Existential Exploitation: BOBBIE JO & THE OUTLAW (AIP 1976)

I discussed filmmaker Vernon Zimmerman in a post on his UNHOLY ROLLERS back in January. Zimmerman wrote the script (but did not direct) for 1976’s BOBBIE JO & THE OUTLAW, which on the surface is just another sex’n’violence laden redneck exploitation film. Yet after a recent viewing, it seemed to me Zimmerman was not just delving into exploitation, but exploring something more: disaffected youth, gun culture, the cult of personality, and violence in America, themes that still resonate today.

Former child evangelist turned rock star turned actor Marjoe Gortner is Lyle Wheeler, a drifter who enters quick draw contests and idolizes Billy the Kid. Lyle’s a hustler, as we find out as he pulls into a gas station and steals a Mustang from a travelling salesman. Lyle outruns a police car hot on his tail, causing the cop to go off the road, and revs into the next town, where he meets Bobbie Jo.

She’s played by Lynda Carter, a small town carhop with big dreams of country music success. Bobbie Jo has a mother (B Western vet Peggy Stewart) who nags and drinks on the sly, and a sister Pearl (Merrie Lynn Ross) who left home to be a stripper. She doesn’t date the local boys, who quite frankly are just lusting after her big boobs, but when outsider Lyle shows up, the two find an immediate attraction and hook up.

The young lovers, along with Bobbie Jo’s hippie pal Essie (Belinda Balaski), hit the road for a series of adventures that includes trouble with some tough Mexicans at a bar and tripping on mushrooms in the mountains with an Indian shaman. They visit sister Pearl and her sleazy boyfriend Slick Callahan (Exploitation star Jesse Vint), who pulls a payroll robbery that ends when Lyle shoots and kills the guard. Now the quintet, like a modern-day Barrow gang, are hunted outlaws, and when scared Essie drops a dime to the sheriff, she’s killed in the crossfire of a deadly shootout. Lyle vows retribution by pulling off a bank robbery, leading to a crime and murder spree across New Mexico….

Zimmerman’s script transplants BONNIE & CLYDE to mid-70’s America and is peppered with cinematic allusions, including a doomed deputy named Abel Gance. He shows us the ennui of the character’s lives, all of whom are societal outcasts that together form their own version of the nuclear family unit. Mark L. Lester takes the director’s chair; he’s known for some interesting Exploitation films of his own (TRUCK STOP WOMEN, CLASS OF 1999, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO), as well as the notorious dud ROLLER BOOGIE. Two side notes: this was the first film for future director Chuck Russell (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS, THE MASK, THE SCORPION KING), who worked on the film as Production Supervisor, 2nd Assistant Director, and appears as one of the deputies. Former Monogram/Allied Artists president Steve Broidy (who knew a thing or two about exploitation films) served as co-producer.

Marjoe Gortner, never the greatest of actors, does yeoman’s work as the delusional Lyle, and a pre-WONDER WOMAN Lynda Carter is fine indeed as Bobbie Jo.  The movie is famous for being the only time Lynda goes topless onscreen, but there’s much more to it than that. BOBBIE JO & THE OUTLAW may not rank as one of the 70’s best films, but I posit here it is certainly one of the most underrated. Am I reading too much into it? Should I just enjoy the violent joyride and the nubile charms of Lynda Carter? All movies are subjective; watch it and judge for yourselves, and see if you agree or disagree.

 

 

One Hit Wonders #16: “In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry (Pye Records 1970)

British band Mungo Jerry soared to Number One on the pop charts not just here in America, but all over the world with their joyous skiffle-rock ode to summer fun “In The Summertime”:

Mungo Jerry at the time of their smash success were Ray Dorset (vocals, guitar), Colin Earl (piano), Mike Cole (bass), and Paul King (banjo, jug). Members came and went rapidly, but Dorset was always the one constant. The huge international success of “In The Summertime” led to a U.S. tour, and though the Jerries never scored another hit, “In The Summertime” remains a perennial on Classic Rock radio, especially at this time of year.

Something I always wondered was where on Earth did they come up with the name Mungo Jerry. So I did some intense research (ok, I looked it up on their Wikipedia page) and discovered the band was named after a poem in T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” titled “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer”. Who knew both Ray Dorset and Andrew Lloyd Webber drew their musical inspiration from the same source? Anyway, have a safe and happy summer, one and all!

 

Midnight Snack: THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (2Oth Century-Fox 1950)

THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF made it’s TCM debut last Saturday night on Noir Alley, hosted by “The Czar of Noir” Eddie Muller. This is a ‘B’ film I’d never heard of before, and since you all know how much I love discovering new/old ‘B’ movies, I stayed up past the midnight hour to give it a watch (which I usually do on Saturday nights anyway, being a Noir Alley fan!).

The film doesn’t waste any time, quickly introducing the main characters and getting right into the story. Thinking her husband is planning to murder her, rich San Francisco socialite Lois Frazer guns him down in cold blood directly in front of her lover, Homicide Lt. Ed Cullen. Ed dumps the body at the airport to make it look like a robbery/murder, tossing the murder weapon off the Golden Gate Bridge. Then he takes the lead in the investigation, along with his recently promoted brother Andy. Things heat up when the bullets used to kill a liquor store clerk matches the one that killed Frazer, the pawned gun leads to young Nito Capa, who is charged with both crimes. But eager beaver Andy doesn’t believe things add up, and starts investigating on his own…

Lee J. Cobb , primarily a character actor onscreen, plays the compromised cop Ed without his usual bombast. Jane Wyatt , cast against type, is a cold, calculating bitch as Lois. John Dall of GUN CRAZY as young Andy goes from happy-go-lucky rookie detective to disillusioned brother through the course of the film. All three are excellent in their roles, though it’s Cobb’s protagonist caught in that old familiar downward spiral who dominates the proceedings.

Felix Feist’s direction is on target, as he showed in his previous films noir THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE, THE THREAT , and the sci-fi shocker DONOVAN’S BRAIN . DP Russell Harlan does his usual fine job behind the camera; among his many credits are RED RIVER, THE THING , BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and the aforementioned GUN CRAZY. Some of the movie was filmed on location in San Francisco, including the penultimate scene inside Ft. Point, brilliantly shot by Harlan and edited by David Weisbart (MILDRED PIERCE, DARK PASSAGE, JOHHNY BELINDA, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE). The score by Louis Forbes adds greatly to the film’s mood.

THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF’s screenplay by veterans Seton I. Miller and Philip McDonald is tight and compact, the way a good little B-Movie should be done. Kudos to the entire cast and crew, and to Eddie Muller’s Film Noir Foundation for restoring the film so a new audience can enjoy it. And if you’re not a night-owl like me, TCM reruns Noir Alley on Sunday mornings, so you can get your fix of film noir with a hot cup of java.

Cracked Rear Viewer’s 3rd Anniversary!

Cracked Rear Viewer burst forth upon the blogging world on June 26, 2015. It doesn’t seem like three years have come and gone, and I’ve been grateful and humbled by the response, as this little blog dedicated to classic films and retro pop culture has grown by the proverbial leaps and bounds to 1,891 followers and counting via WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, and emails subscribers!

More Stats

Many bloggers don’t like to admit it, but as for me, I’m an unabashed stat geek. I put a lot of time and efforts into my posts – between watching a film, doing research, looking for pictures, and first, second, and sometimes even third drafts – it can take up to eight hours to create one post! Not all at once, but you get my drift. So I like to see the fruits of my labor, and watching stats are a vital part of that. This is my 782nd post, with over half a million words written. Holy Thesaursus, Batman! There have been 84,645 views by 54,392 visitors, with the U.S.A the largest contingent, followed by the U.K., Germany, Canada, France, Australia, Brazil, India, Spain, and Italy. All told, Cracked Rear Viewer averages 77 views a day, which may not sound like a lot, but isn’t too shabby for someone who didn’t know the first thing about blogging three years ago.

THE TOP TEN

And now, here’s something that really piques my interest – Cracked Rear Viewer’s All-Time Top Ten Posts. It’s an eclectic mix, to be sure, reflecting the diversity of both the blog’s content and it’s viewership:

  1. Top Ten Reasons CASABLANCA is The Greatest Movie Ever Made!  (first published 8/28/18): My all-time favorite movie is Cracked Rear Viewer’s all-time champ! Though I’ve done several other pieces on the film (seeing it on the big screen , a new book review ), this one remains the most popular.
  2. Victim of Love: Clint Eastwood in THE BEGUILED  (4/12/16): I’ve done more than my share of posts on Cool Clint, like his trilogy with Sergio Leone , but thanks to the Sofia Coppola remake, THE BEGUILED has outperformed them all.
  3. Why I Think ERASERHEAD Sucks!   (11/10/15): I don’t pan many films, preferring to watch things I enjoy, but I’ve never been able to get into this David Lynch-directed mess. It’s just not for me.
  4. I Wish I Were A Fish: Don Knotts in THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPET  (2/4/16): I didn’t think my love for Don Knotts comedies would do well, but this post just gains in popularity with each passing year. Go figure!
  5. (tie) Ride Away: John Wayne in John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS  (9/9/17) and Have a Bucket of Fun!: THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE  (8/9/15): Talk about diversity, you can’t have two films as different as these, both in a tie for 5th place all time. Call it The Duke meets AIRPLANE!


6 From the VHS Vault 2: THE VIOLENT YEARS  (4/22/17): Teenage girl gangs and a script by Ed Wood – how can you beat that combo?

A Star is Born in Monument Valley: John Wayne in John Ford’s STAGECOACH  (1/23/16): Duke and Ford again, the only star and director to repeat in the Top Ten. Simply one of the greatest Westerns ever made.

8 Cleaning Out the DVR Pt. 4: B-Movie Roundup! (11/8/15): One of my many  ongoing series posts (That’s Blaxploitation!, Rockin’ in the Film World , Creature Double Feature , Pre-Code Confidential ), this entry has capsule reviews of five B-films: KING OF THE UNDERWORLD, GO WEST YOUNG LADY, BAYOU, TWELVE HOURS TO KILL, and WANDA.

9 The Horror Stars of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (4/1/18): After watching the annual Easter broadcast of this Cecil B. DeMille epic, I dashed off this pictorial post highlighting the horror movie stars featured in the film. Much to my surprise and delight, it became the most popular post of 2018 so far!

10 Flesh & Blood: Marilyn Chambers in RABID (4/15/17): Take director David Cronenberg, add porn icon Marilyn Chambers, sprinkle liberally with plenty of gore, and you’ve got a movie people obviously still love. Another pleasant surprise!

WHAT’S NEXT?

What does the future hold for Cracked Rear Viewer? Quite frankly, I don’t know for sure. There may be some changes coming, it all depends on what happens in my personal life. I know for now the blog will continue to bring you “Fresh Takes on Retro Pop Culture” in some form or another, but what form that will take is uncertain. As always, I’d like to thank Lisa and the crew at Through the Shattered Lens  for allowing me to repost my musings, and especially to thank all you Dear Readers for your continued support. Here’s to you, and to another year of Cracked Rear Viewing!:


 

 

Gettin’ a Woody: EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX* (United Artists 1972)

*(but were afraid to ask)

Say what you will about Woody Allen (and I’m sure some of you will), but from 1969 to 1977 he wrote, directed, and starred in some of the laugh-out-loud funniest movies ever made (after that, things got a bit pretentious, and his output has been hit-or-miss far as I’m concerned). Allen’s inventive mind took Dr. David Reuben’s best-selling sex manual EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX (*but were afraid to ask) and turned it into a hilarious anthology that skewers not only societal mores and morals, but every segment parodies a different film genre.

Some are better than others, but each has something funny to offer. The first, “Do Aphrodisiacs Work?”, finds Woody as a medieval court jester whose lousy Bob Hope one-liners bomb with the King (Anthony Quayle). The randy jester is dying to enter the Queen’s (Lynn Redgrave) “royal chambers”, but gets nowhere until a sorcerer (Geoffrey Holder ) gives him a powerful aphrodisiac. The potion works, making Her Highness super-horny, but there’s a snag… the King has locked her in a chastity belt! Much as they try, they can’t get the belt unlocked, and then the King walks in… and once again, Woody loses his head over a woman!

Next up is “What is Sodomy?”, and if this segment doesn’t have you rolling on the floor laughing, you need a funny bone replacement! Gene Wilder stars as a married medical doctor who falls in love a patient named Daisy. Trouble is, Daisy is a sheep! No, not a brain-dead political follower, a real, wooly, baa baa sheep! From Armenia, no less. Wilder’s deadpan performance is an outrageous riot, and that final shot of him after he’s lost everything, including Daisy, sitting slumped on skid row drinking a bottle of Woolite, is guaranteed to leave you itching in hysterics.

“Why Do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching Orgasm?” is done entirely in Italian, spoofing the films of Fellini and Antonioni. Woody’s frigid wife (Louise Lasser ) just can’t enjoy sex, no matter what he tries to turn her on… until they do it in public. Out in the open, she can’t get enough! While the style of this is pitch perfect, it’s one of the weaker segments, as is the next, “Are Transvestites Homosexuals?”, with Lou Jacobi as a middle class, middle-aged Jew who likes to dress in women’s clothing, and gets busted when he meets his daughter’s fiancé’s parents, unable to resist trying on his future mother-in-laws clothes. The portly, mustachioed Jacobi in drag is a sight to behold, though!

“What Are Sex Perverts?” is done as an old black and white kinescope of a game show called “What’s My Perversion?”. This send-up of “What’s My Line?” has emcee Jack Barry and a panel of celebrities (Pamela Mason, Regis Philbin, Robert Q. Lewis, Toni Holt) trying to guess the peculiar kink of the guest (who likes to expose himself on subways!), followed by a contestant who gets to live out his fetish on live TV – a Rabbi that likes to be tied up and spanked by a buxom shiksa (“You’ve been a naughty Rabbi!”) while his wife eats pork at his feet! Offensive, yes… but damn funny!

“Are the Findings of Doctors and Clinics Who Do Sexual Research Accurate?” is without a doubt my favorite in the film, a low-budget sci-fi/horror lampoon with Woody as an intern and Heather MacRae a reporter who encounter the fiendish Dr. Bernardo, who has created that most terrifying of creatures, The Giant Boob!! Bernardo is played by that maddest doctor of them all, the great John Carradine at his hammy best. The massive, mutated mammary wreaks havoc and lactates its victims to death across the countryside, and if you love those old 1950’s giant monster movies as much as I do, you’re gonna love this!

Last but not least, “What Happens During Ejaculation?” stays in sci-fi territory as a FANTASTIC VOYAGE-style adventure inside a man’s body as he’s about to have sex with a woman (Groucho’s paramour Erin Fleming). Tony Randall , Burt Reynolds , and Oscar Beregi run the brain, Woody is a cowardly sperm afraid to take the leap, and Jay Robinson steals it as a priest who almost spoils the fun (“Blasphemy!!”).

Only the warped mind of Woody Allen could conceive of a film like this, and I don’t really know if it could be made in today’s “everybody’s offended”  climate. But here it is, and the movie genre parodies are spot-on. I love this film, and would highly recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor, but if you’re one of those easily offended people… well, I feel bad for ya!

 

Book Review: NOIR by Christopher Moore (William Morrow 2018)

In between everything else I do, I read about a book a week, mainly mystery fiction. Current favorites include James Lee Burke, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Janet Evanovich, and John Sandford, all with their own unique styles, and all masters of the genre. But when I need a good laugh, I pick up Christopher Moore. I first became aware of Moore’s work with his brilliant 2002 novel LAMB, OR THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BIFF, CHRIST’S CHILDHOOD PAL, an irreverent satire narrated by Jesus’s good buddy Biff that’s as outrageous as it sounds, and sinfully funny to boot.

Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer in “Out of the Past” (RKO 1947) have nothing on Sammy and The Cheese!

This time around, Moore goes from taking on the Scriptures to the hard-boiled world of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. The novel is set in 1947 San Francisco, a very good year for noir (OUT OF THE PAST, NIGHTMARE ALLEY , BORN TO KILL , LADY FROM SHANGHAI , and other seminal films noir were made that year), as we follow the adventures of Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin, a down-on-his-luck bartender with a past  working in a seedy dive owned by a sleazy cheapskate. A femme fatale named Stilton (nicknamed “The Cheese”), a serviceman’s widow who can crack wise with the best of ’em, walks into the bar, and Sammy goes head over high heels for her. There’s plenty of intrigue involving an Air Force general who wants to procure some dames dressed like Dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ, a crooked cop who wants a piece of everyone’s action, the dark alleys of Chinatown where men drink snake piss to gain virility… oh, and a man from outer space! Told you Moore was unique!

Distinguished author Christopher Moore

Sammy narrates most of this outlandish stew, except for some chapters told by… well, I’m not gonna say, you’ll have to read it and find out yourselves. There are a ton of characters woven in and out of this funny tale, friends and foes alike of Sammy and The Cheese, and they’re all carefully crafted by the skillful Mr. Moore. Parts of NOIR are laugh-out-loud hysterical, parts drew a chuckle, but all of it kept me smiling throughout the brisk 330 pages (not to mention the Afterword and the special section in the Barnes & Noble edition, an essay by Moore titled “Tough Guy Talk”). Christopher Moore is a satirist worth reading, and NOIR ranks among his best, which means its real damn good. Perfect for beach reading, or those rainy nights when it’s Three AM and you’re down to your last bourbon. Pick up a copy today and discover the wacky world of NOIR and Christopher Moore!

Four Star Fun: LIBELED LADY (MGM 1936)

Jean Harlow ! Spencer Tracy ! William Powell ! Myrna Loy ! Four top stars at the top of their game shining bright in LIBELED LADY, a screwball comedy directed by Jack Conway with that trademark MGM gloss. Despite the zany improbability of the script by Maurine Watkins, Howard Emmett Rogers, and George Oppenheimer, the crackling, witty dialog gives all four stars (and supporting actor Walter Connolly) plenty of good material.

Here’s the plot: rich heiress Connie Allenbury (Loy) is suing the New York Evening Star for printing a story about her being a husband stealer. Her price: five million! Editor Warren Haggerty (Tracy), after once again blowing off his nuptials to long-time flame Gladys Benton (Harlow), recruits ex-reporter and frenemy Bill Chandler (Powell) in a crazy scheme involving marrying him off to Gladys (and is she pissed!), hop an ocean liner to London, and return with Connie, using his “charms” to set her up on an alienation of affections rap. Bill angles his way in with the Allenburys by pretending to be a fishing expert (even though he’s no outdoorsman) and getting in Dad Allenbury’s (Connolly) good graces. Things go haywire from there as Bill and Connie fall for each other for real, then Gladys falls for Bill for real, and Warren tries to straighten the whole mess out without losing his newspaper!

Powell and Loy were riding high at the time due to the success of THE THIN MAN, and MGM wanted to keep them in the spotlight. The pair are always a joy to watch working together, and seeing the dandy Powell try to master trout fishing is a comic highlight. Powell also works well with Harlow, whom he was dating at the time, and she’s great in her role as the pawn in boyfriend Tracy’s plan. Tracy gets to show off his comedy chops too, and more than holds his own. A great bit comes when Tracy, after learning Powell and Loy have gotten hitched, tells them Harlow is wife #1, to which Jean replies “That’s arson!”.

Director Conway was a jack-of-all-genres, making everything from comedies to drama to actioners to Tarzan flicks with equal aplomb. Among his many credits are THE UNHOLY THREE , RED HEADED WOMAN, VIVA VILLA!, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, BOOM TOWN, THE HUCKSTERS, and DESIRE ME. Familiar Faces abound, including Billy Benedict (as Tracy’s office boy), E.E. Clive, George Chandler, Charley Grapewin, Selmer Jackson, Hattie McDaniel, and Cora Witherspoon. LIBELED LADY was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, but lost to another Powell/Loy vehicle, THE GREAT ZIEGFELD. It’s fast and funny and the kind of movie they don’t make anymore, but should. Then again, who could possibly fill the shoes of Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy, William Powell, and Myrna Loy?