Given the inaudibility of the voice over narration wedded to the only readily available transfer of Michael and Roberta Findlay’s Mnasidika, it’s hard to understand exactly what is stuck in Michael’s craw in regards to the women characters in the film (I mean, outside his usual issues). From what can be gleaned from watching this pantomime, a possibly suicidal Findlay dreams himself into a Grecian wonderland where, while wearing a toga, he is unable to score with any of the woodland nymphs. So, naturally, he rapes and murders one in a rage when she spurns his advances. After defiling her corpse in a way made extra creepy in a specific way that only Michael Findlay could make it, a sort-of Bat-Signal goes out to the others in her sapphic klatch who come from far and wide to avenge her death in bloody fashion.

If Mnasidika has one thing going for it, it represents the boldest step forward for the Findlays and it also shows a visual style that is becoming more and more infused with her sensibilities. If it has another thing going for it, it is that it fully embraces the material that seemed like a shame-laden tease in Take Me Naked. Sure it’s exploitation but it’s also a full on girl-power movie. Once Michael pulls his usual misogynistic shit, he immediately gets forgotten as the audience is subject to a phantasmagoria of nature footage and lesbianism mixed with the same Pierre Louys poetry that was the used as a backdrop in Take Me Naked before they’re served with a truckload of split beaver shots replete with extreme close ups that had only then-recently become legal for public consumption. Artistic pioneering in sexploitation aside, it’s hard to imagine that these poor women weren’t eaten alive by the various species of things that run wild in the untamed grasslands of upstate New York. And you KNOW they didn’t get hazard pay, either.

Like Satan’s Bed most certainly was, Mnasidika feels a little like a stitch job as the more established softcore actresses (Uta Erickson, Maria Lease, and Linda Boyce) in the front half aren’t as on display as the separate set of anonymous performers who are cut in around the thirty minute mark and to push the boundaries of acceptable onscreen content with the aforementioned vagina ogling as well as some non-simulated digital penetration.

Roberta’s photography in the film is pretty damn spectacular and her coming into her own as a cinematographer is where the film finds its most significant value. Something Weird Video’s DVD-R, duped from a damaged VHS transfer, does the actual film no favors but it might do the audience one by making the first two reels sound as if they were recorded underwater. Unfortunately, until something else surfaces, this is the best it’s going to get. There is no doubt that absolutely none of the narration is crucial but the film is so ravishingly shot that the poor presentation on the SWV DVD registers as a small crime against humanity. This is not a knock against SWV, mind you, as they simply had what they had to work with and this is most definitely better than nothing. Instead, this is more a gripe in line with the poor treatment of the original elements for the work of Russ Meyer which has left us with little more than video transfers of his work that robs it of its true compositional framing and drains it of some of its vibrant color.

As much as the Findlay’s were fastened to the world of sexploitation, Mnasidika’s very wild ending proves again that, on purpose or on accident, they took almost as much ownership in the horror genre. By using multiple filters, the rising of the dead registers as objectively impressive and effective. And there is no doubt in my mind that Wes Craven wasn’t influenced by the POV shot of our heroines coming down on Michael Findlay with their machetes at the ready. No doubt at all.

Oh, and for those put off by the Findlay’s output since the Curse of Her Flesh, squash gets reclaimed for the good in this picture. So onward and upward.

(C) Copyright 2023, Patrick Crain

4 thoughts on “MNASIDIKA (1969)

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