"By, For, and About George Kuchar" celebrates the beloved, rascally filmmaker
TRASH She's an unstoppable force, that Sherri Frankenstein. As embodied by Linda Martinez in an anything-but-soggy serial by George Kuchar, Sherri is endlessly buffeted by life — shoved, mutilated, or worse by rapacious characters ever-eager to administer injections. She's prone to oracular gestures so lengthy and dizzyingly impulse-driven that their conclusions directly contradict the reality around her. But whether she's carousing at a go-go club or distractedly presiding over a Dracula's castle-turned-home for wayward women, Sherri's is a spirit that will not be snuffed.
Sherri's odyssey begins in 2003's Kiss of Frankenstein, a screen adaptation of a 2003 play's torrid and torrential vomitous verbiage. Shot in three hours for $500 and post-dubbed in a bathroom, Kiss is an orgy of all that Kuchar in dramatic mode has to offer — a DayGlo video update of the old dark house scenario of his and Curt McDowell's classic Thundercrack! (1975) with live action-meets-animation interiors that outdo Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977) in terms of lurid décor. Martinez's sheer organza negligee is only the raciest fabric in a dance of the 700 veils to rival Kenneth Anger's Puce Moment (1949). The dreamy-eyed male lead's hairy chest and right nipple peeks out from a torn pajama top. A maze of maniacal monologues and mythical machinations — listening to Kuchar's characters rattle off narration, one can't help but ponder the narcissistic nature of memoir — in the form of a hungry Hungarian "pilgrimage for the palate," the first chapter in Kuchar's monstrous equivalent to Wagner's Ring includes a sudden ax attack rendered in the style of William Castle.
Fresh from an acid facial, Sherri is back and pig-biting mad in 2005's The Fury of Frau Frankenstein, another of Kuchar's collaborations with his students at San Francisco Art Institute. Abandoning Kiss's monologues for title cards and visual tale-spinning, Fury introduces Sherri's buxom niece Leticia, whose fate is watched by a Ryan Gosling-like newspaper reporter named Bruce. (In a bit part, young filmmaker Sarah Hagey almost steals the movie while her man is stolen.) Kuchar unleashes a blitz of post-production video effects, placing party scenes within envelopes and sprinkling digital glitter on Sherri's face. Shot for $100 less than its predecessor, Fury is pure cinematic gluttony on a budget: a stew is stirred with a dismembered hand, a glimmering spider web curtain from the previous movie returns as one character's cape, and a bat scurries across a floor in a manner that evokes not just the ravenous killer brains of the 1958 British horror flick Fiend Without a Face, but also furry slippers.
Technical difficulties prevented a viewing of the climax of Kuchar's Frankenstein Cycle, 2008's Crypt of Frankenstein. But Sherri returns in a sequel to the series, 2010's Jewel of Jeopardy, whose cast includes an M.D. A little weary and slurry and lost in the length and relentlessness of her monologues, she's soon helpless — gleefully so — to stop a Dracula who "burns quite easily" as he feasts on the "nubile necks" of her female charges, administering "hellish hickeys." Here, the prop-mad and pixelated fervor of Kuchar's meta-montage reaches its apex: digital blood drapes the screen, hairdos morph into spider webs, a character is beaten with his own severed leg, a Santa Claus wall hanging beams green rays from its eyes, Martinez's flesh is visually rhymed with a Frankenstein mask, and the cast is momentarily lost in a blizzard of animated hearts and stars that would bring a blush to the face of the Lucky Charms leprechaun.