How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the "Killer Condom"
by Kaelin B.C. Alexander — Cornell University
March 19, 2009 – 00:03
Killer Condom (1996) is quite possibly the most pro-queer film of the past two decades. No, really. For all of its problems, Martin Walz’s movie offers viewers something pretty remarkable: a film responding to the AIDS epidemic which is as anxious in its allegories as it is unapologetically sex positive. Adapted from Ralf König’s 1987 comic book Kondom Des Grauens, Killer Condom details the final chapters in the career of Luigi Mackeroni (Udo Samel), a hard-nosed bear of a cop who foils a conservative Christian conspiracy to castrate the degenerate denizens of New York City using genetically-engineered prophylactics dentata. Along the way, Mackeroni inadvertently becomes the protector of the prostitutes, transvestites, and gay men who frequent Hotel Quickie, the brothel where the condoms are first unleashed to take a bite out of (sex) crime. He also loses a testicle (his member, it turns out, requires a Magnum-caliber monster), finds true love with twinkie hustler Billy (Marc Richter), and saves the city.
Killer Condom takes cues from the dark humor of Gremlins even as it parodies and refutes the sexual politics of Cronenberg’s Shivers. The bogies of body horror take much of their psychic terror from bodies that are grotesquely queer—think of Alien’s tea-bagging facehugger, which upends the “natural” order of things by violently “impregnating” a man. Killer Condom thus literalizes the anti-queer underbelly of its genre with creatures that are transparent instruments of homophobic violence—baddies designed by Alien’s H.R. Giger, no less. Accordingly, the film inverts the traditional genre paradigm of punishing wanton sex with grisly death, and culminates in a heartfelt speech where Luigi assures us that “There aren’t any condoms in heaven… nor any that bite,” and that “God will protect all lovers.” Indeed, for all its performance of B-Grade schlock, the film’s politics are surprisingly earnest, offering us a fantasy world in which cops champion and protect, rather than persecute, deviant sexuality.
In this clip, Luigi Mackeroni shares an elevator ride with Billy while his ex-lover Babette (formerly Bob, also of the NYPD) performs “Teach Me, Tiger.” Certainly the scene isn’t without some “bad” formal oddities that take us out of the moment. Why does sex sound like popcorn popping and fireworks going off? Why does Babette’s audience break the fourth wall? What is going on with Luigi’s tie? The scene takes place at the juncture point between Jim Henson’s affirmative cuddliness and John Waters’ unabashed sleaze. This is a “bad” film that applauds “bad” queers doing “bad” drag and having “bad” sex. Needless to say, these aren’t the kinds of queers who grace the cover of The Advocate, but Killer Condom embraces them all the same. “Bravo,” indeed.
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