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TATTOO (director/writer: Bob Brooks; screenwriter: Joyce Buñuel; cinematographer: Arthur Ornitz; editor: Thom Noble; music: Barry de Vorzon; cast: Bruce Dern (Karl), Maud Adams (Maddy), Leonard Frey (Halsey), Rikke Borge (Sandra), John Getz (Buddy), Peter Iacangelo (Dubin); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert F. Colesberry/Joseph E. Levine /Richard Levine; 20th Century Fox; 1981)
“All involved in this project seem to be in need of some Freudian analysis.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tattoo was scripted by Joyce Bunuel, Luis Bunuel’s daughter-in-law. It’s helmed by Bob Brooks, a British-based commercial and TV director. It follows in the obsessive vein of John Fowles’ The Collector, but veers on the side of kinkiness. The film shoots to be shocking, and turns into an unbelievable sleazy melodrama of little social worth.

“Tattoo” is the story of a crazed loner tattoo artist, played by Bruce Dern as Karl Kinski. After visiting Japan and becoming charmed of their elaborate stylistic tattooing, Karl returns home to practice his craft in New Jersey. To him, tattoos are spiritual and are called “the mark.” Karl is hired by a local fashion ‘zine to paint fake tattoos onto the bods of some models to push a new swimsuit line. There, Karl becomes obsessed with married international supermodel Maddy (Maud Adams). He dates her, but he refuses to have sex with her because she’s not into tattoos. So he stalks her and finally tattoos her for real after kidnapping and drugging her, and finally he rapes her after he covers her bod with tattoos and feels that she’s now good enough for him. All this nonsense takes place while he’s keeping her in his dad’s isolated seaside cabin. In one sicko scene, he makes the frightened vic masturbate. It goes down a slippery pathological path of psychology, without adding any insight. All involved in this project seem to be in need of some Freudian analysis. The rumors persisted that the sex scene was real and not simulated, though Adams says that’s not so Bruce. No matter, this was a raunchy voyeuristic cultish film that was hard to forget but in a bad sort of way. Its violent end brings all the unpleasantness to a fitting conclusion.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”