By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Preacher versus drug dealers.
Reverend Lowery (Earl Owensby) works to get teens hooked-on drugs off the city streets and sober, which annoys local drug dealers who order a hit on him. When his family are on a camping trip two hit men (Ron Lampkin, Jac Cashin) shoot both of Lowery’s sons (Todd Reep, Jeff Reep) and his wife (Maggie Lauterer). When Lowery tries coming to their aid he gets shot several times, but manages to survive though with a severe limp and inability to speak. Once out of the hospital he goes on a silent mission to get revenge on those that killed his family while also stopping the dealers from selling anymore drugs and getting them off the streets once and for all.
This is third film of Earl Owensby who in 1973 decided to take a stab at filmmaking by building a studio near Shelby, North Carolina and making movies that he deemed to have ‘old-fashioned values’ and away from the sex and violence of Hollywood. While his movies didn’t have any nudity they did have its fair share of violence, which his critics considered to be hypocritical, but in any event they made money especially on the grindhouse circuit and enough of a profit that it allowed him to continue making movies up to 1991. While other regional directors like John Waters and Charles B. Pierce where able to gain enough attention with their movies to ultimately get a Hollywood contract Owensby never did. Some say it was because he labeled himself a conservative, which automatically made him an outsider with Tinseltown.
Whatever the reason this movie really wasn’t all that different from the Hollywood revenge dramas like Dirty Harry and Walking Tall and I was surprised how watchable it was. It does go on longer than it should and the opening features several jump cuts, which gives it an extreme amateur feel. There’s also way too many scenes that take place in back alleys. Granted it works with the plot, but I still got the feeling it was shot at these locations because it was less likely to get noticed by the authorities for shooting without a permit.
The film was controversial for the amount of violence and was banned from several countries. The shootings could be considered extreme when you see little kids shot directly in the chest and then violently thrown backwards. There’s also a nifty death where one of the drug dealers known as Candyman (Chuck Mines) drowns by having his face shoved into a toilet bowl though this would’ve had better effect had it been shot from above versus to the side. In either case the shootings get redundant and there should’ve been more creative deaths instead of just at the hands of a rifle.
What I did like was that the protagonist suffers lasting injuries and doesn’t just miraculously recover like heroes in a Hollywood movie do. However, with that said, the limp that he gets stuck with, which forces him to walk with a cane, completely disappears during the final foot chase where he’s able to climb ladders connected to buildings even better than the able bodied detective who’s chasing after him.
You would’ve also thought that since he was such a well-loved preacher in his community and lead a big congregation that they would’ve come to his aid after he was injured by finding him some housing and maybe even a job instead of him becoming this lonely homeless person that no one seemed to know. If he had grown bitter and lost his faith due to what happened to his family and thus rejected their offers of help that’s fine, but a scene showing this needed to be inserted.
It might’ve worked better too had it started from the perspective of the prostitute (Monique Prouix) who takes the homeless Lowery into her apartment because she feels sorry for him and considers him harmless. Then the violent deaths of the drug dealers would force the viewer to connect the dots to Lowery and ultimately through flashback show what happened to his family at the end, which then would’ve given the film an element of mystery and more layers. I was also taken off-guard by the very downbeat ending, which I hadn’t expected and didn’t feel was necessary, but does conform to the ‘everything is terrible’ theme, which was a prevalent in most 70’s movies.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: August 17, 1976
Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes
Director: Jimmy Huston
Studio: Intercontinental Releasing Corporation
Available: DVD-R (dvdlady.com)