The Legend: A traveling business man meets a beautiful blond in a night club and invites her to his room for an evening of carnal delights. When the man awakes the next morning he discovers his overnight companion has vanished but left a message, “Welcome to the Wonderful World of Aids”, written in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. After contacting the police, the man learns he is the eighth victim of Aids Mary, a vengeful woman who intentionally spreads the disease to healthy men.
The Aids Mary urban legend first surfaced around 1986 and quickly went global. When she wasn’t busy hunting men in the US, Aids Mary found victims in Canada, France, and Sweden. Versions of the legend appeared in Playboy, Ann Landers’ syndicated advice column, and several major newspapers across the US which only helped to feed the hysteria over a non-existent woman.
At the height of her popularity as societal boogieman, Aids Mary was investigated by the FBI and the Center for Disease Control. In Curses! Broiled Again! The Hottest Urban Legends, Jan Harold Brunvand details Aids Mary’s exploits and reveals he was contacted by a special agent with the FBI due to a rumor concerning a young agent’s encounter with the mysterious woman. Many people in the FBI knew the story but none of them could find the supposed victim. The CDC also had trouble finding Aids Mary or her numerous alleged victims. Brunvand tried to easy fears by refuting the Aids Mary stories in his column “Urban Legends”.
Eventually, Mary faded from public consciousness and was replaced by Aids Harry, a nefarious rogue who targets beautiful women on vacation in exotic locations. Instead of leaving a message on a mirror, Harry gives his victims a can of coffee with a note reading “Here’s something to help you on your sleepless nights. Welcome to the Aids club!”
The Film: City in Panic
This scummy little hybrid-slasher was filmed in Toronto, one of the locations sometimes mentioned in the Aids Mary urban legend. The film takes several liberties with Mary’s story, the biggest one being Mary punishes men with a knife. The writing on a mirror motif is absent since Mary leaves her message, a giant M, carved into her victims’ flesh. Also missing is the seduction angle. This Mary finds the men in a vulnerable state and goes to town on them with that big pig sticker.
Trans World Entertainment marketed City in Panic in 1987 as a suspense thriller so it didn’t appear in the horror sections of some video stores. The film mixes police procedural elements with murder scenes lifted from famous slashers. The opening kill is straight out of Psycho but with the guy in the shower. The castration scene from I Spit on Your Grave is duplicated with a night watchman looking for some glory hole action in a public bathroom. Mary dresses a lot like the killer in Schizoid when she goes a hunting.
City in Panic is a sleazy hybrid-slasher guaranteed to offend just about everyone who watches it. Just when you think director Robert Bouvier hits the bottom of the barrel, Bouvier picks up the barrel and digs in the muck underneath. The terrible actors, dialog, and plot add an extra layer of slime to the “I can’t believe they just did that” nature of the film. At one point in the film, Aids Mary hallucinates while she is attacking a victim. The pleading man is replaced by an image of Mary’s dead husband holding a baby’s skeleton. While the husband taunts Mary, the dead baby begins to wave at the camera. Sadly, the zombie fetus shows more enthusiasm than any of the living actors on screen.