Young runaway Cheryl Stratton (Ayn Ruymen) quickly finds herself at the King Edward – a seedy, crumbling hotel which is owned by her Aunt Martha (Lucille Benson) and located in a luridly downtown section of Los Angeles.
It turns out that the hotel – like Aunt Martha herself – is not quite as innocuous and harmlessly dotty as it appears.
Even before we meet the tenants of the King Edward, a nasty piece of crude and bloody ultraviolence unexpectedly occurs in the decapitation of a peripheral character casually strolling down the hall (albeit on his way to a homosexual liaison).
One by one, the film’s characters appear from the woodwork: the Reverend Moon (Laurie Main), who occasionally trades his clerical collar for a leather jacket and chrome chains; the photographer George (John Ventantonio) who frequents sex shops and is, at the moment, in love with a full-sized plastic water doll; Mrs Quigley (Dorothy Neumann), a wrinkled grey-haired harridan who is searching the halls for a mysteriously absent daughter.
And among other drunks and pederasts is, of course, Aunt Martha who is photographing corpses in hopes of catching the spirit as it leaves the body and in whose homey drawl and dumpy matronly figure slinks, like in everyone else in the hotel, the impurest of evils.
Private Parts never seems to move as fast or as effectively as it should, and there are many unforgivable stumbling blocks to the plot – like the killer sparing several victims who we assumed to have been immediately done in like the others, or the character of Cheryl who interprets adulthood and femininity as joyously giving in to George’s cruel sadomasochistic ideas about sex, or – finally – the rather hokily tricked-up ending.
The hotel itself is an important character in the film. Not since the Dakota menaced Mia Farrow in Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) has a film setting played such a strong and eerie role.
In many ways, the building is the truest star of the film.
Aunt Martha Atwood