Alan Piotrowicz
LGBT Film Fest preview

The Sorrows of Dolores

By - Oct 22nd, 2010 11:06 am

Charles Ludlam may be best known for his work on and behind the stage, including his Ridiculous Theatrical Company in New York and the magnum opus The Mystery of Irma Vep, but in the late 1970s, he began to produce for the screen.

The Sorrows of Dolores, one of a few Ludlam-directed films, was unfinished at the time of his death in 1987. Recently restored, it is showing tonight at the Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival.

Dolores tells the story of a young woman (played in drag by Ludlam’s long-time lover, Everett Quinton) who gets pulled into the seedy urban underground when she witnesses the abduction of the “gorilla girl” from a carnival freak show. Pursued by the abductor, she is eventually sold into slavery and carried off to the mysterious Gorilla Island where she comes face to face with a King Kong-like monster.

Done in a pastiche of early silent films, Dolores provides interesting visuals and plenty of campiness, but is still burdened with a rough, unfinished feel. While the story moves somewhat briskly, many scenes seem to labor on for quite some time (including a nearly four-minute segment involving spanking), and with few title cards to provide dialogue, the few that do exist seem somewhat arbitrary.

Peter Golub’s score (with elements by Ljova) also seems to burden the piece. Golub, the longtime composer for the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, composed fragments of the original score along with new work to complete the piece. While many sections have fitting dramatic tension, certain recurring themes seem to plod along and actually slow the action of the film.

While the piece is significant in Ludlam’s canon of work and features performances by many of his theatrical collaborators, it is best appreciated in context of its history, as a work-in-progress and as a snapshot of Ludlam’s love for the bizarre, absurd, and – quite simply put – ridiculous.

The Sorrows of Dolores screens tonight at the UWM Union Theatre, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd (2nd floor) at 11 p.m. For tickets, click here.

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