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  Poor Pretty Eddie So Wrong It's Wrong
Year: 1975
Director: David Worth, Richard Robinson
Stars: Leslie Uggams, Shelley Winters, Michael Christian, Ted Cassidy, Dub Taylor, Slim Pickens, Lou Joffred, Red Lawson, Sherif Smith
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Trash, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Liz Wetherly (Leslie Uggams) is a famous singer who has recently performed the national anthem before a football game at an Atlanta stadium, but this is the end of a run of gigs for her and she is now looking forward to a well-earned rest for a while. She plans to go on her own, so packs up her things and climbs into her fancy wheels then hits the road, driving through quiet country highways to her destination. Or that was the idea, as once she is really out in the middle of nowhere, she suffers a car breakdown which leaves her stranded and in need of a motel for the night, and finds one owned by Bertha (Shelley Winters), who employs a mechanic, Keno (Ted Cassidy) - but it's her handyman cum lover Eddie (Michael Christian) Liz will have to watch.

With some films, you’re not entirely sure what the makers were wanting to create, or indeed if they thought they had succeeded, and Poor Pretty Eddie was one of those. It started as a Tennessee Williams-style hothouse drama, though supposedly based on a Jean Genet play, then devolved from there into a tale of Southern folks even the family from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre might think twice about inviting round. The odd thing was - well, one odd thing was - it enjoyed the patronage of a few famous names in the cast, with Uggams a well-known singer in real life, Winters a big celebrity be it in movies or on chat shows, Cassidy instantly recognisable as Lurch from The Addams Family sitcom, and Christian at least familiar to some from his turn on soap Peyton Place.

Also there was Slim Pickens, ramping up the good old boy stereotypes to near-parodic degrees as the Sheriff who proved very little help when the psychopathic Eddie finally attacks. "Finally" because it took a long time for anything to happen, with lots of footling about with shots of the down at heel surroundings and sinister natural landscapes establishing a mood that should have warned you this was the sort of film you would want to have a shower after watching. At first, Liz thinks she will have her car fixed and be on her way after one evening, but the Southern hospitality extends rather too far when would-be Elvis Presley Eddie clocks her as a celebrity and evidently makes up his mind to keep her.

We have realised this isn't going to end well for anybody within nanoseconds of Liz arriving at the motel, but if you knew Poor Pretty Eddie (also known as Heartbreak Motel in some prints) was actually an effort produced by some shady pornographers who for some reason saw this as their ticket to mainstream success then what you saw was less confounding aside from the notion anyone would believe this would be a ticket to anything but the grindhouse, which is where it belonged and indeed wound up. Only the sexual angle, which was there as you might anticipate, was strictly designed to have the audience consider their morals, so there were no love scenes explicit or otherwise, definitely no nudity, simply instances of Liz being abused by her captors who are led by the deranged Eddie.

The way he paws at her on a trip he insists on to the waterworks will make your skin crawl, notably because he does so under the impression that the rape he has subjected Liz to the evening before has offered them a romantic connection, and that scene was bad enough as the directors saw fit to intercut the assault with shots of dogs mating, presumably to underline the animalistic nature of the villain (though why are there a bunch of people standing around watching in encouraging fashion, including kids, as if this was the best entertainment they had when there was no television reception in the area?). Every time Liz tries to get away she is foiled, and when she manages to escape from the revolting Eddie (Christian uncomfortably dedicated to his performance) and Winters at her combination of blowsy and needy to reach the Sheriff, she finds the least sympathetic interview ever and has to stand up in front of the community in their meeting hall to humiliatingly prove the crime actually happened; a strangely unsatisfying, though violent, denouement followed. As you can imagine, this wasn't good exactly, but it held a vivid bad taste mania built up with amateurish fervour that was quite arresting.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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