I finally saw the movie from which one of my favorite bands got its name. I guess I don’t really “get” Russ Meyer. I’ve seen Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and I found those and Mudhoney entertaining enough. I guess they’re supposed to be a mix of satire with some titillation? Mudhoney is certainly well made – albeit with a couple continuity jumps – and has its tense dramatic moments but was he just trying to make trashy melodrama?
That might be the issue I have with the movie; I’ve seen films like Common Law Wife, Jenny Wife/Child and Shanty Tramp and I watched those for their shoddy film making, antiquated look and occasional nudity. Meyer’s film isn’t nearly as shitty as the crap Something Weird puts out yet seems too trashy to be taken as “real” cinema. Was he trying to be the b-grade Douglas Sirk?
For those unawares Mudhoney tells the depression/prohibition era tale of a hired hand named Calif (John Furlong) who comes from Detroit to some non-disclosed location in the deep south where he begins working for a farm owned by some guy (forgot the character’s name) and his hot, blonde niece Hannah (Antoinette Cristiani). Only problem is that Hannah is married to an abusive, alcoholic nut job named Sidney (Hal Hopper) who, along with raping and beating his wife and visiting the local whore cabin, plans on inheriting his wife’s uncle’s farm when the old man kicks off.
Naturally the story heats up when it’s revealed that Calif has a thing for Hannah and, given that Calif isn’t an abusive drunk like her husband, she likes him back. This creates all kinds of tense and melodramatic situations; Hannah screams a whole lot and even finally fights back against Sidney. Meanwhile Sidney also attempts to get the townsfolk against the hired hand through the help of a naive preacher.
In my opinion the movie would be a tad more dull if it weren’t peppered with colorful side characters, most of whom inhabit the local whore cabin I mentioned earlier. This tacky bunch definitely add a lighthearted if a bit sleazy touch to the story. Eula (Rena Horton) and Clara Belle (Lorna Maitland) are two hot, busty blondes. The former is a deaf mute and both bathe nude outside and are always horny. In fact Eula ingratiates herself to the local preacher who, after doing his thing, yells “sinner!” to the amusement of the rest of the group. The barn is tended to by the hilariously weird and ugly looking Maggie Marie (Princess Livingston) who jovially exclaims about how she hasn’t turned a trick in 15 years.
The film does make its statements on morality. The preacher accuses everyone of being a sinner while the inhabitants of the happy whore cabin basically celebrate their sexual freedom. Yes we see both Eula and Clara Belle naked and yes, it’s meant to excite – I mean, come on – but both scenes have a natural, carefree tone about them. Clara Belle even says to Calif, “oh you’re one of those city boys who uses a bathing suit.”
But the main crux of the story lies in what Sidney does and, indeed, he’s one awful son of a bitch. I don’t want to give too much away but he does some pretty selfish, mean-spirited and downright sociopathic things eventually leading to the film’s cataclysmic conclusion. The ending is pretty epic.
Overall the film is pretty entertaining. The opening sequence of Sidney driving drunk, storming into his own house and raping his wife – as awful as that is – does an excellent job establishing the twisted, white trash world we are about to enter. Is that the point then? Should I re-rate this movie and give it four crosses? Only time will tell!
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