What do you get when you mix a member of Andy Warhol’s “acting” troupe, with a distinctively Euro-Sleaze style erotic-horror script, and an American filmmaker whose only previous experience was in television commercials? Well, you get the laugh-a-minute silliness that is James Kay’s “The Gardener” (aka; “Seeds of Evil”).
“Flesh” star, Joe Dallesandro plays Carl, an odd, constantly shirtless gardener who looks as though he’s just stepped off of the cover of a tawdry romance novel. Carl’s most recent employer has passed away, leaving him without a garden to tend to; that is until Ellen (Houghton) sees his handiwork and offers him a gig in her yard. It isn’t long before Carl’s eccentricities surface, but the quality of his work is undeniable as Ellen’s once pedestrian plot blossoms into her own private Eden. Blinded by the beauty of the exotic flora, (or perhaps just blinded by the light reflecting off of Carl’s waxed chest) Ellen doesn’t seem to notice that Carl’s gardening style has her superstitious staff worried sick (literally), and her husband, James (Congdon), is beginning to suspect that their new gardener may be looking to fertilize Tulips of an entirely different nature (insert rim-shot here)!
The Gardener is one odd flick. It’s marketed as a horror movie, but there’s really not a whole helluva’ lot that’s scary about it. You would also think that, with Dallesandro’s inclusion, there’d be a goodly amount of sex and skin, but all we really see is ol’ Joe wandering about sans shirt, looking like Fabio in the Home Depot garden department whilst whacked-out on Quaaludes. As for naked ladies, well, there really aren’t any woman in this film that I would want to see naked, so perhaps it’s a blessing that they keep their clothes on.
What we do get is a completely off-the-wall script about some sort of elemental being who uses his power over nature to seduce woman, shot in the flat, no-budget style of later Franco films, and populated by sub-soap opera caliber actors. However, these folks look like masters of their craft when compared to Dallesandro, who delivers his lines as if there were no punctuation marks on his copy of the script;
“Come and see my garden Ellen it is beautiful and you will love it I assure you because it is nice and you are pretty and I need more Quaaludes.”
Subversive Cinema, hot off of their excellent release of “The Candy Snatchers”, gives us The Gardener in a gorgeously packaged and extras-packed DVD. The attention to detail here is amazing, and always has me gushing about this company’s treatment of its titles. The set is slipcased in an embossed sleeve with new cover art, while the inner sleeve features the original poster art, and loads of stills on its reverse. Also included are a miniature version of the theatrical poster, and a set of full-color lobby cards. The disc, itself, sports commentary tracks by Kay and Dallesandro, a lengthy featurette, stills galleries, trailers, and more. It’s a fantastic package; perhaps too good for the film it represents. My only gripe is with the transfer of the film, as it seems that, early on, things look a bit soft around the edges, and warm colors seem a bit saturated. However, after the first ten minutes or so, things level out nicely, and the remainder of the film looks quite nice.
Still, The Gardener has its charms and fans of the era’s quirkier offerings (or Mystery Science Theater 3000) should find a lot of enjoyment here, and Subversive's presentation of this film (as well as their other offerings) is simply superlative.