Monday, May 7, 2007
Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1973)
Can you remember when your innocence was lost? Did it happen all at once or did it happen more gradually? Most of you probably haven’t heard of Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural, that was originally released in 1973, but this film about the loss of innocence and what “growing up” really means is one that deserves to be seen!
In the South in the late 1920s or early 1930s lives a girl named Lila Lee (Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith). Her gangster father kills her adulterous mother in a jealous rage and Lila is sent to live with a pious reverend. Lila is raised by the reverend to be a God-fearing lady and she is also part of the church choir. One day, Lila receives a mysterious letter from someone named Lemora (Lesley Gilb), who says her father is on his deathbed and wishes to see her. Lila slips quietly away in the night and catches a bus to go find her father. During the ride through the dark forest, the bus is beset by wild and bloodthirsty people (who by all appearances look like zombies). Lila escapes, only to be stuck in a cell-like room when she arrives at Lemora’s home. She soon meets Lemora and her pack of gypsy-like children.
Things begin to get stranger and stranger, as Lila notices there are no mirrors in the house, her father is nowhere to be found and black-hooded men do Lemora’s every bidding. Lemora is more than loving towards her, but when Lila figures something isn’t quite right, she tries to flee. Can she make it out through the woods that are populated with the bloodthirsty zombies? Can she escape Lemora’s black-hooded minions? Most of all, can she escape the draw she feels towards Lemora?
Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural is a lush, Gothic fairy tale for adults. The theme of the loss of innocence is predominant throughout the film, but there are many other themes and layers to this intelligent and engaging film.
Directed and written by Richard Blackburn (who also stars as the reverend), Lemora is a film appreciated by few but one that deserves a much larger audience. The book Fangoria’s 101 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen says, “Combine Alice in Wonderland and Night of the Living Dead – and throw in a vampire element – and you have Lemora…”
With Lemora, Blackburn has created an enchanting yet frightening film that shows the perils of growing up as a young woman. Lila Lee is presented as wide-eyed innocence personified until she leaves her “safe” environment of her home/church. In her first encounter with the outside world (just outside her house as she tries to catch a ride to the bus station) she is lasciviously propositioned by a man. As she continues her journey to Lemora’s house deep in the woods, all the men she comes across are lewd and vulgar. The zombies in the woods are the most base representation of men; they are interested only in her flesh and devouring her whole, literally!
The dangers only increase when she reaches Lemora’s house, which appears at first to be a safe haven. Lemora appears to be kind and caring, but we soon find out she is no better than the men that Lila met on her journey. There are heavy lesbian overtones (when giving Lila a bath, Lemora comments, “What an exciting figure you have.”). Lemora wants Lila to submit to her and to stay with her forever. Lemora makes it seem that if Lila becomes one of her kind, she will have power and will no longer have to put up with panting paramours. Will Lila’s innocence be lost?
Lemora is not only a beautiful and mesmerizing film that has a dream-like atmosphere, but it also has many layers of meaning to it. It is very original and deserves to be seen. Synapse Films released the film on DVD in 2004, complete with an uncut and uncensored widescreen transfer that was approved by Richard Blackburn, along with commentary from the director, Lesley Gilb and producer Robert Fern, a still gallery and the original shooting script. The film was released in 1973 and was a drive-in and late-night television favorite. Though it is only rated PG, Lemora offers a uniquely odd look at the coming-of-age tale.
Available on Amazon!