04
Apr
20

Don’t Mess With My Sister! (1985) Stanky Lad’s Junkyard For The Human Spirit

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a Primal Root written review

“YOU FUCKED A BELLYDANCER, YOU BASTARD!” – Clara, Don’t Mess With My Sister!

There’s no denying Meir Zarchi’s I Spit On Your Grave aka: Day Of The Woman from 1978 is a milestone is exploitation cinema. Among the most notable in the brutal rape/revenge genre that is, for obvious reasons, incredibly divisive. With it’s legendary ad campaign, “THIS WOMAN HAS JUST CUT, CHOPPED, BROKEN AND BURNED FIVE MEN BEYOND RECOGNITION…BUT NO JURY IN AMERICA WOULD CONVICT HER!” and it’s taboo nature, it has become a legendary dark destination in our American Trash Cinema landscape. It’s what Meir Zarchi will go down in history for.

However…There is another.

Oh yes, 1985 Meir Zarchi finally came out with a sophomore effort entitled, Don’t Mess With My Sister! A film that answers the burning question of what would happen if Martin Scorsese got in a horse riding accident, suffered severe brain damage, but once recovered decided to craft a movie for Lifetime Television. It was not the explosive action revenge film I had imagined in my head looking at the poster art, no, far from it. It’s instead, a heavy clunkster of a marital drama about an immensely unlikeable dipshit named Steven (Joe Perce from 1987’s The Hidden and 1989’s Black Rain) who is married to his sweet wife Clara (Jeanine Lemay in her only acting credit), has a little daughter named Candy, is about to graduate from the Columbia Business School in New York and moonlights as the accountant at his brothers-in-law Roberto (Jack Gurci, who went on to never act again) and Dino’s (Peter Sapienza whose only other film credit is 1986’s Osa) junkyard “Stinky Lad’s Salvage (okay, that’s just a name I made up, but it feels fitting since these guys never change their all denim wardrobes), who we find out, are PAYING Steven’s college tuition. Not only that, but we meet Steven on his birthday and his brothers-in-law surprise Steven with a $20 dollar raise! Steven bitches, they raise it to $30! Steven still bitches because he wants to be a partner and it nearly breaks down into a fist fight. Yes, this movie takes place in New York and the characters are all New Yorkers.

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So, Steven is a little bitch with dark rings around his eyes, talks like he took several blows to the head with a lead pipe and gives off the most unsympathetic creeper/ghoul vibes I’ve ever come across outside a vampire film and we, as an audience, I assume are meant to root for this horse’s ass.

His wife throws him a surprise birthday party where it’s apparent there are some animosities between the mothers from both sides of the family, the brothers-in-law and Steven, and Steven’s Mom and Steven’s wife. Anyway, everyone is complaining, drinking and at each other’s throats until the belly dancer Clara hired, Annika ( Laura Lanfranchi, again, her only on screen appearance), who manages to entertain everyone, even manages to get Steven’s wine swigging ancient mother up and dancing like it’s Spring Break on Panama City Beach, and catches the illicit gaze of dipshit Steven.

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The very next night, Steven returns Annika’s costume bra to her at school after receiving the worst advice ever from his shrimpy man best bud, Jerry, who tells Steven that girls leave bras behind so that men will sleep with them and that he shouldn’t let this one get away! Oh, brother, hunker down, because here comes the litany of terrible decisions and events that just pour over till the end credits roll. Steven returns the costume bra to Annika and offers her a ride to a private gig of her’s where she performs the dance of the seven veils, or what have you, for an over weight millionaire with NO BACK, and NO ONE there to protect her if shit goes wrong. As wealthy men typically do, he attempts to force himself upon her, when she tries to shove him aside, he lashes out with the typical rapist catch phrases “What did you THINK I invited you here for?” Before Steve hears the struggle all the way outside, in his car, and rushes in the beat the shit out of the guy before Annika murders him with a well placed bottle of wine to the cranium.

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So, what to do after murdering an incredibly wealthy rapist, leaving your prints all over the fucking mansion and squealing out of his driveway in front of a woman walking her dogs? What else? You go back to your accomplices apartment, do a culturally insensitive African tribal dance in her living room replete with spear and soundtrack album then fuck in her shower.

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Steven eventually makes it home to find wife asleep and levels the excuse that his tire blew out and it took all night to fix. Of course, as these things do, people start talking, who saw what and where people actually were and the next thing you know Steve is getting his ass caved in by Clara, Roberto and Dino in the junkyard. Everyone continues to do violent, terrible things to one another, the murder makes the front page and is all over the news, Clara slices open a stuffed monkey, Steven shoots a shotgun at his brothers-in-law who, now that Steven is packing heat and trying to kill them, wants to make Steven a partner at Stanky Lad’s. It all ends as abruptly as it began and we are left with our heads spinning after witnessing an all-you-can-eat buffet of loathsomeness from a full cast of terrible fucking characters.

What lesson should we take away from Don’t Mess With My Sister? What exactly was this film even about? Who the fuck were these people and how was I supposed to care? It’s an exercise in the most heinous and selfish of human behavior where there’s no good guys and no real payoffs. It’s like an episode of Seinfeld directed by Lars Von Trier with no laugh track. I think it might be trying to say something about the greed of men and how it leads them to covet and do terrible things in the name of getting ahead and trying to seek pleasure where they can and how this lead to a world of hurt to everyone involved. Also, I can imagine that Clara is the sister of the title we should not be messing with? Basically, Don’t Mess With My Sister is a baffling slice of unfiltered shittiness that will leave you pondering what in fucking Hell you just experienced. You’re dropped into a world of scumbags and left with no meaning or ending.

Hey, at least Meir Zarchi was trying to shake the stigma of his greatest achievement and try something new. It really feels like he’s reaching for a Mean Streets vibe here, but he just doesn’t quite have the knack for it. If we were given more history for these characters, some kind of back story, perhaps the drama elements would have worked. It’s difficult to mix straight ahead drama with elements of exploitation and really make a tasty concoction. The drama elements don’t work because the focus is a bit to heavy on all the conflict, but without the base understanding of where everyone is coming from, it just doesn’t congeal and we are left with a bunch of raging, screaming, violent assholes spraying verbal diarrhea that is worthless, meaningless shit to the audience. And the exploitation cinema vibes are there, but there’s no fun to be had. No real over the top excess, besides the constant “fucks” and “Shits” this could easily be a Lifetime Movie of the Week.

Here’s to you, Meir Zarchi, for taking the risk. I only wish it had paid off better.

I am awarding Don’t Mess With My Sister ONE AND A HALF STARS out of FIVE.

Meir Zarchi would not dirrect another film until 2019’s I Spit On Your Grave: Deju Vu. I will get around to checking that one out soon.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 


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