1/9/09

Ruby: A Gay Old Time

1977's "Ruby" is one delightful, trashy film : gore, gangsters, ghosts, a possessed teen, and best of all, a scene chewing, Piper Laurie as the titular character!Meet Ruby Claire: gun moll, floozy, singer and good time gal. It's 1935 and Ruby and her gangster beau, Nick (Sal Vecchio) are having a romantic evening deep in the swamps of Florida. There is champagne and sweet talk and canoodling ... until, suddenly, a group of thugs show up and blast poor Nick to gator-bait.As Ruby watches her lover being shot, she falls to the ground and goes into labor, giving birth to her and Nick's daughter, Leslie.

Fast forward to the 50's and we find Ruby has opened up a drive-in-movie-theater not far from the swamp where Nick was rubbed out. Living in an old mansion that overlooks the drive-in, Ruby spends her time drinking, smoking, looking fabulous and dealing with her mute teen aged daughter (Janit Baldwin), her companion Vince (Stuart Whitman), and some blind guy in a wheelchair. Ruby has also provided jobs for the old gang (the men who shot Nick) whom all toil away at her drive-in.
Much like Norma Desmond, Ruby still lives in the past and is haunted by the death of her lover. Did she have something to do with it, or was she just a patsy? Unfortunately, her daughter is of little comfort and since the kid does not do much but stand around and stare, all Ruby can do is look at her and think how much she resembles her father.

In my humble opinion, actress Janit Baldwin resembles Susan Sarandon. Before long, things start to go amiss at Ruby's and one by one her employees start meeting tragic ends ... one of the guys ends up hung by a reel of film in the theater's projection booth:Another one is bitch slapped by some phantom hands and is found strung up in a tree in the swamp:The best death is the lunkhead found in the soda machine, hoses stuck through his noggin so that when anyone tries to get a drink, they end up with nice big cup of plasma:And yet through it all, Ruby continues to look fabulous and drink.Did someone say, "Mildred Pierce"?Finally Ruby's pal, Vince brings in a paranormal doctor to get to the bottom of things. The doctor, played by Roger Davis, immediately senses that things are wacky at Ruby's place and despite the fact that crazy Leslie has tried to bite him, and Ruby has tried to seduce him, the doc tries to set thing right ... of course he fails miserably and on top of that, Leslie starts talking like her late father and starts hitting on her mother!!!If this wasn't bad enough, she also starts to go all Linda Blair on everyone!
Ruby, at her wits end by now, is hearing her late husband calling to her from the drive in's speaker's, her daughter's mouth, and in her dreams ... it's enough to drive a woman to drink, which she does ... a lot.Remember that blind guy I mentioned? Well, Ruby decides to prove to Nick that she is really his girl by admitting to him that she was the one who blinded him! She even keeps his eyes in a jar in her bedroom just in case she ever had to prove the point to anyone!A lot of other thing happen as the movie rushes to it's ludicrous conclusion, but best of all, Piper Laurie has one more fab ensemble to model as she walks back to the swamp to reunite with her dead lover. Damn, she looks great in red!Ruby and Nick: Reunited and it feels so good ...Ah, a happy ending. Oh wait, what's this? Nick has now morphed into a cheap plastic skeleton and is dragging Ruby to the bottom of the swamp ... what's up with that?...well, here's what's up with that: according to the film's director, Curtis Harrington, the skeleton scene was tacked on to the end of the film at the studio's insistence to give the film a more horrific ending.

All in all, Ruby is a camp fest worth seeking out. I have not enjoyed a movie this much in some time. Piper Laure seems to be channeling Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth and dozens of lesser known B-movie bad girls, and she nails it. The camp factor in this one is over the top, even the title song (sung by Laurie through out the film) "Love's So Easy" sounds like an authentic ditty from the 30's.


Granted, it took me a lot of searching to get this DVD, but it was well worth it.

4 comments:

burntskull said...

I love this movie ... piper was a scream. I can't seem to find this dvd anywhere - where did you get it?

Babeco said...

Sorry, I know that is not the right place but I can´t find a mail contact.

Hello my name is Francisco Calvelo and I directed the short film "Vampire Prison" (Santiago de sangre) produced by Perro Verde Films (Zombie Western, Going Nuts, the Missing Lynx) and starring Eloy Azorín (All about my mother). I would like to invite you to see it. www.santiagodesangre.com

thx.

Meep Parker said...

I love me some Curtis Harrington. I always felt Ruby was pretty ignored... Thanks for the great read. And i'm really loving the blog.

dtownla said...

Thanks for bringing back this camp classic. I saw it at a drive in, which made it all the scarier.

The tag line was "Christened in blood. Raised in sin. She's sweet sixteen. Let the party begin."

So cool and totally riffing off the success of Carrie.