From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Movie gimmicks have been used for the longest time in order to get audiences to experience films in theaters. Nowadays, we have 4DX technology that utilizes shaking seats and all kinds of aromas to immerse audiences into the films, but back in the 50s, 60s and 70s there were several gimmicks created specifically for each movie. For instance, William Castle's The Tingler had random shaking seats installed in the theaters, which cleverly links to the storyline in the film, or the U.S. release of Horrors of the Black Museum had a 12-minute introduction by a psychologist who tells how the film can hypnotize the audience into feeling pain and fear using the mysterious "Hypnovista". In addition, there's another kind of gimmick that focuses more on actual film/audio technology such as the anaglyph 3-D technology (which never worked for me), the extra widescreen Cinerama scope, the infamous Sensurround sound system (that can literally damage a building) and of course Duo-Vision. What's Duo-Vision, you may ask? Well, remember that scene in Brian DePalma's Sisters where he used split screen that showed characters trying to hide the body of a murder victim while the sole witness tries to call the cops? Now just imagine if that was used throughout the whole movie....
Wicked Wicked is the only film with Duo-Vision technology so far. For 6 years since I saw the trailer featured in an episode of The Cinema Snob (as a part of a "42nd Street Forever" trailer compilation review), I always wanted to see how the film would be. Plus, the trailer itself tries to claim that it's almost as important as the invention of talkies, color films and widescreen! Moreover...
"Now, the most exciting storytelling technique in film history. Anamorphic Duo-Vision. A new film experience. You don't need glasses, but this spectacular does require special projection equipment, so we can't show you scenes in Duo-Vision. But you'll see twice the action! Twice the excitement!"
They are half-correct here. Duo-Vision is actually 35mm film that's projected in 2.65:1 ratio. Technically, they can "letterbox" it and show it in 16:9 scale, but this is a campaign to create interest among moviegoers, but on the other hand, the fact that it has to be shown in widescreen prevented it from being replayed on TV for many years and it slowly became an obscure film.
Years later, I almost forgot about the film itself, until recently when Quentin Tarantino showed the film as a part of his "programming that focuses on the leading men of main character Rick Dalton's era" to promote his new movie Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood. The actor that links it to Wicked Wicked is Edd Byrnes (one of several actors who inspired the Rick Dalton character). Luckily, I later got the chance to watch it (not at QT's theater, unfortunately), and of course I expected a lot of info on how Duo-Vision actually works and how goofy it is.
Wicked, Wicked is a typical Murder/Mystery film. There's a killer in a hotel that murders three guests that share some similar traits. Then, the hotel security man starts investigating suspects and has to stop the killer from attacking his ex-girlfriend. Sounds interesting, right? Well, the problem here is that the audience can easily guess who the killer is since there's a flashback showing his traumatic past during his FIRST screen appearance! Moreover, the film actually reveals who the killer is halfway through, so the rest of it is about whether our hero will save the girl or not and us seeing these events unfold in split-screen. It's quite a bit tedious in the next-to-last part of the film, but the Duo-Vision actually saves it from being a bland movie.
There are also several sequences that show the intentional comedic tone of the movie. For example, there's a woman who, on one side of the screen, tells a story that she used to be a ballet dancer who danced in front of prestigious people and, years later, her husband passed away due to a health problem, but on the other side of the screen it's revealed that her real occupation was a nude dancer and she actually murdered her husband to get an insurance fund! Another example is when our hero and his ex-girlfriend (who is a singer) make love, it cuts to a quick montage of war sequences, gunfire, and it ends with a shot of a nuclear explosion! It made me laugh so hard and showed the clever editing of this film. Combined with interesting characterization and a fun-but-intense atmosphere, it's easy to keep the audience interested from beginning to end. And for those who worry whether it's confusing to watch the film in 2 screens or not, don't worry. The film usually has dialogue only on one side of the screen, while the other one is usually silent or inserting ambient noises while other characters are watching something or walking around.
As you may guess, this film has a lot of downsides in both good and bad terms. First, there's a mysterious woman in the hotel who plays organ and provides the soundtrack throughout the whole movie. Let's face it, how does she know when the killer will strike or when the romantic sequence is about to begin? She's almost as suspicious as the killer himself in my opinion. Next, the killer has motivation to kill every blonde woman in the hotel since they remind him of abusive stepmother. This makes sense until you realize that there's just 4-5 victims that he killed. I mean, what happened when he was around before working in this hotel? How many blonde women did he have to kill? And why does our hero's ex-girlfriend have to wear a blonde wig in the first place? There are several things that don't seem right to me. Finally, there's the killer's death scene. It's perhaps one of, if not, the most over-the-top death scenes I've ever seen. In both screens, we see him slowly fall in slow-motion while he opens his mouth. His pose and the bad special effects generate a lot of unintentional hilarity here.
In the end, Wicked, Wicked isn't as bad as what some critics have said. At least I consider it to be a fun ride and it has high rewatchability value since there might be details that you could miss on the first viewing. It's guaranteed to be a fun one to screen this Halloween season!
Nuttawut Permpithak hails from Thailand. He spends his free time watching exploitation films (or any films from the past) writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for GCDb.