Loath as I am to disagree with so noteworthy an online personality as CmdrTaco, only one movie exists called Private Parts that anyone should see, and it has no connection to the fading cultural phenomenon named Howard Stern. No, this dusty piece of pop crept out of the shadows in 1972, a thriller/horror/black comedy, with strong nods in the direction of fetish and teensploitation. As a bonus, its cast includes ageing bit-part legend Dorothy Neumann, who utters possibly the only reference to masturbation in her long and varied career.
Not everyone should see this movie, mind you, but you might want to. Paul Bartel directed and contributed to the script. It's his first feature. He would later go on to cult fame as the director of such films as Death Race 2000 (1975) and Eating Raoul (1982).
Young runaway Cheryl1 (Ayn Ruymen) leaves the hipsters with whom she's been crashing, after stealing their money. She seeks out the old hotel run by her estranged Aunt Martha (Lucille Benson). The decrepit building sits in a rundown part of L.A. Its regular residents are the sort of people the Bates Motel might have attracted after the events of Psycho hit the headlines. They include a creepy minister (Laurie Main), a disturbed old lady (Dorothy Neumann), and Martha's son Georgie (John Ventantonio), who is a walking red flag. Killings occur. Someone named "Alice" once lived here2, and she's central to the mystery that haunts the hotel. Cheryl, of course, cannot help but probe the things she's been warned to stay away from, and so she uncovers leather, gender-confusion, blow-up dolls, voyeurism, and problematic photographs. That's about all I can say regarding the plot without spoiling it. Cheryl finds herself immersed in a mystery, and surrounded by paraphilia and paraphernalia that would have seemed far more shocking in '72 than the present day.
Despite having the script and feel of a low-budget period exploitation flick, Private Parts has been well-made. It features a few genuinely creepy and suspenseful moments and some twisted laughs. It also boasts reasonably good acting. Of particular note is Lucille Benson as demented Martha Atwood. But call her "Aunt Martha," as she herself insists; "everybody else does."
Don't expect a masterpiece. Eating Raoul remains Bartel's best (certainly, his most popular) movie. But those interested in whatever genre Private Parts might be should consider checking it out.
1. Cheryl's age remains unknown, but the script keeps emphasizing her young age. She gets called jailbait and told she could be picked up as a runaway. At one point she accepts a date with a boy identified as fifteen years old. Granted, the film is more disturbing if you imagine she's a minor, but they cast an obvious adult, so why keep making so much of her age?
2. The phrase "Alice doesn't live here any more" appears in this film, three years before the movie of that title. However, the phrase plays on the 1933 song, "Annie Doesn't Live Here Anymore," and variations thereof were already in use.