Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Poor Pretty Eddie (1975)

Director: Chris Robinson & David Worth

Starring: Leslie Uggams, Shelley Winters, Michael Christian, Ted Cassidy, Dub Taylor & Slim Pickens

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: All He Wanted Was A Friend.

Plot: A wrong turn on a jazz singer's road trip results in her car breaking down near an isolated lodge run by a faded starlet and a young, homicidal Elvis impersonator.

My Rating: 8/10

Would I watch it again? sure as shootin'

If you like your movies on the twisted side then look no further. For most, PPE will be a very difficult movie to watch. If you think the rape scene in DELIVERANCE (1972) was tough to sit through, just wait 'till you get a load on what happens to Liz. It's pretty fuckin' harsh.

We start out with Liz (Uggams) singing the national anthem at football game. That sets up her role in show business. During the tune, she's driving her Rolls Royce and her voice over tells us she's driving it across the country to relax back home. Roll Credits over sleepy early morning scenes of the thickly wooded area she's about to call Hell.

Before the credits end we see Liz strolling along a dirt road making her way to the motel (set, we assume, a bit off the main highway). Liz meets Keno (Cassidy) and tells him of her car troubles. Keno brings her inside the restaurant to tell Eddie.

Meet Eddie! He runs the joint. He's also playing boy toy to the owner, Bertha (Winters), an aging, boozing former stripper who's desperately trying to hold onto her faded youth in a struggle with time.

Eddie pours on the Southern charm in a polite but slightly creepy way but Liz is a bitch right off the bat. She's really got that diva thing going on and it's not making her very sympathetic for what she's about to receive. It certainly goes against type for the person you're supposed to be rooting for. It's ballsy, that's for sure. So she continues to be standoffish even after Eddie recognizes her signature as THE Elizabeth Wetherly.

"I seen you on TV"

Cut to Bertha puttin' on the old records and solo dancing to days gone by.

Eddie takes Liz to cabin 6, the one with air conditioning. It's also the one where Eddie uses to practice his guitar. There's girlie magazines all over the bed, with pinups on the walls and booze and beer littering the night stand.

Eddie's back in the restaurant and in walks Bertha. They give each other some playful yet severely biting exchanges. She's clearly pissed that he's so taken with their new guest. She pushes him but she knows she can push too far because she needs his youth.

Bertha: Damn you, Eddie. You know what I'm talkin' about. What is that there juicy pickaninny doin' up in MY cabin? MINE!

The sharp words continue to get even more heated. Eddie throws one jab too hard getting Bertha upset and then, knowing how to handler her, he pours on the "oh, baby, I'm sorry" charm that works so well with her. The bomb has been diffused. She knows the game he's playing and she allows it. She has no choice.

Eddie's outside looking at Liz's car with Keno, all the while fucking with him. Keno can only take so much so he uses fear to his advantage to warn Eddie to stop. Keno, laughing, walks away and Eddie sabotages the car.

Liz has changed outfits and goes out into the woods for some nature photography. WTF? Her attitude seems to have lightened. There's some great dissonant strings playing over this which is really unsettling. Nice! Uh-oh! Someone's watching!

It's a costume change for Eddie and here comes Sheriff Orville (Pickens)...just in time for dinner. After a while Eddie gets egged on to sing for Liz, thinking that she might want to help him out with his career. Woof!

Meanwhile, the sheriff is sweet talkin' Liz into getting a ride into town with him.

"I'll shore show ya a good time!"

Dinner's over, the sheriff whispers to Eddie that Liz was eying him during his performance.

He splits and Eddie's out by Liz's car telling her he'll have her car ready in the morning. HOLY SHIT! LIZ SMILES FOR THE FIRST TIME!!! It's almost a flirty smile, the kind of smile that Eddie sees as a "fuck me" smile. Time to make his move.

Liz comes out of the bathroom in her room to find Eddie in her bed!

Naturally she's having none of that and threatens him with the police when Eddie reminds her of how she was checking him out during dinner (which, of course, she wasn't). After hitting him on the head with the whiskey bottle he's holding he gets all Hulk on her ass and rapes her. This over the soothing tones of some country tune with lyrics like, " You don't have to love me in the morning." WTF? I know, right? But it gets better. Between the shots of the "love making" we see Keno welcome some unknown family of hicks with some dogs...they're there TO MATE THEM!!!


Morning comes and Bertha enters Liz's room to tell her to get out. Liz is fuming, of course, but Bertha's got no concerns but her own. What follows is a really heart-felt monologue from Berth which really shows of Winters' acting chops. It's great to see A-list actors slumming it but so rarely do they actually give their all when doing it. Winters is fantastic! So she basically tells Liz to stay away from her man and to get the fuck out of Dodge.

It's time for yet another costume change for Eddie. He's taking Liz out for a ride in his sexy Jeep, showing her the sights, treating her like they're lovers that only fate could bring together. Man, is this cat delusional.

Back at the ranch...Claude, a salesman, stops by for lunch and offers Liz a ride into town. He ends up taking her to the local lover's lane instead, telling her how when the girls leave, they leave different. It's not looking good for poor ole Liz.

"Lizzie, gal. Don't worry about gettin' to Atlanta. I'll git ya to Atlanta. Liz? Lizzie girl? Do I look like a skunky ole bastard? You come across...I come across. Now how dat sound?"

Yikes! Claude guides her head down to his lap. Guess who's in the back seat?

FUCK ME! It's Eddie! The faces then fade to show Eddie and Liz in the rear view mirror. Eddie's voice echoes that she's going to be his girl (as he removes his belt) and that she's going to be decent.

Cut to slo-mo of Eddie beating her cut with static reaction shots of Liz. WOW!

They've made their way back to the motel and the sun's gone down. When Eddie's inside Liz steals the Jeep and makes her way down the highway before being pulled over by a deputy sheriff. Poor thing cant' catch a break. Now we're at the sheriff's office with our buddy, Slim Pickens. He acts sort of sympathetic about her plight and offers to take down a police report on her allegation of Eddie's raping her.

It becomes clear not too soon into it that his questioning is strictly voyeuristic, and he spews out such choice dialogue as:

"Did he rip yer clothes off?"

"Would ya like to suck on a tomato?"

Sheriff Orville's sketch artistry at work.

"Now did ole Eddie, I mean, the rapist...did he uh, did he bite 'cha on your titties?"

"Do ya know how many times he done it to ya?"

"Well, he did it again...this afternoon."

"Hot doggies! I can't says I blame 'im. But I can't says the court's gonna take too kindly for you stickin' around and lettin' it happen again."

What a fucking nightmare! So Sheriff Orville takes to over to the VFW to see the Justice of the Peace to see what he thinks of all of this. And it gets even worse...

As Orville and Liz enter the VFW racial slurs are tossed around letting us all know where they stand. Uh oh. Eddie and Bertha are there.

"Just what the hell do you think you're doin'?"

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Justice of the Peace Floyd played most sleazily by one of the all-time great character actors (and one of my favorites), Dub Taylor.

JP Floyd calls court in session to hear her allegations of rape, assault, etc. Eddie's none too happy about that and looks mighty worried.

Bertha: She's a little lyin' bitch!
JP Floyd: Bertha, I don't want no god damned vulgar talkin' in here!
JP Floyd: Sheriff, you got any idea on how to handle this?
Sheriff Orville: Well, she did say he bit her on the titty...I don't see no reason why she couldn't show us a suck mark or two.

Slo-mo ripping of the shirt...

"Sweeeeeet jesus!"

"That's a fiiiine piece of evidence!"

Eddie whacks JP Floyd over the back with a pool cue in slo-mo. Someone tackles Eddie, still in slo-mo, with inter-cut scenes of a screaming Liz and Keno walking his dog in the woods. Liz's scream ends as everyone arrives back at the homestead (in Liz's car) to meet Keno. It's dinner time again. The next morning Eddie is very hospitable with all of them at the picnic table on the porch for breakfast. He's got a very special surprise. The stew he's feeding them is made with Keno's dog! Eddie goes over to Keno and beats him with a club (more slow motion) with the slow, drawn-out screams of the girls.

I need to say at this point that every use of slow motion in this picture is VERY effective and it's some of the best I've seen, even rivaling Sam Peckinpah. There's a lot of it in this movie and it works surprisingly well.

Eddie then takes the dog's hide and tosses it on the table. Still in slo-mo, it's inter-cut with shots of Keno's dog being tossed in mid air used in the initial rape scene. Eddie goes into Bertha's room looking for her old wedding dress. Bertha thinks he's decided to finally marry her but he shatters her when he cruelly says it's for Liz. He's going to marry Liz.

Now to fill Liz in on his plans.

Shoot! We have ourselves a weddin'!!! Everybody turns out.

Dub Taylor, oh how I love thee!

Eddie heads through the back to change into his fancy clothes. Keno ambushes him and starts to chokin'. Yee hoo! Jaw harp's playin' in the background to make it even more oh-so-bizarre.

Eddie grabs a knife and lunges it into Keno's side...several times.

Keno's gone. And Eddie returns with another outfit!

And the entertainment? The B-52s on their first gig!

The wedding commences...

And Keno shows up to object!

HUGE slow motion fight with lots of blood and dyin'.

The sound design (as it has been throughout this picture) is fucking fantastic. The screams are slowed down like the film and they sound like dinosaurs roaring. It's chilling.

Liz picks up Keno's gun after he's shot and gives her wedding vows, the vows she wrote just for this occasion...while Amazing Grace is being sung and played by the band.

After she kills Eddie she points the gun at a mirror...

fires and shatters it.

The End.

There's not much else I can say about this gloriously fucked up movie. Find it. Unfortunately it's only available in some shitty fullscreen VHS rip. I've been searching high and low for 4 years for a better print to no avail. If you know of a widescreen one floating out there somewhere, PLEASE let me know where.

As you can see, there's so much to like beyond the exploitation elements of violence, revenge, rape, torture, etc. You've got a TWO-TIME OSCAR WINNER, Winters, slummin' it AND turning in a very good performance. You've got Lurch from THE ADDAMS FAMILY kicking some ass. And, for me, it's the sleaziest roles I've ever seen Pickens or Taylor in, two of my favorite character actors ever. The stylized slo-mo Peckinpah finale loaded with guns and violence is pretty much the icing on the cake. For all of it's exploitative goodness, it's loaded with artistic touches that elevate this film far more than it should.

There are several versions out there under different names. I've heard that HEARTBREAK HOTEL has less sleaze and more drama and I'm not sure about REDNECK COUNTY RAPE (great exploitation title, btw) or BLACK VENGEANCE. So, as far as I know, look for the one titled POOR PRETTY EDDIE and have yourself a time. It's one surreal exploitation experience you'll soon not forget, that's for sure.