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  Strawberries Need Rain Little Death
Year: 1970
Director: Larry Buchanan
Stars: Monica Gayle, Les Tremayne, Paul Bertoya, Terry Mace, Gene Otis Shayne
Genre: Drama, Trash, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Death (Les Tremayne) introduces himself, sharpening the blade of his scythe and observing that he appears in many forms to many cultures across the globe, yet it is here with these simple country folk that he feels he can be most like himself. Sad to say, he has a sorrowful duty to perform today, even more so than usual, as he is meant to take the soul of a young woman, Erika (Monica Gayle), who works on the family farm supporting her parents, and when he confronts her she thinks it is they he has arrived for. When he tells her the truth, she strikes a bargain with him - one more day...

This was director Larry Buchanan's attempt to go all arty on us, having seen the efforts of the likes of Ingmar Bergman - especially Ingmar Bergman - and thought, well that looks like something I could turn my hand to. Whether you agree he succeeded in capturing something of the spirit of the Swedish master is doubtful, which either illustrates how difficult it was to emulate his style (Woody Allen had enough trouble, after all, and he was many times the filmmaker Buchanan was), or how far Buchanan's ambition outstripped his actual talent.

What you got was something more akin to a cheap-jack Elvira Madigan, with would-be lyricism mixed with elements likely to be identified with typical exploitation concerns of the day. As Erika, Gayle was her usual appealing self, an actress who specialised in doffing her togs for the camera before giving it all up and... nobody seems quite sure what happened to her really, joining the ranks of "Whatever happened to?" and troubling the thoughts of cult fans who allow the fate of performers in such movies to cross their minds. The first time we see her in this she is skinny dipping, observed by the boy who has a crush on her.

He doesn't have the courage to approach her however, and so that night, after making her bargain with the Grim Reaper, she sets her sights on losing her virginity which is a dead giveaway that this is not your typical Bergman knock off and a rather more tawdrier prospect no matter how many sun-dappled meadows and babbling brooks we see. Sadly the boy is somewhat excitable and their encounter lasts about three seconds, with him ordering her out of his bedroom, ashamed, so she next opts for a rough and roguish biker who motorcycles through town from time to time. More trash aesthetic arises when his idea of foreplay in a barn is to whip her with his belt.

The Grim Reaper steps in to put a stop to that, suggesting he is working outwith his remit, so Erika aims for her last chance with a rather better prospect, her old schoolteacher (Gene Otis Shayne) who reads poetry and is very understanding, so understanding in fact that he doesn't see anything creepy about allowing himself to be seduced by one of his former pupils. If anything, Buchanan was so caught up in pursuing his artistry that what could have been a solid item of exploitation wound up chasing a market he was far from suited to, creating a Bergman for people who would never dream of watching one, which also indicated they wouldn't dream of watching this either. If it does get rather dull in spite of its setting, and laughable when it tries for pretentiousness, it was vaguely endearing to see Buchanan's lofty ideals wind up with pretty much what he always made. Music by Ray Martin, with loads of folky melodies.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Larry Buchanan  (1923 - 2004)

American director who gained a reputation as one of the worst of all time, a feat he was not unproud of. This infamy rests on various TV movies he made in the sixties such as Zontar The Thing from Venus, Mars Needs Women and In the Year 2889. Theatrical films included Free White and 21 (which got his career started with A.I.P.), The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, Bullet for a Pretty Boy, Goodbye Norma Jean, The Loch Ness Horror and rock conspiracy movie Beyond the Doors.

 
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