From the Pope of Aesthetic Nihilism himself – Jon Aes-Nihil – comes this bizarre reimagining of the Karpis-Barker gang saga. This family/gang of criminals terrorized the Midwest with a series of bank robberies, kidnappings and murders in the 1930s.
The Ma Barker Story is essentially a prequel to Aes-Nihil’s 1984 film Manson Family Movies, as linked by a historical connection between a young Charlie Manson and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. It seems when Charlie was locked up as a youngster in the early ‘60s, Creepy took him under his wing and taught him to play the guitar.
Starring lovable transsexual-quadriplegic-drag queen the Goddess Bunny as Ma Barker and queer Christian cow-punk Glen Meadmore as Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, The Ma Barker Story depicts a week (or so) in the life of the notorious gang.
“An absolute must-see for lovers of transgressive cinema “
If this film is to be believed, a typical week for the gang involves hanging out on the porch of their ranch gettin’ tore up on moonshine; committing a rape/murder; robbing a bank; chowin’ down on some greasy lard sandwiches; then executing the local Sheriff for sleeping with their beloved Ma. A very full week indeed!
Shot on location at the Barker and Spahn Ranches and inspired by Roger Corman’s Bloody Mama, Aes-Nihil presents a deviant vision of the wild west laced with drunken transgressions and quadriplegic sex acts. The Goddess Bunny is superb as the Barker matriarch, waving her shotgun around at random and egging her boys on. She even has a somewhat touching scene with her aged mother who gives a heartfelt plea for daughter to go on the straight and narrow.
“brings to mind the early films of auteurs such as Andy Warhol, John Waters and the Kuchar Brothers”
Aside from Ms. Bunny’s Oscar deserving performance, honourable mentions must go to Glen Meadmore as the guitar-strumming Alvin Karpis and Bubba as the Opium-addicted Freddy Barker, both pull off some truly memorable and often hilarious “acting”. Most unforgettable quote undoubtedly goes to Gator as Herman Barker who, in reference to Ma kicking Pa out of the domestic bed in favour of the Sheriff, utters: “A Pa must have a beard and that Sheriff ain’t got no beard!”
The whole atmosphere of the film feels very much like a fucked-up home video, e.g – a bunch of friends get off their tits and decide to break out the camera and indulge in some play-acting. This is not a negative point in my opinion as it brings to mind the early films of auteurs such as Andy Warhol, John Waters and the Kuchar Brothers.
The soundtrack deserves a mention here too as it is really what pulls the whole thing together: the film opens with a scene of the Barker boys in jail underscored with Clang Bang Clang by Charlie Manson; from then on it is pretty much Meadmore’s “Christian-Country-Punk” tunes and some banjo noodling that fill the score. Particularly in the final scenes the melancholic country songs coalesce with the onscreen goings-on to make it all that much more powerful.
An absolute must-see for lovers of transgressive cinema and/or Waters, Warhol & Kuchar fans
DIRECTOR(S): John Aes-Nihil | COUNTRY: USA | YEAR 1996 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Aes-Nihil Productions | RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes