A young art student is coerced into staying at a large, isolated hotel by an old man. There are no other guests and the staff are a strange assortment of characters, who talk in riddles and seem to know all about him. Rather than legging it to the local motel, he hangs around and finds that his future is entwined with past lives and an ongoing battle for his soul.
This is a weird one. Allegedly, this was a student movie shot in 1971 that gained a general release a few years later. But, if this was a student film, then how did writer-director Alan Gadney acquire permission to film in California’s Mission Hotel, a very expensive looking location? And how did he acquire the services of Victor Buono, John Carradine and a professional cast? You would assume there must have been money behind the project but who would invest in what was very obviously an artistic enterprise rather than a commercial one? I can’t imagine that the finished film had anything but a very limited cinema release.
On the credit side of the scale, we have a film that is very different. The story is revealed slowly with clues along the way. It’s nice to watch a film that doesn’t spoon feed the audience with conveniently digestible chunks of the plot. Unfortunately, the ‘clues’ take the form of jump cuts to scenes from the student’s past lives and there are so many of them that the practice soon becomes very clumsy and tiresome. Matters aren’t helped by a script that gives the cast pretentious dialogue such as ‘The dreamer awakens to truth!’Carradine is given to voluble speeches that don’t seem to mean all that much but then so is everyone else. He’s a scribe, apparently recording the struggle for the soul of the Student (Mark Travis) between Buono (God?) and Pat Renella (Satan?) Perhaps the Student is supposed to represent ‘Man’? If so, women get short shrift here; one is an evil old bitch (‘Maid’), the other a virginal type (‘Girl’) who tempts Student from the path of righteousness with the sins of the flesh. We never find out any of the character’s actual names – yes, it’s that kind of a film.
Writer-director Gadney did not go on to a career in filmmaking (he has no subsequent credits) but kudos to him for getting his vision on to the screen anyway. It’s just a shame that it’s a mite pretentious, muddled and the boom mike makes a very noticeable cameo.