Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '75 - Hal Horn ""

Monday, May 18, 2015

Underrated '75 - Hal Horn

Hal Horn is an institution here at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. He is always Mr. Johnny-On-The-Spot with a great list of truly underappreciated cinema from a man who clearly adores it. I love his blog, The Horn Section( and give it my highest personal recommendation, so get thyself on over there!
Also, check out Hal's Underrated '85 list right here:

Before I start, I’m also a big fan of DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (one of the Horn Section’s earliest reviews) and POOR PRETTY EDDIE, which have already made other underrated ‘75 lists.  Along with FRIDAY FOSTER, those would be my honorable mentions.

The second and last Cleopatra Jones adventure, this odd mix of Bond, blaxploitation and Run Run Shaw (shot in Hong Kong) isn’t as much fun as the first film overall, but it is still a fascinating blend of influences.  Cleo again faces a blonde lesbian drug lord, but this time it’s Stella Stevens, who is definitely easier on the eyes than Shelley Winters. In other improvements, Tamara Dobson appears to be really enjoying the role the second time around, Norman Fell is amusing as her boss, and the always welcome Tanny is Cleo’s partner in busting crime.   Soundtrack by Dominic Frontiere (BARQUERO).  Available on DVD now from Warner Archive.

THE McCULLOCHS (a.k.a. THE WILD McCULLOCHS) (1975; Max Baer Jr.)
Max Baer Jr. followed up his wildly successful MACON COUNTY LINE with this period piece set in 1949 Texas.  In addition to producing, writing and playing a key role, Baer made his debut in the director’s chair.  Forrest Tucker stars as a two-fisted self made millionaire and trucking magnate who raises sons Don Grady, Dennis Redfield and Chip Hand in his image (with tragic results).  Meanwhile, he forbids trucker Baer to date his daughter, something that both rebel against.  All the while, one can see a showdown brewing (a la THE QUIET MAN).   Baer probably wore one hat too many, and the sprawling family drama/character study was a little disappointing to fans of the producer’s earlier effort.  But THE McCULLOCHS is not without interest.  Tucker (Baer’s original choice to play deputy Reed in MACON COUNTY LINE) has one of his best latter-day roles as the prideful, aging brawler.  Vito Scotti, Harold J. Stone, Julie Adams and William Demarest have good supporting parts, and while a few hairstyles seem anachronistic, Baer does a pretty good job recreating the era, as he did in his other efforts (ODE TO BILLY JOE and HOMETOWN U.S.A. were next for the filmmaker, in 1976 and 1979 respectively). 

W.W. AND THE DIXIE DANCEKINGS (1975; John G. Avildsen)
Perhaps the most obscure Burt Reynolds vehicle from his heyday.  But at first glance, W.W. AND THE DIXIE DANCEKINGS looks like the quintessential Reynolds mega-hit of the era.  The film is set in Georgia and Tennessee, with frequent collaborators Jerry Reed, Ned Beatty. Hal Needham and James Hampton co-starring.  Anticipating SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, Burt is being pursued by an ex-HONEYMOONER playing a lawman.  Only this time it’s a pious Art Carney instead of a hilariously profane Jackie Gleason, and the film is set in 1957 instead of 1977. 

Carney’s after Burt because he’s been sticking up Standard Oil gas stations for side income while managing the titular band.   As Carney closes in on this would-be Robin Hood (who idolizes Errol Flynn), Reynolds butts heads with band members Reed and Don Williams and woos singer Conny Van Dyke.  Directed by John G. Avildsen, W.W. AND THE DIXIE DANCEKINGS is certainly lightweight, but much harder to find than it should be.  It occasionally turns up on Fox Movie Channel. 

HUSTLING (1975; Joseph Sargent)
The first of two made-for-TV movies to make my underrated ‘75 list, HUSTLING is a grim look at prostitution in New York City, with hard nosed reporter Lee Remick learning the ’industry’ from street hooker Jill Clayburgh.  Needless to say, Clayburgh’s pimp is less than pleased to hear she’s talking to the press and thinking about leaving the business.  Directed by Joseph Sargent (TRIBES), HUSTLING is fairly gritty considering the medium and era, with a great supporting cast: Alex Rocco, Melanie Mayron (as Clayburgh’s hapless fellow escort), Burt Young, Paul Benedict, Monte Markham, and Mr. Woodman himself, John Sylvester White.

SOMEONE I TOUCHED (1975; Lou Antonio)
Prime time examination of venereal disease in the pre-herpes/AIDS years, with Cloris Leachman and James Olson stuck in a blah marriage when Leachman discovers she is pregnant.  She also discovers the baby may be in danger, since hubby Olson’s been seeing the much younger Glynis O’Connor on the side--and has contracted syphilis in the process.  While it is riddled with the usual statistics, SOMEONE I TOUCHED isn’t exploitative at all--but it is campy as Hell, with the weepy theme song (sung by Leachman!) setting the tone.  Also with Kenneth Mars, Andrew Robinson and Allyn Ann McLerie.  Directed by Lou Antonio.  Lots of fun, and interesting.  Has been streaming on Netflix.  Originally aired on February 26, 1975, just four days after HUSTLING.

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