The Nostril Picker, directed by Patrick J Matthews way back in 1993, is possibly the most criminally underrated film in the history of motion pictures. A study of matriarchal tyranny, of sexual perversion, of police ethics and social seclusion, if there is a better picture what has a transvestite get chased around a room by a bloke swinging two squirting dildos, then The Duke has yet to be blessed with its presence.
I feel confident in going ahead and stating that yes, The Nostril Picker may well be the pinnacle of cinematographic achievement.
And let’s face it, The Duke is seldom known to make even the most miniscule of mistakes, excepting that highly controversial Prodigy Review. I mean come on, The Duke, what part of “Released in 1994” don’t you understand? Obviously the part about 1994, since that’s the part you fucked the fuck up, you motherfucking prick.
Matthews’ film opens with our hero, Joe Bukowski, walking beside a young high-school student. The girl is less than enamoured of Joe’s presence, and bids him fuck off, storming away just as a police car pulls up alongside.
Joe, awash with the rancid tears of humiliation and rejection, wanders off, only to be stopped in his tracks by an elderly vagrant. The vagrant, y’see, has witnessed all this nonsense, and informs Joe that he has the perfect remedy for these painful episodes. The vagrant, it transpires, knows of a bizarre chant what lets the chanter turn into anyone they wish. It’s called “Morphosynthesis”, the drunk explains, a technique he learned “In Vietnam. From the gooks.”
Joe looks like the kinda fella what has no problem detecting a horseshit or two, and naturally, he’s not too convinced.
“It’s a spell”, the stranger informs him.
“Well, I ain’t too good at spellin’.”
The vagrant explains exactly what this mystical malarkey entails, and although Joe seems at first apprehensive, he soon shrugs and assumes that it’s worth a try, the old morphosynthesis.
I like to think that if, perhaps in the year 3045, an extraterrestrial race arrived on Earth searching for prime examples of 20th century culture, I like to imagine they’d find a copy of The Nostril Picker. I’d like them to know just what we humans were capable of back then.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that The Duke is being all smug and “ironic” and saying about how The Nostril Picker is the golden plateau to which all cinema should aspire, just because really he thinks it’s utter crud.
Let me state right now, and for the record, that those kinda bogus claims are enough to get a motherfucker arrested in Oklahoma nowadays.
Patrick J Matthews and writer Steven Hodge had obviously studied the Loner Cinema for some time before embarking on this project. Joe stares at his portable TV just like Travis Bickle, even going so far as to have it on a static channel now and again, for maximum insanity. He gets visitations from his dead mother just like Norman Bates, and also, he cuts folks guts up, just like The Driller Killer.
Anyway, what happens is that Joe tries out this ol’ chanting nonsense. You might think he’d be best to do it indoors, since he’s only got a telly and a blow-up doll in the apartment anyhow, and also, there’s less chance of folks walking past and seeing him dancing and yodelling like a crazy person.
He knows best, though, so off he goes to a big white podium in the middle of the park and starts doing a little dance and clapping his hands and yelling and then whistling London Bridge Is Falling Down. Imagine his, and our, disappointment, when the whole charade proves fruitless.
“Shit”, he sighs. “Shoulda known that was jive-ass bullshit when I looked at that crazy dude.”
But don’t go jumping to conclusions too soon, is what The Duke has learned from years of committed research.
Don’t go counting the chickens before the eggs, or whatever.
Joe goes to buy a pornographic magazine, but finds, to his initial dismay, that the clerk won’t serve him. The reason, it transpires, is that it would be wrong to sell this kind of filthy fucking smut to such an innocent young girl.
Quick-thinking Joe soon realises what has happened, that his body has, via the Vietnamese process of morphosynthesis, turned into that of a schoolgirl, and so concocts a story about his/her dad sent him to get this here magazine. The clerk still won’t sell it, though, and ponders about how the father in question “should be shot” for such deviance.
Already, this is about 59% better than, say, Ikiru. Yes, Kurosawa’s 1952 film followed a similar thematic trajectory, concerned as it was with the isolation and the atomisation and all that, but it loses about 41 points on account of it doesn’t even for a second consider the possibility that Kanji could have chanted some hookey shit and then turned into a teenage girl.
This can’t get any better, is what you might think, unless you were wise and knowledgeable, like The Duke for instance, in which case you would know that Joe is about to enroll in a high-school (via a procedure what seems much, much simpler than I would have thought, being a matter of just asking the gym teacher if you can join the school) and start hanging out with a group of young lassies.
No good can come from this. Even if he is in the body of a teenage girl, Joe is plainly a 40-something man with stubble. 40-something-year-old men shouldn’t be hanging around with teenage girls.
The filmmakers, however, are obviously a conscientious bunch, and so hire actresses what are at least twenty years older than the characters whom they portray.
One thing leads to another, and some other things lead to different things, and by the mid-way point, the thing has turned out to be that Joe wants to kill these girls and then cut their rubber fingers off and then eat them.
Thank God for that, since it allows the viewer to become acquainted with possibly the best police ever presented on film.
Vince Armstrong is a police who don’t take no shit. He’s worried as all hell on account of his daughter is friends with the victims, and so goes about conducting an investigation into it all. Eventually, via an unbelievably inspired plot contrivance, he discovers the identity of the murderer. And it seems that Joe Bukowski isn’t the lovable rogue we had assumed. Not only has he been arrested on multiple accounts of violence and suspicion of rape, but was even convicted for Attempting Suicide.
His fate is sealed when he picks up a hooker (“I got the cash if you got the gash”, he shrugs) who then turns out to be a transvestite so Joe chases him around the room with two dildos. Thankfully, the hooker escapes and runs off to find the authorities.
“You mean he attacked you with a dildo?” asks a police.
“Son of a bitch.”
At many points in the film, the dialogue, the narrative, the acting, is so ridiculous, that you just know it had to be intentional. At one point early on, just as Joe’s about to leave the newsagents what wouldn’t sell him the cum-rag, I swear to God you can hear somebody sniggering on the soundtrack.
Also, the screenplay hints at the kind of audience The Nostril Picker was destined to find.
As Joe sits down with one of his future-victims to watch a horror film, Attack Of The Cannibal Girls, no less, he asks if it’s any good. “It’s great if you’re smoking dope”, the friend states. “We’ll have to see how it is without it.”
Later, Joe plans to go see a film with yet another future victim, a film by the name of Great Big Buckets Of Blood. “Oh”, says the friend, excitedly, “The TV critics hated that. The fat guy and the other one. It must be good!”
However, there is, sadly, a genuine tragedy to be uncovered in The Nostril Picker, but it is a tragedy what concerns itself with the “real-life”, as opposed to the other world, the one where folks chant stuff picked up “In Vietnam. From the gooks“, in order that they might become adolescent females.
The film was produced by Front Porch Productions, something which in itself is awash with irony, since if this motherfucker showed up on your front porch you’d most likely chase it down the street with a hatchet before calling the FBI. Front Porch, however, never made one single film following the release of The Nostril Picker.
Not only this, but Patrick J Matthews never directed again. Like Charles Laughton, director of Night Of The Hunter, he was to make only one film, and it was to be a misunderstood work of delirious genius.
Screenwriter Steven Hodge never screened another play, nor did he write one hitherto The Nostril Picker. Carl Zschering, so memorable as Joe Bukowski, never picked another nostril. Edward Tanner may have been magnetic as Vince Armstrong, but woe betide the fool who seeks out his other work, since it doesn’t exist.
Pretty much no-one involved in the making of this seminal work has been involved with another production, either beforehand or after, at least if the IMDB listings are to be believed.
A notable exception is Ann Flood, the girl briefly glimpsed as the teenage “Jo” Bukowski. Turns out she was on The Cosby Show and all kinds a shit.
For the rest, though, we must ask ourselves;
Is The Nostril Picker some kind of celluloid Mary Celeste, a cursed ghost-ship, sailing only the oceans of cable television and underground video stockists?
Perhaps this impenetrable mystery is to be expected. In the world of The Nostril Picker, just as Jane’s Addiction once mused with the aid of two naked women with their heads on fire, nothing is shocking. For example, upon finding out that the young girl is not in fact a young girl but rather a middle-aged fella what looks like a bit like Billy Bob Thornton, the transvestite simply states – “You’re a dangerous motherfucker.” There’s no scream, no arched eyebrows, no hands in the air or fainting.
Similarly, at the first crime-scene, a police relates the string of atrocities like as if he were reading a recipe for couscous, before, almost as an afterthought, noting; “Oh yeah. Part of her was eaten.”
I want to know what happened to Matthews, to Hodge, to Zschering and Tanner. Where are these people? Can they hear us calling from the dark of smoke-shrouded theatres and grindhouses filled with men in trenchcoats, waiting ever patiently for to read those words in Variety Magazine or Mondo Irlando;
“The cast and crew of The Nostril Picker have reunited for to film an even more amazing sequel.”
It’s thoughts like these what keep The Duke flush with hope and scarce of Kleenex.
The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando.Powered by Sidelines