Friday, May 20, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Poor Pretty Eddie (1975)

Poor Pretty Eddie (1975)
[Blu-ray + DVD Combo]

Label: HD Cinema Classics/Cultra
Region: [Blu-ray] A [DVD] 0 NTSC
Rating: R
Duration: 86 mins
Video: 1080p 1.78:1 Widescreen
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with Spanish subtitles
Director: Richard Robinson
Cast: Leslie Uggams, Shelly Winters, Michael Christian, Ted Cassidy, Dub Taylor, Slim Pickens
Tagline: All He Wanted Was A Friend

Synopsis: The sordid tale of a black singer from the big city, Liz Wetherly (Leslie Uggams), who finds herself stranded in a backwoods redneck nightmare that makes Deliverance look like a day at Disneyland in comparison. When her car breaks down, Whetherly ends up stuck in a remote southern town that s been left for dead ever since they put in the interstate. She is forced to stay in a dilapidated inn that serves as the bizzaro kingdom of faded, overweight burlesque star Bertha (Shelly Winters), her much younger boy-toy and aspiring Elvis wannabe, Eddie (Michael Christian), and a cast of suitably strange townsfolk including Sheriff Orville (Slim Pickens), Keno (Ted Cassidy, Floyd (Dub Taylor).

Film: In this semi-forgotten exploitation oddity Liz Wetherly (Leslie Uggams) is an established jazz singer who sets for some much needed rest and relaxation with an extended drive through the Southland when her luxury car shits the bed stranding her in a rural area. The nearest dwelling is a creepy place called Bertha's Oasis where she encounter Kino (Ted Cassiday, Lurch from The Addam's Family) as he's beheading a chicken. Yup, that's an actual chicken getting it's head lopped off. She's then is introduced to the other occupants of the Oasis. Eddie (Michael Christian) a sleazy Elvis worshipping lothario who comes on strong towards the songstress which puts Liz at odds with proprietor, Bertha (Shelly Winters, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?) a hefty and lushy former cabaret dancer who's feels threatened by the younger singer, turns out Eddie is her man-stud and she ain't giving him up for nothin'. Liz is unnerved by the denizens of the Oasis but with little other choice makes arrangements to have her car repaired and is put up for the night in an available room. Later Sheriff Orville, played by the amazing character actor Slim Pickens (Blazing Saddles, 1942), arrives with his dimwitted son in tow. Pickens is mighty fantastic as the local arm of the law, a complete yahoo (of course) with a ribald  mind who mistreats his disadvantaged son at every turn with slaps to the head and kicks in the rear. He also spouts some awesomely bad dialogue as only he can, "did he bite you on the titties?". The dinner is one of those surreal Texas Chainsaw Massacre gatherings, very twisted, tension builds and suddenly things turn from creepy to threatening for Ms. Wetherly.

Retiring to her room for the evening she finds Eddie in her room. She reasons with him to leave but Eddie being the sleaze he smacks her around and rapes her. It's a surreal encounter caught in slow-motion and juxtaposed with images of dogs fornicating. The films pretty much turns into an acid fueled exploitation film here on in as Liz is forced to stay on as Ed's girlfriend, It's one nightmarish turn after the other and just when you think it can't get any weirder someone serves the dog for dinner. Poor Pretty Eddie is gloriously sleazy and trashy, a demented redneck nightmare that exploits the stereotypes of Southern racism and backwoods strangeness. While the filmmakers came from a porno background the film is flush with wanna-be arthouse pretension, oddball camera work, freeze frames and enough slow-motion weirdness to please even fans of the slo-mo slasher epic Sledgehammer. Despite it's lack of gore Poor Pretty Eddie is a truly repulsive slab of 1970's drive-in exploitation in a Gummo on acid sorta way, we're seeing things that just weren't meant to be seen, and now we can't unsee them.
DVD: Poor Pretty Eddie comes to Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p with a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer taken from original 35mm elements. There's a restoration demo which shows the before and after footage and it's pretty impressive. Most of the vertical scratches were removed leaving behind a clean image though it's been given a heavy dose of DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) which not only removed the film grain but smeared away much of texture and fine detail giving the film a plasticized look. That's a bummer but the film is very clean looking and quite watchable, surely the best the film has looked since the original print. Black levels are tolerable though murky and there's a rose colored discoloring throughout the film that's quite noticeable. The packaging touts a 5.1 surround sound audio but what we get is merely a 2.0 Dolby Digital. What, no lossless audio? Even Mill Creek offers losses master audio, c'mon now. It's a pretty thin track but tolerable. There's a very fine  commentary from cinematographer David Worth and moderated by cult film know-it-all Joe Rubin. Like the film itself the commentary is never dull, very entertaining. The second feature is an essay written by Chris Poggialli and recounts many facets of the film's production including it's sketchy financial backer Michael Thevis, Atlanta's notorious 'King of Pornography'. Rounding out the features are the restoration demo, a trailer and production stills (all two of 'em). The commentary and essay are pretty great and even if you own the previous editions of he film it's worth an upgrade.

Special Features:
- Commentary with Cinematographer David Worth
- Before and After Restoration Demo (1:06) 16:9
- Production Still (2 pictures)
- Original Movie Art Postcard
- DVD of the film with same features.
-  Essay (23 chapters)
- Trailer (2:21) 16:9

Verdict: Wow, the drive-in/grindhouse films of the 70's continue to shock and awe, this is one trippy grindhouse offering. A hickploitation oddity that is sure to leave your mouth agape while your mind screams "what the....?". At a reasonable $15 or less I give this an easy recommend. 3.5 outta 5