The Gardener (aka Seeds Of Evil/1975)
Sound: C+ Extras: B Film: B-
The ability of older Horror films to be effortlessly
creepy and interesting was standard for films in the 1960s and 1970s. The genre was in its last great golden
period and all kinds of interesting works often forgotten are just now
resurfacing. James H. Kay’s The
Gardener (aka Seeds Of Evil/1975) is one such film, with an
interesting combination of terror, sexuality and the supernatural that never
totally cohere in a good way, leaving many possibilities in its openendedness.
Joe Dallesandro was the superstud in the films of Andy
Warhol and Paul Morrissey that redefined male sexuality in international
cinema, starting from Warhol’s adorations to being the first male to appear
sexually erect in a non-XXX film. He
was in Warhol’s controversial Western Lonesome Cowboys (1969, an X-rated
film investigated by the FBI for being subversive) and the two X-rated
Morrissey horror films, Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula. They all had unusual sexual and violent
content, so the idea of having Dallesandro in this film was to try to do
something new and maybe more “legitimate” (read censored) as he played the
deadly title character.
As was the case in Blood For Dracula, he plays the
servant/stud role, but in playing on that and that sexual fantasy in general,
Kay’s screenplay is suggesting that the very dark side of the fantasy. That the dreamlike state it affords is a
death trap as the natural laidback nature of the fantasy is suddenly and
literally a vegetative death the equivalent of Invasion Of The Body
Snatchers, with an emphasis on the sexuality of that body.
Katherine Houghton (Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?)
is the homeowner who has hired the title character to fix her garden, but when
she becomes infatuated and interested, he gets the chance to sow his
seeds. Too bad for her that the most
unexpected bait and switch is taking place, leaving dead bodies all over the place. The contrast of her mousy sexuality against
his overt sexuality, as he walk semi-naked to naked all over the place all the
time, gives a bad name to the dysfunctional idea that opposites attract. Dallesandro’s acting was always noted for
being wooden (no puns intended) or underwhelming, but it actually makes his
character here all the more creepy, especially if you have never seen him on
The film may not be a smashing success, but the way
everything is given an opposite, deadly meaning is intriguing and the titles
character’s connection with nature of all kinds adds up to an effective film
for those not desensitized to what the natural is or what is natural. Obviously, Dallesandro’s sexuality is being
exploited to some extent, but when his character is not as sexual in a full
human capacity, those around him should know something is wrong, but they are
so laid back because of their money, the nice area they live, the laid back
time the film takes place and their own lack of animal sexuality that it is no
wonder they become easy pray. This
uncut version of the film proves just how successful it really was.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is not bad for
its age, with some good fleshtones, detail, depth and color by TVC, but they
are all still limited no matter how consistent. Cinematographer Michael Zingale deserves credit for making nature
a star focus of all the scenes, increasing the creepiness factor. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is a little
better than the Dolby Mono, but the film’s dialogue and low-budget origins
still have their limits and show their age.
The combination is still effective enough to enjoy.
Extras are many and include two commentary tracks, one by
star Dallesandro (his first ever feature length commentary) and the other by
director Kay, stills, text talent bios, featurette with cast and crew, trailers
for six other Subversive Cinema titles and the DVD case contains mini-poster
and postcard-size lobby card reproductions.
Altogether, this is a strong special edition for a lost film worth revisiting.
- Nicholas Sheffo