A Movie A Day: Quint on VENGEANCE IS MINE (1974) Ain’t too often I get a pair of weasels to shoot at this close!
Published at: July 14, 2008, 2:18 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
We jump to little-seen low budget exploitation flick VENGEANCE IS MINE (aka SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY) from yesterday’s THE BLACK HOLE via the great Ernest Borgnine.
I found this DVD new and sealed at Half-Price Books here in Austin, which meant it was going to be low quality… it was a double-feature disc put out by some company I had never heard of and came packaged with some public domain cartoons (some really awesomely racist cartoons at that), so I knew the quality was going to be on VHS level, but it’s not like I had any other (or better) option.
The other flick on the disc I had seen at the Alamo Drafthouse on one of the Weird Wednesday nights. It’s called THE KLANSMAN and it stars Lee Marvin as a small town sheriff who ain’t exactly as racist as everybody else in this country bumpkin community, but he ain’t exactly marching alongside MLK either. OJ Simpson’s also in it.
I very much recommend seeing that flick and of the two on the cheap-o DVD it’s the superior movie by far.
But that’s not to say that VENGEANCE IS MINE isn’t worth a watch if you’re a fan of low-budget filmmaking of this era or a particularly big fan of Ernest Borgnine (like me).
You’ll think you know the story in the first 5 minutes, but the flick throws you a curveball.
We meet a very religious man, a farmer, and his granddaughter, Lucy (Hollis McLaren), as they go about work on their farm, go to church… all innocent stuff. Lucy’s a bit more of a free-love type sandal-wearing, long hair, but not too hippie-ish.
Then we meet a trio of bad guys, on the run after a bank robbery, and watch as one of their group, a borderline psychopath named Leroy (played by the great and underused character actor Michael J. Pollard), guns down an innocent couple for their car.
A ha! It’s a home invasion movie. They’re on the run, you have a kind and gentle religious man and his hot granddaughter alone on a farm. You have it figured it out.
That’s what I thought, too. But the screwball the flick throws you is that when these three dudes show up on Borgnine’s door, he’s ready for them. Immediately one of these New York greasy mobsters is blasted back through the front doorway and onto the gravel, a gaping double-barrel shotgun hole through his midsection.
The rest of the movie borrows more from THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT than STRAW DOGS, like I expected. You have Borgnine essentially playing with these murderers, taunting them, eventually becoming more and more like his captives, much to the horror of his granddaughter.
Now, the way I describe it above is probably a big reason why the film got made. It’s a great premise, you can talk a big game about the story and get people excited for it, but the execution doesn’t live up to it, with the big exception of watching Borgnine and Pollard chew scenery.
Of course the transfer was pan and scan and just as I expected (VHS quality), so I won’t judge the cinematography too harshly, but it’s clear that it’s a very sparse and fairly bland looking movie.
There are a lot of plot holes, too… it’s consistently mid-afternoon, even though Borgnine and McLaren sit down to dinner around the beginning of act 2.
Final thoughts: It’s not a great movie, but one that was worth the watch to see Pollard being off-leash crazy and Borgnine play with some righteous vengeance. There’s also a fun scene with Borgnine’s crazy attack dogs and a coin-flipping scene that has some shades of Anton Chigurh. And there’s also a fun giant Russian farm hand named Luke, played by Vladimir Valenta that just made me happy he was somehow in this universe. It’s a weird movie, obscure for a reason. It won’t change your life, I doubt anybody loves this movie to death, but if you happen across it sometime you could spend your time watching worse films.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Monday, July 14th: STRANGE INVADERS (1983)
Tuesday, July 15th: SLEUTH (1972)
Wednesday, July 16th: FRENZY (1972)
Thursday, July 17th: KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (2005)
Friday, July 18th: CADILLAC MAN (1990)
Saturday, July 19th: THE SURE THING (1985)
Sunday, July 20th: MOVING VIOLATIONS (1985)
Tomorrow we jump over to Strange Invaders, a sci-fi film from 1983 written by Bill Condon (yeah, that Bill Condon) via common make-up artist Ken Brooke. See you folks then!