Video Nasty #33
I Miss You, Hugs And Kisses
A BIZARRE LOVE, A STRANGE DEATH...THE BRUTAL TRUTH MAY NEVER BE KNOWN
NTSC Running Time: 86:55
Also known as: Drop Dead, Dearest and Left For Dead
Written and Directed by Murray Markowitz
Produced by Murray and Charles Markowitz
Music by Howard Shore
Starring: Elke Sommer, Donald Pilon, Chuck Shamata, George Touliatos, Cindy Girling, George Chuvalo
Body Count: 3 or 6, depending on how you count.
Availability: Out-Of-Print NTSC VHS from Vestron under the title Left For Dead.
Why it's a Nasty: Brutal murder sequences and a scene of suggested necrophilia.
What was cut: 1 minute and 6 seconds of two murders was cut when submitted to the BBFC for video certification on June 24th, 1986.
Current UK status: Out-of-print 18 cert PAL VHS from Heron Home Entertainment as Drop Dead, Dearest. Original VHS Video Nasty released by Intercity Video, presumed uncut.
I Miss You, Hugs And Kisses was seized but was not found to be obscene.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Magdalene Kruschen (Elke Sommer) is attacked and beaten to death with a heavy club. Her husband Charles (Donald Pilon) is put on trial for the murder. Through a series of flashbacks (delivered in an astonishing pre-Tarantino, pre-Memento jumble of misplaced chronology that actually works quite well) we see the beginning of their relationship, their affairs, their growing hatred of each other. The case continues through various witnesses' testimony as piece by piece we see more of the puzzle, until we are left with one answer and many, many questions.
Doesn't sound like a horror film, does it? I Miss You, Hugs And Kisses has a lot more in common with the kind of fare you find on Lifetime than something shown in a Times Square grindhouse. One of only two Canadian films on the Nasties list, Murray Markowitz's film is based on a true story: the Christine Ferrari-Demeter murder case, one of the longest and most sensational criminal trials in Canadian history. The film sticks close to several background facts in the case, so much so that a "work of fiction" disclaimer rolls across the screen twice, once at the end...and once over the action taking place onscreen six minutes into the film! Markowitz clearly wished to avoid legal trouble.
How this ended up mixed up in the Video Nasty panic says something about just how swept up in the panic local authorities were at that time. There are a couple of intense murder sequences, and the gore is gratuitous, plus a couple of tame sex scenes and a fetishistic corpse-bagging sequence that (while quite clearly being performed with a dummy) is still creepy and distasteful. All of which adds up to a fun but slightly dull film that really had no business being seized for suspicion of obscenity. But that's why they called it the "Nasty panic". Panic means people aren't thinking.
Elke Sommer turns in a good performance, and I Miss You, Hugs And Kisses also boasts the first score from Howard Shore, who soon after began working with David Cronenberg (save for The Dead Zone, Shore has scored all of Cronenberg's films since 1979's The Brood) and went on to even greater success as the man who composed the music for the Peter Jackson Rings/Hobbit trilogies. Also on hand for the proceedings is George Chuvalo, Canadian heavyweight boxer and another Cronenberg collaborator (he had a supporting role in The Fly). The cast does good work with a clunky script and the film is watchable, if not always engaging.
Long out of print on physical media (though VHS copies are neither expensive nor difficult to locate online), I Miss You, Hugs And Kisses likely won't see a rerelease anytime soon. It's a minor picture with a couple of very startling scenes, but the film's biggest flaw is that it doesn't know if it wants to be a serious emotional drama or a sleazy exploitation shocker. Ultimately, we're left with a few standout scenes, a few standout performances, and a couple moments of almost-brilliance, all surrounded by a snoresville courtroom potboiler.
If you're a completist or a fan of Elke Sommer, give this a watch. It's definitely better than Night Of The Bloody Apes (see Video Nasty #19) or Blood Rites (see Video Nasty #15), but don't expect greatness. So until we meet again, don't get into a relationship with a crazy gold-digger. She might have a surprise for you. I'll help keep you safe. Because my name's Justin. JustinCase.