The film, in Technicolor, begins on a desert island somewhere in the Himalayas. Overtones of Shangri-La and ominous electronic music over credits. Suddenly, rocks begin falling from the sky. Next we are in a large waiting room, something like Penn Station. A mother is telling her little daughter: “Samantha and Henry Pelkie just moved out of the neighborhood, You won’t believe where to.” As the daughter correctly guesses Arizona, gorillas emerge from the Nedick’s stand worshiping a large photograph of Jean Harlow.
A voyeur has scaled the fire escape outside the home of BRANDY ALEXANDER, the first recognizable human in the film and, as you might anticipate, the female lead. Brandy lives with ANUS, a handsome stockbroker in his early thirties who secretly tries on Brandy’s shoes and other apparel, a harmless frolic which Brandy herself has chosen not to register unless the coveted garment is desired for her personal use.
The voyeur makes a false move and plunges instantly to his death five floors below on West Broadway. Inside, BRANDY (also known at various times, for reasons which may become apparent, as MANDY) turns to ANUS (whose name and identity remain fixed) and shows him a photograph of MARION DAVIES pissing on WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST. Anus becomes aroused and steadily more peeved at Brandy for moving the couch to the only place in their apartment with a draft.
The day is saved by RICHTER, inventor of the famous scale and former private-duty male nurse who now specializes in house cleaning for international celebrities. Richter knows Anus and Brandy personally. He arrives wearing a very soigne sharkskin blazer, the rage among his peers. We see him attempting to organize the evening around a game of Botticelli. Richter has an almost feral need for amusement. And what is infinitely more damning in Brandy’s eyes is the fact that he eats diaphragms.
As Richter bounced into the room Brandy recalled vividly a recent luncheon with BLANCHIE, her closest friend. They had gone to Lutece, on a lark.
Flashback to Lutece. Brandy nibbles a radish and examines her nails.
“You just aren’t going to believe this,” Blanchie is telling her, at the same time spearing Brandy’s endive with her fork. “Last night we had Richter over for a little fun and games, and he somehow stole my diaphragm out of my purse. And then ROCKY inadvertently caught him EATING IT IN THE BATHROOM!!”
Rocky was Blanchie’s current male lover. Everyone knew how wealthy he was. The rest of him remained shrouded in mystery. “That’s curious,” remarked Brandy, “I’ve been looking for my IUD for over a week. I even called DAVID.”
David, Brandy’s off-again podiatrist lover, had recently sent her a conciliatory bouquet of gladioli. Whenever she passed it in the hall, she thought of him.
Later that same evening, much to the embarrassment of their intimate friends, MILDRED and EDWARD EMERSON committed suicide at their favorite nightclub. FLASH CUT TO THE EMERSONS SWALLOWING DEADLY MUSHROOMS ON THE DANCE FLOOR OF A LARGE, GLITTERING NIGHTCLUB.
Next, Brandy answers the telephone. BUNNY is the first to call with the horrible news. Brandy, at that moment powdering the massive duck Anus has found in his station wagon, cannot believe her ears and tries to stop them up with her fingers. But to no avail. She keeps hearing the awful words.
“So young, so gifted,” is the only remark to spring to Brandy’s lips.
“They weren’t that young,” Bunny remarks with casual malice, her attention now completely fixed on the game show playing on television.
“Who’s ready for leftover duck?” Brandy now says as her mind returns fitfully to the present. Richter polishes off his second vodka surprise of the evening. CLOSE SHOT of his trembling hands, strangely aged for one so seemingly young.
The camera gazes meaningfully into Anus’s face. We realize for the first time that Anus is trapped in a world he never made. He’s unutterable comely. You want to fuck him the instant his eyes meet yours, perhaps even earlier. The camera zooms into Anus’s left eye (blue).
We suddenly see, reflected in the eye, Tallulah Bankhead inLifeboat dangling her diamond bracelet over the side of the lifeboat. The voice of William Bendix is heard out of frame. Then everything’s back to normal: Brandy slices up duck as Richter and Anus talk about the stock exchange.
In the kitchen, it’s obvious that Brandy is seriously unhappy. She takes a long slug of cooking sherry and then collapses into a sobbing heap on the floor. She attempts to cut her wrists with the electric can opener. Finally, she begins throwing dishes off the shelves and jams an entire loaf of bread into the CUISINART.
(Note: As in many films of this genre, an inanimate object assumes the role of a major character—Brandy’s Cuisinart, like the portrait of Dorian Gray, functions as a symbol of all that is to follow.)
Like clockwork, Anus comes into the kitchen and gives Brandy a little kiss on the nape of her neck, pretending nothing has happened.
“I love you, Anus, you know that,” Brandy asseverates. She indicates the smashed crockery. “I don’t know why I do these things. I can’t help myself. I think I’m being followed.”
An ominous, close shot of the Cuisinart suggests the growing menace in the Alexander home. We see an alien life form, like bubbling yellow saliva, forming inside the machine. DISSOLVE TO:
“I know,” Richter says excitedly. “How about Revelations. Let’s play dress-up instead,” Anus says, absurdly avid.
Brandy winces. She thinks of the senseless deaths of the Emersons—a big gap at parties.
“I’d rather not play games,” she says. “Do you think I look at all like Veronica Lake in The Blue Dahlia? Because a pretzel vendor on 43rd Street told me I did just this afternoon.”
Anus runs his slender fingers through his wife’s hair as if inspecting it for microorganisms. “More like Gene Tierney in Where The Sidewalk Ends,” Anus asseverates, pleased at his cinematic erudition. Since neither Richter nor Brandy have seen this turgid film noir, Anus chronicles the entire plot.
Across town, on Gramercy Park East, DANA McNEIL, an ingenue with photographic memory, discovers a fatal letter in the handbag she whimsically stole from her friend MAVIS MONTGOMERY. MAVIS is Dana’s astrologer, who also does readings for every character in the movie. When we first encounter Mavis, it is dawn. She reads the fatal letter, puts it in her handbag, then comes into the living room of her endless flat, where Dana sits drinking the rest of Mavis’s aquavit (imported from Sweden) and weeping copiously over BOBBY, the rat, who’s just ditched her for a much younger woman.
“I gave him everything,” Dana sobs as Mavis lights several candles. As her back is turned, Dana reaches over and hides Mavis’s purse in the sleeve of her silver fox jacket. She lights an impossibly long brown cigarette and turns her right profile to the camera.
“I keep telling you,” chirps Mavis, oblivious to the theft, “lie down with Virgos, get up with fleas.”
“It’s easy for you,” Dana tells her. “You seem to know everything.”
“I certainly don’t know why these coleuses keep shriveling up,” Mavis replies distractedly, feeling a leaf of a nearly moribund potted plant. “I give them all the moisture I can.” She attacks the problem with a water sprayer, giving Dana the opportunity to shovel a lighter and crystal cigarette box into her own purse.
We cut back to Dana’s incredibly well-appointed flat. Nearly everything in the place has obviously been acquired in the same manner as the stolen handbag: thousands of small, expensive objects are clustered on dozens of obstructive end-tables. A Faberge Christmas egg dominates this eclectic jumble; a tiny portrait of Czar Nicholas II pops out of the egg on its own volition as the camera picks it up.
The letter Dana is reading is a letter to Mavis from Dana’s estranged husband, BRIAN. An enlargement of the letter—scrawled in a nearly indecipherable handwriting suggestive of a lunatic—reveals the collusion of Brian and Mavis in a plot to murder Dana.
“If only that bitch were dead,” reads part of the letter, as Brian’s leering face appears spectrally beneath the words. “I could give you some of these little things she’s always stealing from everybody. You will help me Mavis, won’t you?”
Details of the murder plot follow this sinister invitation. Long shot as Dana reaches expertly for the whiskey bottle under the couch cushions. Dana hides bottles everywhere, and several opened liquor bottles dot the room in plain sight, symbolizing the desuetude of Dana’s existence. A bottle of gin lying on its side on top of the grand piano tells a sorry tale.
“Mavis, what a surprise,” Brandy tells her. Mavis has appeared in the Alexanders’s living room wearing a sort of pink roman toga and a bright plum party hat. She blows ferociously into a cheap noisemaker and tosses confetti all over Brandy, Anus, and Richter, commemorating her arrival in a manner familiar to her friends.
“I’m sorry to just drop in,” Mavis tells them giddily, “but I was visiting Jeffrey and you’re right around the corner. Oh, Anus, what a lovely Soutine.”
Anus beams with the pride of ownership. He has become a rabid collector of paintings since his latest triumphs on the stock exchange. In fact, the living room is so thoroughly crammed with expensive art that there was no more wall room for the Soutine, so Anus has arranged it artfully on the floor and surrounded it with thick velvet theater ropes, enhancing the somewhat institutional flavor of his and Brandy’s SoHo loft.
Unfortunately—as we will later see—Anus’s passion for art is signally ill-informed. Most of the paintings are blatant fakes, as both Mavis and Richter are perfectly aware. No one particularly wants to spoil Anus’s fun, and since everyone believes the Alexanders have much more money than they deserve, friends secretly enjoy the spectacle of Anus throwing it away on worthless canvases.
“I didn’t leave my purse over here the other night, did I?” A note of urgency creeps into Mavis’s voice. “My diaphragm was in it.”
Brandy casts a significant, censorious look at Richter, who pales visibly, evidently unable to recall if he stole Mavis’s purse. He rummaged through several at the festive Circumcision Day celebration the Alexanders threw for a lark.
The phone rings. Camera follows Brandy to the bedroom extension, a square Call Director with 20 lines.
We are suddenly in the middle of the Adriatic Sea on a barge. Nubians are fanning Brian with ostrich feathers. He, recumbent on a large eiderdown coverlet spread over something that looks like an operating table, speaks into the telephone while a slave girl massages his feet. He is dramatically handsome in a villainous way, a man clearly given to dissipation and dark urges.
“Brandy, darling, why don’t you and Anus join me for my Nile Adventure this year,” Brian croons, kicking away the hapless slave girl and indicating the cocktail bar with his foot. The slave girl goes to the bar, takes a bottle of BubbleUp and some gin and begins mixing Brian’s daytime drink. Angle on slave girl. She takes a purple bottle from the folds of her colorful native costume, uncaps it, and surreptitiously pours little sapphire-colored drops of an unknown substance into the cocktail. Brian’s face fills the screen as he drinks.
“We’ll be taking in all the usual sights,” he promises. For years, Brian’s annual Nile Cruise has been the occasion of many marital splits. In fact, Brian is notorious for inviting couples whose marriages are on the rocks and pairing them up with sexually desirable gold-diggers and hangers-on.
Brian’s face dissolves to a helicopter shot of the Roman coliseum. Various brightly attired liturgical figures gather in an inverted swastika formation and execute an elaborate production number in the style of the June Taylor Dancers. As the dance gathers momentum a motif of grape clusters and rolling waves becomes apparent.
Brandy watches a satellite broadcast of the coliseum assembly on her Sony portable while fixing olive loaf sandwiches for Anus’s lunch. Last night had been a nightmare, with Richter regressing to an earlier biological stage in the living room and Anus trotting out of the bedroom in her favorite spike heels. The phone at her elbow rings, a Princess extension.
Split screen: on the right, Brandy slapping mayonnaise on Anus’s olive loaf, cradling the phone to her ear with the shoulder of her aqua Ship and Shore blouse. On the left, Bunny, also clutching the phone, stands on her head in the bathroom of her condominium.
“I think Anus needs discipline again,” Brandy speculates. “I mean, it’s getting out of hand. He’s ruined three pair of nylons on me. And nylons don’t grow on trees.”
“Why doesn’t he spring for his own drag clothes instead of ruining yours?” Bunny wants to know.
“I think it’s some sick form of personal aggression. He’d really like to make it with a guy, I think. He’s never done that, you know.”
“I know a Puerto Rican delivery boy who’s perfect,” Bunny offers. “He stimulated my kundalini, anyway. You wouldn’t believe the schlong. And you want to hear the beauty part,” Bunny adds in a confidential tone, “he does it for love.”
“I think Anus would prefer to pay for it,” Brandy says, switching the TV to a documentary on animal migration. “That always gives him a little thrill, every morning since we got married, I’ve found a $20 bill on the night table.”
The screen once again fills with Brandy as she presses her fingertips to her throbbing temples.
“You know something? I’m beginning to think I’m hopelessly middle class,” Brandy confides to her friend.
We see Blanchie coming out of Korvette’s later in the day carrying a large package. She’s wearing headphones and appears to be in another world. She is a tall, glamorous woman with high Vassar cheekbones and a sharply etched Northumbrian profile. Her two pet whippets, PANSY and GINGER, snap at passersby as Blanchie walks down the street.
A menacing limosine appears from nowhere, jumps the curb, narrowly misses Blanchie and the whippets and smashes through the windows of Korvettes. The driver, a large man dressed as Santa Claus, emerges from the dented sunroof of the damaged car and begins chasing Blanchie and her suddenly terrified dogs. We will never learn what role this individual plays in our story.
The life form in Brandy’s Cuisinart, seen in massive close-up, has began to acquire a definite shape, something between a sheep embryo and a heart of Palm. As the camera slowly dollies around the protective plastic around the innards of the blender, the creature’s mouth hovers into view: wide, palpating, dramatically lipsticked. The creature burps, very loudly and unexpectedly.
Suddenly it is 1925. We observe a team of Mongolian archaeologists examining a crude, clay vessel closely resembling a Cuisinart. Wind howls irritatingly around them. A sand storm blows dust into the camera. At last a gooey, jellyfish-like organism comes flying out of the clay fetish and fastens itself to the crotch of the archaeologist holding the thing. He screams.
Dana has cleared the living room of liquor bottles and is presently vacuuming everything in sight, an expression of determined mania on her appealing, oval face.
“That’s right,” she’s telling Blanchie, who, exhausted by her near-assault by Santa Claus, fans herself with Dana’s copy of Italian Vogue while the whippets chew on Dana’s furniture. “I’m getting my act together, finally. That son-of-a-bitch can float down the Nile gloating all he wants to. Did I tell you what I found—” Dana stops herself short of admitting she swiped Mavis’s purse. In any event, Blanchie isn’t listening.
“Right there in front of Korvette’s,” she’s telling Dana over and over. “It was like a nightmare. Oh, did I show you these pillowcases?”
She opens her package revealing several dozen robin’s-egg pillowcases of fabulous quality, Dana drops the vacuum cleaner and runs her fingers over the pillowcases. “Ooooh,” she murmurs. “Smooth as a baby’s tushie …”
“And I almost abandoned them right there on the sidewalk because of some fucking Santa Claus,” Blanchie rasps, lighting her fiftieth Marlboro of the day. “Isn’t it disgusting? Takes all kinds, I suppose …”
Dana is visibly inspired by the pillowcases and says brightly, “I think I’ll have a … pajama party. For all our friends, with lots of little hors d’oeurves. I know! I’ll make Sesame Tahini, your favorite Blanchie. I’ll have to borrow Brandy’s Cuisinart, mine had a nervous breakdown after that Guy Fawkes Day whoop-de-doo. I’m going to call Brandy right now.”
“Of course,” Brandy is telling Dana in the fuzzy foreground of a shot in which the focus emphasizes the brooding menace in the blender behind her. “I even have some fairly fresh leftover chickpeas, if you could use them. What a great idea, a pajama party.”
As long as Anus doesn’t try getting into Richter’s pajamas, Brandy adds to herself.
“It’s got some leftover eggnog or something stuck to the sides,” Brandy says, bursting into Dana’s apartment jubilantly. “I just noticed it this second. I was so excited by the whole idea I didn’t even look. But I’ll just wash it out for you.”
“Don’t be silly,” Dana protests, offering Brandy a gracious hug, “I’ll do that. Just thanks for being you, Brandy, a real pal and a great entertainer.”
“Won’t the men be surprised,” Blanchie chimes in, as the whippets, suddenly alert, begin sniffing in the vicinity of the Cuisinart. “Ginger! Pansy! How many times have I told you not to beg!”
“Maybe they’d like this gunk,” Dana suggests, not wild about having to scrape it off. She takes the lid off the Cuisinart with practiced gourmet fingers and places the machine on the floor, where the dogs begin licking the presently dormant alien.
“I hope that’s fresh,” Blanchie says apprehensively.
“Tell you the truth,” Brandy replies, her face vaguely bewildered, “I don’t remember making any eggnog. But I washed it out yesterday. Anus probably fixed himself a midnight liquado while I was busy giving Mavis her enema. She was all plugged up from all the peanut butter she’s been eating lately. You know Mavis, always on a new food kick.”
Dana’s face has become an undetected rictus of horror. “Mavis? What was she doing at your house?”
“She dropped in to tell me my planet’s going retrograde,” says Brandy in an amused way. She adds with a touch of condescension, “As if I didn’t know.”
On the corner of Lexington and 58th St., Richter, who has just finished cleaning Lauren Bacall’s place and done a little shopping, is propositioning a bosomy blonde bit of random fluff he discovered hailing the same Peugot taxi. He has pulled her aside and now offers her an exorbitant fee for a simple rim job. The girl reaches into her blouse, takes out a tiny gold crucifix on a gold chain. Tight shot as the girl rips off the crucifix and flings it into the gutter. Another shot as Richter dives for the cross, fishing it out of a scum of rotted newspapers and cigarette butts.
“That’s worth money, dumbbell,” Richter tells the girl, his face creased into a repellant grin.
They hail a mutual cab as the girl wisely puts the cross in her purse.
I’m gonna feel funny without the Emersons around,” Dana admits, chewing her lip nervously. “Imagine doing the death number on the dance floor at Regine’s. Makes you think a little bit.”
“There but for the grace of God goes me.” Blanchie agrees.
“Pansy and Ginger sure went for that eggnog, Brandy. Listen, do you mind if I just stay here till the party starts, Dana? I’ve had a really weird day. I’ll help you make the tahini and everything.”
“No problem,” Dana tells her, her mind elsewhere.
“Well, I’m going home to dress up,” Brandy announces, her day perked by the prospect of a fun evening. “Anus will be so thrilled. Let’s face it, Dana, you’ve been off the party circuit for a while.”
“You would have been too,” Dana tells her ruefully, idly chipping the Dior lacquer off her thumbnail, “if you’d been married to Brian.”
“I don’t see why you don’t just hire somebody,” Mavis is telling Brian long-distance. “The Mafia, or some wired-out junkie. They’ll kill and tell no tales. Besides, Dana cancelled her consultation this week. I think she suspects something maybe. I told you I lost the letter, didn’t I?”
Brian, afloat somewhere near Luxor, Egypt, sits up in shock, spilling his champagne on the legs of his white cotton trousers.
“I didn’t even know people still wore them.” Bunny giggles, “but just look at the pair I found in Bloomie’s. Aren’t they cunning?” Bunny pulls her turqouise PJs from the Bloomingdale’s bag and waves them at Anus and Brandy, who are putting the finishing touches on their respective prepajama wardrobes. Anus has his Pierre Cardin sports suit on, Brandy her gingham peasant dress. “This is too ’60s,” Brandy is saying, inspecting the dress for lint balls.
“Well, so is a pajama party,” Bunny chirps ebulliently, “might as well go the whole route. I wonder if Dana invited Bobby and his little jail bait item.”
“Dana’s big-hearted underneath it all,” Anus says, “she probably did.”
“Well, let’s be late, for God’s sake,” Bunny says. She winks at Anus. “At least one vodka martini here.”
We cut suddenly to the sleeping whippets in Dana’s living room. The camera stays on them for a long time. Then a wider shot reveals that Dana’s apartment has been transformed, as if by magic, into a kind of Oriental boudoir, very paisley and narcotic in flavor. Vast quantities of appetizers have been arranged in place of Dana’s many small, illicit acquisitions. Cocaine rests in a little dish next to a large oval mirror on which razor blades and syringes have been laid out.
Only a few couples have arrived so far. Bobby, Dana’s ex, with a girl of about seven; Rocky has arrived, joining Blanchie; also, a male couple, now arguing bitterly about the correct recipe for steak tartare.
“N-O spells no,” one of them says, “you do not use Worcestershire, no one in their right mind uses Worcestershire, it’s utterly nauseating, all that slime tasting of Bombay curry houses …”
“In the right quantity,” his companion counters, “it lends a certain tartness, that’s all I can tell you. If you don’t believe me, c’est la vie. But add a little splash next time and then tell me I’m crazy.”
“Wow, Dana,” Bobby’s date tells her. “You really went all out on this little wingding.”
“Gosh,” Blanchie tells Rocky: “Pansy and Ginger have been nodding out for hours. I hope they aren’t coming down with parvo or something.”
Hearing their names, the dogs emit little yelps.
“They look okay to me, Blanchie,” Rocky says, bending down to get each an honorary little pat. Pansy looks at him strangely.
“Heaven Pajamas!” Dana shrills at Bunny, who has just entered with Anus and Brandy. “That’s a line from ‘Play It As It Lays’.”
Richter arrives with his questionable date.
“If he shows up at one more bash with one more hooker,” Brandy hisses in Anus’s ear.
Anus waves off the comment. “Let Richter have his fling,” he advises. “He’s probably under a lot of pressure. Imagine having to clean homes for the rich and famous. All those knick-knacks.”
“Yeah, it’s funny, though, I just noticed, Dana has quite a few herself and they’re all put away.”
“Just thought they’d detract from the Persian motif,” Dana cuts in rapidly. “Besides, they break easily.”
“Looook whooose HEEERE!” Anus screeches. Mavis has appeared in the doorway and begins spraying confetti about the room. She cranks a little noisemaker and waves frenetically at everyone. More guests of the same general age and social class flock into the room, where everyone is busy ingesting canapes, cocaine and drinks. Dana has hired a bartender and two liveried waiters who pass among the fiercely animated partygoers.
Later the same evening. Another lingering shot of the sleeping dogs, who give an impression of troubled sleep. Little yarfs and barks, shudders. Pansy is seen to vibrate slightly as if receiving a mild electric shock.
A wider shot reveals the complete dissipation of the guests, who are now all in pajamas and chattering mindlessly after consuming staggering quantities of cocaine. Some are shooting heroin, others watching a videotape of fish in a large municipal aquarium. The room is noisy, hyper. Alarming. A few people dance clumsy, uncoordinated dances to blaring rock music.
“Chewed on any decent intrauterine devices lately?” Rocky asks Richter, thumping him heartily on the back. Richter’s date has passed out in a supine position with her head in a large bowl of coleslaw.
Across the room, Mavis is regaling Anus and Brandy by impersonating one of her particularly troublesome clients.
“So finally I had to lay it out for her,” Mavis says. “She’s got her moon in Leo. I told her. ’You’re ringing the doorbell to doom right there.’”
As if on cue, the twin whippets suddenly sit bolt upright. A considerable number of the guests notice this because both dogs look completely rabid. Saliva pours from their mouths. Their large trusting eyes wiggle crazily in their heads.
“Jesus Christ,” Mavis tells everybody, heading for the door. “I’m getting out of here.”
Blanchie runs to comfort her pets and trips over a Goebelins carpet worth $30,000. She staggers to her feet and approaches the dogs. Several of the guests have resumed snorting coke and filling syringes. The music, which went off as the whippets became animate, strikes up again.
“Aw, poor little Pansy, and poor Ginger! People just don’t understand how you animals suffer …” Blanchie croons to the dogs.
Just then, something completely unforeseen occurred, something which baffled police the following morning as they inspected the tableau of grotesque carnage. Pansy opened her mouth as if to scream …
The rest of the film is obscene beyond description. None of Dana’s guests survived the attack of the oozing, palpating mass of alien tissue.
Many persons who were not invited to Dana’s soiree complained bitterly against her, even though the slight had saved them from certain death. We see a montage of excluded friends bitching about it over the phone, the most vocal being none other than Brian.
“I could have got a flight out of Cairo in plenty of time,” he tells his guests as they glide down the White Nile. “I mean it was really just being tacky if you ask me. Of course, I’m not saying she got what she deserved, or anything like that.
Don’t get me wrong. I was just … a little hurt, I guess.”