You gotta love Hicksploitation. Poor Pretty Eddie is essentially a Blaxploitation version of Deliverance (minus the river and banjos) and for the most part manages to pull it off quite nicely. Considering this was the first “real” (read: non-porn) film experience from these filmmakers it turned out to be a stellar first effort. The film is stylish, well made and has a brilliant cast; Slim Pickens (Dr. Strangelove, the Getaway) as the lecherous Sherriff Orville, Shelley Winters (The Night of the Hunter, Lolita) is great as the down-and-out starlet Bertha, and none other than Lurch himself, Ted Cassidy (The Addams Family, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) as Bertha’s manservant/handyman. Relative unknown Michael Christian (Peyton Place) was also perfectly creepy as Eddie, the wannabe Elvis impersonator turned freaky rapist. As of this writing I’m still unsure as to whether or not the audience was supposed to sympathize with Elizabeth (Leslie Uggams; Roots (TV)) because she’s such a heinously conceited example of what’s wrong with humanity that I couldn’t wait for someone to bitch slap and/or rape the fuck out of her (thankfully we are treated to both).
Backed by notorious porn king Michael Thevis before his incarceration and subsequent jailbreak, Poor Pretty Eddie is very loosely based on the Jean Genet play The Balcony (whose first film adaptation in 1963 also starred Shelley Winters) and caused quite a bit of controversy when it was first released, and was poorly received by critics due to its over the top violence and lurid subject matter. One writer was quoted as saying “Upon leaving the theater, I quite honestly felt nauseous”. Of course as a result, the film continued to play the grindhouse and drive-in circuits for the next 10 years, under a multitude of titles and at least two different cuts.
The violence is really not that shocking by today’s standards and even the rape scene doesn’t show anything of value, but where the film gets it right is the way these scenes are presented; that being in a series of drawn out slow-motion scenes (think Thriller: A Cruel Picture, but less redundant) that are alternately mildly disturbing and darkly humorous (the rape scene is intercut with scenes of dogs fucking while a bunch of hicks cheer them on). Either way it’s effective and entertaining to watch. There’s plenty of entertaining dialogue and character interactions as well – including some very quotable moments (I’m been asking people if they want to “suck a tomato” for days) – that it’s hard to believe that the filmmaker’s previous scripting was limited to “grunt 1, moan 2” (David Worth did manage to move on to helm a bunch of shitty martial arts and z-grade monster movies).
Being that the film is purportedly public domain, Film Chest Company has gone above and beyond in their efforts to clean up a severely fucked up print (included in the extras are some before and after comparisons), rather than churn out some cheap-ass release that would quickly be relegated to some gas station dump bin. If any film deserved the kid gloves treatment, it’s this one.
Poor Pretty Eddie is a lost drive-in classic that should be sought out by anyone with even the slightest interest in exploitation or genre film. This is truly a shining example of why these films are so beloved by fans. Plus, there’s a retard with a sling-shot, you really can’t go wrong.
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
|It’s RAPE TIME!!!|
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