When I was a little kid, my friends and I used to dig holes in the backyard, imagining, and half believing, that if we went down far enough, we would come out in China. Well, that’s not right exactly, but it is true that if you go down far enough when you’re making a movie, you reach a place where it’s almost entertaining.
Or so it was in 1972, apparently, when talented director Michael Ritchie (The Bad News Bears) and talented screenwriter Robert Dillon (Ruby Cairo) teamed up with the great Lee Marvin and the likewise great Gene Hackman to make this piece of unbelievably exploitative trash–which is sort of fun to watch.
Here’s the plot. It’s Sissy Spacek‘s first film so she’s, like, 22-years-old and fabulously beautiful. She’s naked in it. She says things like, “I never been with no man before…” Then people shoot each other.
Now, if you stopped reading and went out and bought a copy of the DVD between reading the word “naked” and the word “in,” this is the picture for you. Other than that, the idea is that good guy Chicago gangster Marvin goes after bad guy Kansas gangster Hackman–who drugs young girls and sells and rents them at cattle-style shows, where they lie around penned up and did I mention naked in a bunch of hay. I’m not making this up. Anyway, the idea is that heartland America is just as corrupt and violent as urban America–though who says so and why the Chicago gangsters are such nice guys are never explained. It’s all absurd and smarmy really beyond telling… but, as with the proverbial car wreck, it’s pretty hard to look away.
On a side note… allow me to speak with that searing honesty that has made me a byword for searing honesty among the searingly honest. I love a good nude scene as much as the next guy. I re-ran the slave girl portions of Spartacus: Blood and Sand until the scenes wore down to pixels–and scientifically, that can’t even happen. But the older and more decrepit I get, the more I painfully and reluctantly come to the conclusion that there is virtually no such thing as a necessary nude scene or sex scene on screen. Almost every single one of them is extraneous, dishonest and exploitative. I know, I know what you’re thinking: Shut up, Klavan! Why spoil a good thing? But really, it is kind of awful that, if you’re a young girl with talent, you have to take your shirt off to make a living…
I’m just saying. I’ll still probably be first in line to buy a ticket but… I’m just saying.