The Roommates

      Comments Off on The Roommates

If one ever wanted an example of “termite art” one needn’t look any further than the films of Arthur Marks. Each of his generic grindhouse features has one element, one singular quality that enables them to rise above the rest. More often than not “termite art” lives in Marks’ screenplays; in how he imbues so many characters with a real sense of life and integrity. This feature of Marks’ style often subverts the very genre he’s working in; most famously with the films Bonnie’s Kids (1973) and Detroit 9000 (1973).

The Roommates (1973) is ostensibly a fusion of the “beach movie” and the “slasher” film. As usual Marks’ doesn’t skimp on the superficial trappings that draw audiences to this kind of fair. Which, in the case of The Roommates, is a bevy of beautiful women clad in bikinis. The opening really leans into this spectacle, but gradually Marks moves the film more in a character centered direction. 

Where Marks’ screenplay for The Centerfold Girls (1974) boasted a new lead for each act, The Roommates cuts back and forth between the lives of four young women vacationing in a small town. Marks is constantly drawing parallels between the characters and the events in their lives so that they are almost moving along mirrored trajectories. And like The Centerfold Girls, The Roommates is about trauma and coping with that trauma (most compellingly on display in Pat Woodell’s narrative).

I’m not saying that Arthur Marks was progressive or that his films are works everyone should see. It’s a simple case of “there’s more here than meets the eye”.