Poor Pretty Eddie
1975 hillbilly thriller
Plot: After a jazz singer's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, she finds herself at the mercy of Shelley Winters and a horny guy who thinks he's the next Elvis.
Rednecksploitation? Was that a thing? This seems like a cheap attempt to capitalize on the success of Deliverance but is far too bizarre to be taken seriously. Of course, it's bizarre flavor is what gives it any appeal at all. It's a clone of nothing at all but very much something that could only have been made in the 1970s. The best thing most people who stumble upon this are going to say is that it's unique. Most, however, are going to call it garbage, but those are people who wouldn't be able to stomach your typical John Waters flick.
With a score heavy on the always-underappreciated jaw harp and taxidermy close-ups, this never really pretends to be mainstream. There's clearly an attempt to create some sort of C-grade art. An early photo montage--right after a scene where Elvis and a big Jaws-looking guy (the James Bond villain--not the shark) nearly fight and then engage in chortling--give the thing an artsy vibe with its visuals. There's an amazing scene at a dam with a "publicity shot" that was really well done. And there was one of the oddest rape sequences you'll ever see with this awful song--"Make Believe You Love Me All Night Long" is the title I'm giving it--the physical assault juxtaposed with shots of a hick collective watching a couple dogs go at it.
It's hard to know what was a serious attempt at drama and what, if anything, was supposed to be black comedy. It's all just so clumsy although again, that's really part of the appeal. But when the jazz singer reports the rape the local sheriff (more on him later), it's impossible not to think this is supposed to be funny. Because rape, I'm guessing, was hilarious back in the 1970s. But the questions the sheriff asks, the strange offer of a tomato, and the hilarious doodles really make you think something else is going on here.
Really, the beauty of this movie is in its cast. Add this to the pile of odd career choices Shelley Winters, possibly aided by an agent with a sick sense of humor or some sort of personal vendetta, had in the 1970s. She seems drunk out of her mind here, but that might just be really good acting. Belching out lines like "You are an ugly bitch!", naturally to herself in a mirror; emitting noises that might make it impossible for me to have sexual intercourse for a couple months; and sharing redneck wisdom like "You'll fight God and seven different types of alligators to keep your man there" give Winters a lot to work with, that great kind of humiliating character that she can really chew on. Literally, I mean, as she probably ate half of the characters she played.
And that aforementioned sheriff? Why, that's none other than Slim Fucking Pickens. He gets a sidekick, an inbred armed with a slingshot, and every single thing he says is just pure redneck poetry. "Would you like to suck on a tomato?" "Did he bite you on the titties?" "Sweet Jesus! That's a fine piece of evidence." I've always been of the opinion that Slim Pickens could make any movie better, and although this seems like a strange career choice on the heels of a bunch of Disney TV stuff, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and Blazing Saddles, I sure am happy he was in this. Ted Cassidy plays Hillbilly Jaws, and Dub Taylor creeps things up even more as Justice of the Peace Floyd, spending the movie cackling when he isn't spouting out gems like "Just as plain as an ass on a goat."
It's a very strange movie that deserves to be a cult classic and actually something that I'd watch again in ten years or so when I get an itch for the kind of erection that only seeing Shelley Winters and Slim Pickens on the screen at the same time can bring.