A coven of devil-worshipping necrophiliacs moves to Los Angeles and sets up their base of operations out of a funeral home.
If you’re looking for an out-there introduction to a movie, there aren’t many better options than the first ten minutes of director Jacques Lacerte’s 1973 (and apparently only) movie, Love Me Deadly. It opens with a funeral, friends and relatives shedding tears over the loss of their loved one. Each member of the group makes their way to the coffin to pay their last respects, but an attractive blonde in full mourning garb, black veil and all, waits in her seat. After everyone has left, she makes her way up front and begins kissing the corpse. Make out kissing. A freeze frame brings us to the title sequence and opening credits, where a female version of Tom Jones (Kit Fuller, who also sang a bit in the classic Saturday the 14th Strikes Back) croons over scenes of a father and daughter playing together. As the credits draw to a close, and their interactions become more intimate, we begin to wonder if there isn’t something else going on, something far darker than just a familial love. It’s at this early point that you can’t help but wonder what’s going on, and you’re completely drawn in, and you continue on with the movie, just as I did.
Love Me Deadly is a love story that covers a couple different branches of “wrong.” Our main character, Lindsay (played by Mary Charlotte Wilcox, who would later go on to various uncredited extra roles on SCTV), likes to host parties and have a good time. She likes to take in a good art exhibit. And she likes to frequent funerals looking for a date. One day, while caressing the heavily made-up cheek of a fresh corpse, she almost gets caught by the dearly departed’s brother, Alex (Lyle Waggoner, announcer on The Carol Burnett Show, Colonel Steve Trevor, Jr. on Wonder Woman). He doesn’t recognize her, but wants to get to know this unknown “friend” of the family. She sees him as a near spitting image of her departed father, and so keeps him in mind. If you feel a little icky right now, it’s okay. You probably should.
There’s also the funeral home director, Fred McSweeney (Timothy Scott, a role player in everything from Lonesome Dove and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to Footloose and Vanishing Point), who happens to notice Lindsay getting close with a corpse, but rather than reporting her, he tries to recruit her. “The word is necrophilia,” he finally says to her, and so we have the beginning of a very strange relationship. Then again, earlier we saw Fred pick up a male prostitute, bring him back to the funeral home, and drain his blood. So we can’t be too sure about this character.
Love Me Deadly shows three very different aspects of Lindsay’s life. We see her try and figure out her lust for the non-breathing, enabled by Fred McSweeney. We see her dealing with daddy issues (I hate to use that phrase, but here it fits perfectly) in her newly developed relationship with Alex. And we see her try and pretend she’s “normal” when she goes out with Wade (Christopher Stone, who has dealt with scary, biting beasts in both The Howling and Cujo). None of her options necessarily end well.
Lacerte’s film is full of everything you’d expect from an early ‘70’s movie as well as everything you’d expect from a film dealing with necrophiliac cults. It’s like Valley of the Dolls (or Beyond the… might work in this equation, too) meets Hardgore. You’ve got your prolonged montages of love and romance, showing Lindsay and Alex smiling, teasing, and gallivanting about like new lovers, and then you’ve got your cult of black-robed necrophiliacs, holding up candles, stripping down, and surrounding a fresh corpse, the inevitable orgy just around the corner. There’s murder, intrigue, and betrayal. It’s the love child of a soap opera plot and a German horror movie.
Okay, and there is some pretty bad acting. It’s hard to decide if that’s the fault of the actors, the director, or the writer, but there are a handful of fairly laughable moments in what is supposed to be a fairly serious movie. At the same time, it deserves the credit of going to the line, scoffing at it, and then crossing it by leaps and bounds. You know right away what it’s about, and then it still manages to build up to a pretty messed up finale. Some reviewers might call it “shocking,” some might call it “sexy.” Love Me Deadly is fun, but a big part of its draw may have been the classic exploitation movie posters that advertised it as “the most shocking occult ordeal ever permitted on the screen.” Or another that shows an obviously nude woman held down against a fresh grave by arms reaching out of the dirt. None of these things happened in the film I watched. But hey, you gotta draw the people in somehow, right?