By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Farmer Vincent’s tasty fritters.
Vincent (Rory Calhoun) and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) run a motel out in the sticks, but their main income comes from Vincent’s delicious meat fritters that he sells to the community. No one knows that the meat is made from humans who he gets by setting traps on a nearby road that sends the vehicles of unsuspecting motorists careening out of control. Once the cars have crashed Vincent removes their bodies from the wreckage and plants them in his hidden garden while also severing their vocal chords, so they cannot yell for help. Then once they are ‘ripe’ he slices up their bodies and uses them for his product.
This is yet another rendition of Ed Gein, the Plainfield Wisconsin farmer who dug up dead bodies from a nearby graveyard and used them for all sorts of sick purposes. While there have been many other films on the topic this one nicely steps back from the shock angle and instead injects dark humor that manages to make the story both funny and involving.
The original script, which was co-written by two brothers, was darker and intended for Tobe Hooper to direct, but when he pulled out of the project and Kevin Connor was hired he insisted that all of the ‘crudeness’ be excised. The result is an agreeably quirky take on the Gein legend that lacks scares, but makes up for with style and atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed the bird’s eye view of Vincent’s and Ida’s backyard lake as well as the surreal-like hum of the sunlamps that Vincent shines on his human victims at night.
Aging cowboy star Calhoun does quite well and out of all the actors who’ve attempted to play Gein it’s Calhoun that actually comes closest to the way he really looked and spoke. The only problem was that he was clearly much older than both Parsons and Paul Linke who play his siblings and no explanation for why the parents would have kids so far apart, or even if that would be possible as in reality Calhoun was 20 years older than Parsons and 26 years older than Linke.
The climatic chainsaw duel, which was thought up at the last minute and took 5 12-hour days to film, is fun. The kinky couple (Elaine Joyce, Dick Curtis) who visit the motel under the mistaken impression it’s a hotbed for swingers and allow themselves to get tied-up thinking it’s all a part of a sex game are funny too in a film that manages to be quirky without ever getting too campy.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: October 24, 1980
Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes
Director: Kevin Connor
Studio: United Artists
Available: DVD, Amazon Video
Posted in 80's Movies, Black Comedy, Cult, Horror, Movies with a Hotel setting, Movies with a rural setting, Movies with Nudity
Tagged Ed Gein, Entertainment, Kevin Connor, Movies, Nancy Parsons, Review, Rory Calhoun
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Losers go road-trippin’
Homer (James Belushi) is a mentally challenged man suffering brain damage from being hit in the head by a baseball when he was a kid. He decides to go on a road trip to visit his sick father, but along the way he gets robbed and has to sleep in an abandoned car. It is there that he meets Eddie (Whoopi Goldberg) an embittered, volatile women who is supposedly suffering from a brain tumor. The two trek off in her car to Oregon to meet up with Homer’s parents and also try to track down the men who robbed him.
I was impressed with the acting range shown here by Goldberg. Usually she is so likable, but here she is quite edgy and does it in an effective way. I applaud her attempts to work outside of her comfort zone although her fits of anger make the viewer uncomfortable and her crying does not sound authentic.
Belushi is good in atypical role and for the most part he is the best thing about the movie. His lines are consistently amusing, but the film walks an uncomfortable line between making him a sympathetic character to also making fun of him. Despite the fact that these two already worked together in Jumpin’ Jack Flash the chemistry between them doesn’t work.
The supporting cast is interesting in cameo roles. Casting 70-year-old 200 pound Ernestine McClendon as a prostitute gets points simply for its novelty, but seeing her in her grossly oversized panties is a bit much. Karen Black as her pimp has such a small, meaningless role that I was surprised that she even took it. Nancy Parsons has an interesting part as a cold and aloof woman who becomes sympathetic, which is a rarity for her. Director John Waters appears briefly as a robber and I kind of got a kick out of Don Hanmer as a very nervous cashier. Belushi’s real-life second wife Marjorie Bransfield can be spotted in the character of Betsy and this also marked the final film appearance for both Fritz Feld and Anne Ramsey.
The film features a wide-array of musical styles, which works against it. I liked Richie Havens rendition of ‘Home’, which had the nice laid-back beat and folk tinged sound that you expect for a road movie. Some of the more hard rock, heavy metal stuff became too loud and obnoxious and takes the viewer out of the picture instead of wrapping them in.
I liked the scenery and there are a few interesting moments, but trying to mix the surreal with the gritty is misguided. The comical bits get drowned out by the scenes of violence and a very maudlin theme. The result is an uneven film that pales in comparison to the classic road movies.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: December 1, 1989
Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes
Director: Andrei Konchalovskiy
Studio: Skouras Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu
Posted in 80's Movies, Black Comedy, Buddy Movies, Cold Climate/Wintertime Movies, Road Movies
Tagged Entertainment, Ernestine McClendon, James Belushi, Karen Black, Movies, Nancy Parsons, Review, Richie Havens, Whoopi Goldberg