In a Glass Cage
My twisted quest to find the worlds sickest and most twisted films has now led me to Agusí Villronga‘s 1987 art-house shocker “In a Glass Cage,” a film about pedophiles, Nazis, revenge torture, extreme fetish, and one of the weirdest sex scenes this side of David Cronenberg. This is a film that has been famously banned in several countries, mostly for its depictions of young boys in sexual situations, and for its general extremity. There was a recent midnight show of it in L.A., and the attendant crowd was mostly made up of art house hipsters and ambitious cinephiles like myself, but there was definitely a small contingent of decidedly unsavory types lurking in the darkness, assuredly getting an illicit thrill from the proceedings. I have to say that having weirdos lurking in the dark around you while watching a film like this can actually add to its terrifying appeal.
“In a Glass Cage” plays like an unholy marriage between Dario Argento‘s extreme stylized horror and Pedro Almodóvar‘s earnestly lurid melodrama. It’s long, Gothic corridors and expressionist lighting evokes a hothouse haunted mansion, while the presence of a lithe, sexy, crypto-homo Spanish gogo boy, slowly scheming against an old compatriot, killing youngsters, and possibly seducing an 11-year-old girl, plays like a particularly twisted soap opera loosed from Belial’s own video library. The combination raises “In a Glass Cage” to the level twisted, gut-churning grand opera. There are no films like this. Some may see that as a good thing.
The story follows an elderly doctor named Klaus (Günther Meisner), who is currently living out the end of his days in an iron lung, being looked after by his Doberman-like wife (Marisa Paredes), and his innocent 11-year-old daughter (Gisèla Echevarría). He was paralyzed after a failed suicide attempt, and is not in the best of spirits. We learn in an introduction that Klaus was once a Nazi doctor (think Joseph Mengele), and we learn, in the glibbest possible fashion, that he is a legitimate pederast; the first scene of the movie is of the still able-bodied Klaus, in a flashback, tongue-kissing the corpse of a naked 9-year-old boy, suspended by its wrists. No special effects were used for this scene; a real little boy had to be stripped and kissed for it. Its constant use of real children in real danger adds much of the film’s dark edge, and pushes it ever so uncomfortably into the realms of moral irresponsibility. I’m sure the parents of these boys knew what was going on, and I can only assume that the director knew how to explain the difference between what was imaginary and what was real, but watching Meisner lick hungrily at a young boy’s inert face… well, it can give anyone the jibblies.
Klaus, we learn, needs an extra caretaker around the house, to look after his breathing machine and to shave and wash him. A mysterious young man appears at the door. This is Angelo, played by the curiously handsome and definitely inscrutable David Sust. Angelo seems talented and capable, if not a mite curt and brusque. On his first night staying in this secluded mansion, Angelo sneaks into Klaus’ room, opens his iron lung, and, while Klaus is gasping for air, briefly fellates him. What? What is going on here? Angelo reveals nothing, and his stern features belie nothing but a mild sinister air. The torture continues as Anelo finds and relates back to him an old diary of Klaus’, describing in horrific detail all of the acts of child-rape he committed during the war.
Eventually Angelo’s true colors begin to show. I don’t want to reveal too much, partly from critical integrity, but mostly because the details are a bit too harrowing to relate. I will say that, eventually, Angelo and Klaus are mostly alone in the mansion, and a series of victims is lured inside to be sexually tortured and killed. One young boy is stripped and is forced to sing right up until his death. Again, this doesn’t seem like its pretend violence. This is a psycho-sexual thriller with no interest in being playful or joyous or adolescent. This is a cold, dark film, dripping with dirty sex, proper illicit adult filth, and a sense of humor so dark that it could pass for downright sadism. I keep wanting to go back to the phrase “soap opera.” “In a Glass Cage” is a horror soap. Torture Porn meets Telemundo. With disturbing pedophilia thrown in.
You will not find this film on your casual internet movie sites, and it will only be carried by the more specialty video stores in big cities. While I don’t think “In a Glass Cage” is necessarily I want to recommend people see (it’s going to shake you up), I have to say that it is powerful and gorgeous, and has the ability to unnerve horror audiences in a world where genre fans all seem to be jaded.