Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Overlooked films--one half-good, one joyously bad

Steve Allan (not the late television guy) inspired Patti Abbott to post about Do the Right Thing by posting about Evolution, but this meme has yet to take flight (or am I confusing memes with nenes, a sort of goose...). A good enough excuse for me to cite two films, to help thicken the stew...

Prime Cut is a film that could've been champeen, nevermind contender. Directed by Michael Ritchie as his second feature, after the overrated but beautiful Downhill Racer and just before the brilliant The Candidate and a string of films nearly as good (The Bad News Bears brought home the groceries), and written by the even more uneven Robert Dillon, Prime Cut features a great cast (Gregory Walcott got to show what he could do when working with the likes of Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman, and the debuting Sissy Spacek) and a story that turns Deliverance inside out...instead of suburbanites venturing into the evils of the rural/natural, mobsters out of the big city, Chicago in this case, have go down to the outskirts/suburbs of Kansas City to deal with a megalomaniacal sort who's setting up his own empire (did you guess that was Hackman's character? Gold star.). The problem, as far as this film goes, isn't so much what's bizarre and semi-mythic about it, but how haphazard it is...its releasing company, National General, was collapsing as it was being made, and I suspect the hastily-edited, throw in all the footage you shot feel of the film at various points was the result of a desperate desire by NG and/or its creditors to get some sort of money out of the project before the offices were shuttered. A sequence that involves the interaction of the Chicago mobsters' limo and a thresher/bailer just goes on and on...it's somewhat hypnotic, but clearly this is not how the finished work was going to be. A rather awkward sequence where Lee Marvin's character escorts the nearly nude Sissy Spacek into a restaurant stretches and stretches...it still manages to be less preciously pseudo-rebellious than a similar sequence in Flashdance, but as presented in this less than prime cut, only slightly less.

As a whole film, it's still a hell of a thing to see. You just wish Ritchie had been able to finish it. (I'm pretty sure I saw this first as a kid on something like the CBS Late Movie, wherein the fairly frequent nudity would've been cut, and perhaps even more footage spliced in...or perhaps the tv edit might actually resemble what was hoped for originally, but I somehow doubt that.).

This clip is Not office-friendly.



Prime Cut - video powered by Metacafe


Nor this one:


Sissy Spacek - Janit Baldwin - MyVideo

The terrible, hilarious film is The Explosive Generation. I have to thank Bill Crider for digging out a compound trailer for this and another film...I saw TEG for the first time on late night television as a teen in Hawaii, and if you don't think William Shatner as an idealistic youngish sex-ed teacher, doing his best to Relate to the kids in the kind of film that Mort Sahl characterized as always having a scene where at a meeting of parents one arises to announce, "I just want to say that I'm going to call my kids now, and ask for their forgiveness!"...if you don't think that sounds like bad fun on a grand scale, I have to tell you to think again. In that it's mildly exploitive while theoretically on the kids' side was a stroke of minor genius, and I'm surprised the film didn't do any better than it did...perhaps the similarly goofy TheBlackboard Jungle did so well in comparison because it was earlier by several years, but no fresher, and hostile to the kids, who got to be Kool Rebels, just like that Flashdance welder-stripper.

This is the dual trailer that Bill has up, also advertising a British film called That Kind of Girl, which was classed up for the US (no doubt drive-in) market as Teen Age Tramp: (and has since been taken down by YouTube, so here's this):



And a long clip, which The Onion's AV Club wants you to note features a boom mike that no one thought worthy of reframing out of the final edit...

2 comments:

Steve Allan said...

To me, Michael Ritchie should have had a better career than he did, kind of like Peter Hyams. He was more of director for hire rather than tackling anything that he developed from scratch, and I think that really showed up in his work.

Todd Mason said...

Ah, but you speak of him after the '70s...he was clearly his own man in the first decade of his career in films. I'm not sure what happened, but yes, he certainly seemed to have a tougher go of it later.