Moving on from castrating genitalia to castrating prophylactics. Kondom des Grauens was adapted from gay comics artist Ralf König’s graphic novel of the same title by Martin Walz. Set in New York with an all German cast, it tells the story of the Sicilian harboiled detective Luigi Mackeroni fighting against killer condoms with razor sharp teeth, and homophobia among other things.
New York Police Department’s attention is drawn to Hotel Quickie, a brothel in the most sleazy part of NY, when four incidents of castration take place in one night in its rooms. Detective Mackeroni, seemingly a frequenter of those parts, goes there to investigate the case, and meanwhile taking the opportunity to have sex with a male prostitute, Billy. As they are about to start, they realise the condom provided by the hotel is moving around the room. Mackeroni loses one of his testicles trying unsuccessfully to catch it and opens his eyes in the hospital, where he swears vengeance on the killer condom. Billy comes to visit him in his apartment and implies he’s in love with him, to which the cynical detective replies by saying he doesn’t believe in love any more.
Aided by former-cop-turned-transvestite Bob/Babette, who has a crush on Mackeroni, they catch the killer condom and kill it by using a hose as a bait whose other end is connected to the gas pipe. However, their troubles don’t end as more killer condoms emerge from the sewers and go on a castration spree, chopping the republican presidential candidate’s penis off on the way. Mackeroni & co follow the clues to the chapel hospital where Mackeroni was treated, where Frau Dr Riffleson, aided by the mad scientist Dr Smirnoff and a Chinese man, produces the genetically engineered killer condoms to fight pre-marital sex and homosexuality, which are, according to her, against the Lord’s intentions for mankind. After beating her, and killing the giant killer condom intended for Mackeroni’s 32 centimetre (12.5 inches) penis, Mackeroni gives his ‘sermon on the mount’, preaching love regardless of gender. He, then, walks off to the sunset with Billy promising to take him to Sicily to meet his family.
This film is wonderful in so many ways, it is hard to decide where to start. It satirises certain aspects of American society, like the ever present conservatism in Republicanism and fundamental Christianity, which deem homosexuality unnatural and dirty. Frau Dr Riffleson is an exaggerated version of the homophobic frenzy among the conservative segments of the society in her crazed attempt to end the sins of the ‘depraved’ by setting loose monster condoms in the gay and sleazy districts of the city. Ironically, one of the killer condoms find its way to the Republican presidential candidate’s bathtub, after his speech against sexual deviance in the city – as he is about to have sex with a prostitute.
Kondom des Grauens parodies the American hardboiled detective genre by replacing the straight macho detective with a charming ‘bear’, complete with trench coat, unshaven face, chain smoking and a voice over. His femme fatale is an ‘homme fatale’ and he fights for gay rights, thus reversing the gender roles perpetrated in many detective films. It is also a camp, and at times carnivalesque, celebration of gay culture. The transvestite Bob/Babette, with her lip-synching to “Killing me Softly” and insistence on Mackeroni’s seeing her as his mother - thus finding her sexy - is lovable in every scene she’s featured. The homophobic detective Sam is punished for his ignorance of the gay culture by being urinated on, but after a fist fight with Mackeroni, he bonds with his gay colleague, and becomes more accepting of homosexuality. The short, fat, hairy detective Mackeroni, with his big penis, is clearly a carnivalesque figure, who fights against the orthodoxy of the Church, which wants to end life based on pleasure, and promote abstinence outside of being fruitful and multiplying.
I have been able to get my hands on the graphic novel to compare it with the film. The copy I have is in German, but as the first part of the film is more or less the same with the graphic novel, which is not surprising as König seems to have created the book as a "horror film" as indicated on the cover. It wasn’t difficult to understand what was going on. The film also makes use of the sequel of Kondom des Grauens, titled Bis auf die Knochen (To the Bones), but is not entirely faithful to the script, which features a gay alien/monster who eats men with his penis and spits their skeletons out. The graphic novels are definitely more pornographic than the film, and look worthwhile to get a hold of for underground comix fans.
(PS: Above, you see the cover of the Dutch version, courtesy of Lambiek.net).