A Certain Sacrifice
August 24th, 2014
Todd: Now, in previous episodes, I said things like...
Todd (VO): ..."this was Madonna's first movie," "this was Madonna's first starring role," etc.
Todd: And that was true. However...
- Clips of A Certain Sacrifice
Todd (VO): ...in 1979, an unknown 21-year-old named Louise Ciccone got paid $100 to star in a low-budget independent film. That film was called A Certain Sacrifice, but unfortunately, it did not get released. I mean, obviously, it was a cheapo, no-budget loser of a movie, and it had no potential audience. How could this ever get released? Wasn't gonna happen. The...
Todd: ...only possible way this piece of trash would ever see the light of day [brief clip of "Express Yourself"] is if one of its actors somehow became the biggest superstar in the world. But what are the odds of that?
- Cinemadonna intro
- Early appearance of Madonna
Todd (VO): When Madonna starting making real movies in 1985, director Stephen Jon Lewicki [brief clip from VH1's Driven] dusted off his unseen masterpiece, re-cut and repackaged it, and put it out on video despite [New York Post headline: "Madonna Seeks Nude Movie Ban"] Madonna's frantic attempts to bury it.
Todd: Now think about that—this is a woman both [clip of "Justify My Love"] notoriously without shame, and who has made a whole second career out of starring in stinkbomb movies...
- Scene from A Certain Sacrifice
Todd (VO): Yet this is something she never wanted anyone to see ever, and if you ever see this movie, that will make complete sense. Madonna is defined by her ambition, and nothing close to ambition is evident in this movie.
Todd: Fortunately for her, I can't imagine too many people watched it...
Todd (VO): ...even though it is a movie where Madonna—the biggest, hottest celebrity in the world—got topless before she was famous while playing a dominatrix with a male, a female, and a transsexual love slave. I imagine it attracted a lot of curiosity in 1985—especially if you're a sick, sick pervert—but no matter how much of a fan you are of Madonna, celebrity nudity, trashy movies, or youthful bad decisions, there is literally no reason to ever watch this. Ever.
Todd: I mean, look at this.
- Opening credits
Todd (VO): Yeah, this was clearly edited by a video dating service of some kind. Worse, the director apparently re-scored the whole movie with what sounds like somebody doing a bad Joy Division impression on a dying Casio. ["Pomp and Circumstance" plays on...what sounds like a dying Casio] Now, Certain Sacrifice is, in its own way, a message movie. That message is...
Todd: ..."Gosh, making a movie is way harder than we thought."
Todd (VO): Now, I've heard it called a student film; student of what, I don't know, but certainly not film. I've also heard it called an art movie, which makes sense if, by "art," you mean artless, and by "movie," you mean maybe not even a movie technically, as, according to sources I've read, it was never even finished because of money issues, which I totally believe. These are scraps of a movie stitched together with B-roll and narration from the love child of Cheech Marin and Wolfman Jack.
- Narrator (Chuck Varesko): You see, it was not so long ago that I knew this girl named Bruna.
Todd (VO): Look, nowadays, any jackoff can make a reasonable approximation of a movie—film it, edit it, upload it to YouTube just using their iPhone. But back in the day, you needed actual equipment and people who knew how to use it, and they clearly did not have them.
- Bruna (Madonna): I'm a dodo girl and I'm looking for my dodo boy.
Todd (VO): So what is this almost-a-movie about? Well, it's difficult to say. The hero appears to be a guy named David, or as he calls himself, Dashiel.
- Narrator: But on the street, his name was Dashiel.
Todd (VO): Urgh! And he finds himself alienated by his stifling, square environment.
- Narrator: He was not suited for his original environment.
Todd (VO): After all, look at all the horrors of his childhood:
- Father (Joseph Pattnosh): Set this goddamn table, and go out and rake those leaves!
- Young David (John Joseph Pattnosh): I rake the leaves every day!
- Father: Every other place around here looks very good, this looks like a dump! Rake those leaves!
- Young David: [raking leaves] Same old stuff all the time...always a slave to this family.
Todd (VO): In another era, he would have been able to soothe his pain with Linkin Park songs, but back then, poor David had no escape. And tragically, he doesn't fit in at college either, with all its obnoxious, racist rich kids, and bunch of phonies telling him what to do.
- Professor Mann (Karl Ludwig Selig): And certain sacrifices just have to be made.
Todd (VO): Yes, indeed. Specifically, we're going to sacrifice all dignity right about here.
- Mother (Ann Pattnosh): Why can't you act normal?
- Dashiel (Jeremy Pattnosh): I don't wanna be normal!
Todd: [chuckling] Oh, wonderful.
- Dashiel: And I don't want normal people's problems!
Todd (VO): Yeah, he's his dad's kid, alright. I think not wanting to be normal is a normal person's problem.
Todd: And then there's Madonna.
- Narrator: People would not say she was a nice girl. In fact, she was what me and my compadres call a bad girl.
Todd: Well, bad actress really.
Todd (VO): Okay, so Dashiel runs into and falls in love with Bruna, a carefree street girl who lives this crazy lifestyle and shakes up his life. She got cast as that a lot. They meet in this kind of abstract scene without dialogue, so they've gotta communicate a lot through body motion.
See, it's...it's like a ballet. Just watch how the choreography g... okay, I have no idea what I'm looking at. Why is his face covered in bandages? Why does he have a gun? Why does she have the gun? Are they falling in love or milking each other? Why not just use dialogue?! Well, if I had to guess, I'd bet they did record dialogue for this scene, they just couldn't use it.
Todd: One of the biggest issues with this movie, by far, is the sound.
- Dashiell: Listen, it'll be easy for you. You're the only one that can do it
Todd (VO): What?!
- Bruna: You know, I can almost see things your way
Todd: I can't hear you over the wind!
- Dashiell: It'll be easy for you.
Todd (VO): It is the only film I've ever watched with worse audio than Birdemic. If you wanna know why they give Oscars to sound engineers, here's why their job is important.
Todd: Could you speak up?
Todd (VO): Anyway, because Madonna is with Dashiel now, she has to break up with her family of lovers, which are this trio of Rocky Horror rejects. I think they don't take it well. [Bruna screams] But again, it's hard to tell what's going on here.
Is she being assaulted? Are they having breakup sex? Makeup sex? Is this sex? It appears to be sensual rubbing.
- Dubbed over with, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show...
- Cast: Don't dream it, be it
Todd (VO): Anyway, a plot does kind of develop, but because this movie is so half-formed, you kind of have to make a lot of leaps. Like...what the heck this scene means, I have no idea.
- Some guy: To seek attention
- To gain control
- You are for sale
- But never sold
- You show some of it
- But still don't show
- Your mind's screaming, screaming, screaming, screaming, screaming, screaming, screaming demon lover
Todd (VO): This guy literally never shows up again. But having lived in New York for a while now...yeah, this looks about normal. Look, it happens, you just learn to deal with it. Better than a goddamn flash mob, at least.
But from what I understand, the real plot starts when this jerky old guy named Raymond Hall tries to start a conversation with him.
- Raymond Hall (Charles Kurtz): Well, as I was saying. You kids around here today, you don't know whether you're gonna live or whether you're gonna die.
Todd (VO): You know, one of those "hey, complete stranger, let me tell you all about my stupid views about the world" kind of deals. God, I bet he's really obnoxious...
Todd: ...not that I can tell!
- Teacher from Peanuts speaking, which is a muted trumpet
Todd (VO): Look, from what I can barely glean, our hero tells him to, you know, shut up and let him eat in peace a couple times.
- Dashiel: We need to exterminate all the Raymond Halls from New York City.
Todd (VO): And apparently, that hurt Raymond's feelings. So somehow, for some reason, Raymond Hall enacts vengeance for that minor snub. Okay, first off, he gets our hero evicted. How? Who knows? Also, he rapes Madonna.
Todd: Yeah, um...trigger warning.
Todd (VO): Yes, after three quasi-assaults on Madonna, we get an actual assault. And by "assault," I mean he apparently smears fingerpaint on her face. Yeah, 2/3 of the way through the movie, it abruptly becomes a rape-revenge flick. Yeah, I'm sure those early scenes where he whined about yard work were essential in capturing the horror and injustice of it all.
"Oh baby, let's walk in some garbage. That'll cheer you up, you love garbage."
By the way, why is he dressed like the Undertaker? Yeah, we're about 85% done with this movie at this point, so we'd better just get to the revenge.
- Bruna: Hey!
Todd is a little surprised at the similarity to...
- Clip of "Like a Virgin"
- Madonna: Like a virgin
Todd: I wonder if they paid for that sample.
Todd (VO): They track him down rather easily and capture him and threaten him. But now what? Cut off his balls, flay him alive, blowtorch up the rectum?
Todd: So many options here. How about [screen turns red as Todd yells in a demonic voice...] Satan!
- Cultish ritual
Todd: What. The. Shit?
- Dashiel: He's come inside of you
- He's come inside of me
- Come inside of him
- He's come inside of she
Todd (VO): You know, I thought [movie poster] A Certain Sacrifice referred to something a lot less tangible, like, you know, childhood or dreams or something. No, they mean a certain ritual sacrifice of this guy while singing a creepy song.
- Cult: [singing] ...make him pay
- We shall drink the blood that flows
- From his head down to his toes
Todd (VO): Isn't that impressive? No, not even remotely! Is the rapist supposed to be scared by this? I mean, this is considerably less scary than the haunted hayrides I used to take as a kid. And the song itself sounds like the theme song to a children's horror movie, right?
- Cult: Raymond Hall must die today
- Raymond Hall, we will make him pay
Todd (VO): [singing throughout to beat]"This is Halloween, this is Halloween"
"Making Christmas, making Christmas"
I've got another puzzle for you"
Todd: On the Feast of Stephen"
Todd (VO): You see, when you have this little footage, you apparently can't afford to cut any of it. So even though this movie is a scant 62 minutes, every scene goes on for-fucking-ever! That guy doing the bad Iggy Pop impression? Forever! The fountain dance? Forever! This song lasts seven whole minutes, and it feels like hours! And at some point, I guess Raymond Hall gets sacrificed, not that I can really tell.
Look, it feels weird to say that this isn't very good for a rape movie, but as a rape movie, it's really quite bad. It's no Miss 45 or I Spit on Your Grave or anything. I feel bad for watching it. This is almost like hacking Madonna's phone and reading her emails 'cause this was not meant to be seen by people. But at the same time, it's hard to feel offended by it or anything. It's just not enough of a movie to have an opinion on.
I know some of my colleagues review things like this all the time, so maybe I'm sheltered, but I do know this: Even though I haven't watched all of the Madonna filmography yet, this will be the worst movie I'll review on this series. There is a 0% chance of there being a worse one. Although tragically, Madonna's acting wasn't really any better by the mid-'80s than it is here.
- Bruna: I didn't have the courage to before, I didn't think it was the right time, I had to wait.
Todd (VO): I mean, at least in this movie, she has an excuse of not working with real filmmakers.
Todd: She will not have that excuse in the future.
- Brief clip of teaser for Who's That Girl
Closing tag song: The cult song, continued
"A Certain Sacrifice" is owned by Cine Cine Productions
This video is owned by me