternberg, a creeping claustrophobia of dark shadows and cheap trinkets. Lifting lavishly from Sirk and the circus, Kuchar, that great impresario of the inappropriate, has immortalized ‘a biped in heat.’”– Steve Seid, PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE