May 5, 2013

Poor Pretty Eddie

In terms of superlatively stupid, uniquely ugly, and all around aesthetically and thematically repugnant films, I cannot not think of another cinematic work I saw in recent time that left me with such a feeling of awe-inspiring disgust and intrigue than Poor Pretty Eddie (1973)—the sordid and gritty cinematic story of a supposedly sophisticated light-skinned black woman who ends up in the wrong redneck town—due to its lunatic leftist message, accidentally absurdist plot and pseudo-Southern Gothic surrealism, and needlessly nauseating nonsensicalness. Also known as Black Vengeance, The Girl in The Web, The Victim, Redneck County, Redneck County Rape, and Heartbreak Motel (a cut ‘softcore’ version with a ridiculous 'happy ending'), Poor Pretty Eddie is one of those sleazy films that lets the viewer know there is no limit in American cinema when it comes to combining cheap titillation with childlike cultural marxist indoctrination. A work vaguely based on the Jean Genet play The Balcony (1957) and starring hagsploitation diva Shelley Winters (who also starred in the 1963 cinematic adaptation of The Balcony), singer-turned-actress Leslie Uggams (Hallelujah, Baby!, Roots TV Miniseries), Slim Pickens (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Blazing Saddles), and Ted Cassidy (Lurch of the 1960s television series The Addams Family), Poor Pretty Eddie is a piss poorly made quasi-Blaxploitation/Redneckploitation flick in the risque ripoff spirit of race-hustling Hollywood melodramas of the late-1960s/early-1970s like In the Heat of the Night (1967) and Mandingo (1975) that portray white southerners as supremely stupid sadomasochists of the Negro-fetishizing sort and blacks as all-knowing born saints and sophisticates that are inherently superior to their murderous, melanin-deprived counterparts in every way, especially when it comes to morality and sexuality. Of course, being a film that was directed by an undistinguished pornographer named Richard Robinson (Adultery for Fun & Profit, Is There Sex After Marriage) and funded by distinctly debauched Michael “The King of Pornography” Thevis—a smut-peddler, sex shop chain owner, and peep show manufacturer who was later imprisoned and made the FBI’s most-wanted list following a successful prison escape in 1978—Poor Pretty Eddie is not exactly the sort of work that was aspiring for cultivated celluloid artistry, even if the filmmakers behind it made it in an ultimately failed attempt to “go legit.” A piece of particularly peculiar and unpleasantly perverse celluloid trash of the exceedingly exploitative sort, Poor Pretty Eddie still attempts to be artsy fartsy and socio-politically chic in the “new left” fashion, yet fails miserably on both accounts due to its excessive lecherousness effortlessly canceling both of these things out, thus making for an unintentionally hilarious work of low-camp crudeness and Southern fried pseudo-surrealist kitsch that retardedly renders it an idiosyncratically odious celluloid work that manages to be half-way entertaining, even if one gets the urge to stomp in the skulls of the creators of the film while watching it. 

 New York born popular negress singer Liz Wetherly (real-life actor/singer Leslie Uggams) is a rather intelligent and dignified woman and her prestige and popularity has certainly gone to her horse-hair-adorned head, so out of sheer arrogance, which she will late regret, she makes the mistake of traveling through the South all by her lonesome so as to have a relaxing break from always being in the spotlight. While opening Poor Pretty Eddie with a ‘soulful’ rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (which was filmed at an actual football game at Atlanta Stadium on November 4, 1973 in a game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Rams), Liz seems totally ignorant to the fact that in certain secluded areas of the dirty Deep South—an area that in many places has yet to recover from the American Civil War—does not take too kindly to colored folks, cultivated or otherwise, but some of them, especially man-whore Elvis Presley-wannabes, do have a perverse proclivity for indulging in chocolate from time to time. After her fancy expensive car breaks down when the radiator overheats in the seemingly haunted forests of some unnamed confederate land (the movie was actually filmed in Athens, Georgia), Liz walks to the nearest lodge and encounters a tastelessly charismatic aspiring musician named Eddie Collins (Michael Christian) who assures her, “Don’t worry ma'am, we’ll fix you right on up,” and has a gentle redneck giant named Keno (Ted Cassidy)—a half-retarded handyman and quasi-slave of sorts whose bites inevitably prove to be bigger than his barks (the fellow rarely ever talks, even when seeing a woman sexually ravaged) that spends all of his free time with his canine companion—tow her car and sets her up in a hotel room. Despite his seductive confederate charm, hillbilly handsomeness and hick hospitality, pretty boy Eddie is given the cold shoulder by Liz, who seems like a lesbian, which depresses him all the more since she is a famous singer, an aspiration the rock n roll redneck also has. The ‘cultural king’ of his hometown who happens to have his own half-insane sugar mama named Bertha (Shelley Winters)—the matriarch of the area who also owns the local lodge—Eddie does not take kindly to Liz’s arrogant airs of cultured coonish superiority, especially after falling in love with the black broad, thus the country hustler inevitably forces himself on the spade singer to the maniacal cheers of the local townspeople who fully support his unofficial miscegenation redneck rape revolution. As his obsessed mature lover Bertha states, “Eddie knows a lot about poontang, don’t know nothin’ about women.” When Liz attempts to tell the local Sheriff Orville (Slim Pickens) about Eddie’s repeated acts of racial miscegenation based rape, the officer tells her he cannot blame the boy for committing forced buggery, perversely asking her "Did Eddie bite you on the titties?" and even lays the blame on her for not leaving the town. Meanwhile, gentle giant Keno—a man whose only friends are dogs—begins to become quite agitated by Eddie’s sexual pillaging of Liz and things ultimately take a turn for the worst when the rapist would-be-rock-star butchers one of the Keno's dogs and cooks it in some sort of spicy Southern stew, dog collar and all.  A follower of proto-wigger Elvis Presley, Eddie will stop at nothing to commit involuntary miscegenation and even marriage with his famous African queen, but morally keen Keno has different plans. Indubitably, one of the most bizarre love triangles ever committed to celluloid, the torrid romantic tale of Ed the sped, lippy lesbo Liz, and hysterical hag Bertha reminds how really repulsive some love stories can be. 

 Featuring particularly prophetic quotes like, “one of these days the only thing were gonna have around here is high yellow,” Poor Pretty Eddie is a pretty perturbing look at race-mixing before it become quite vogue among the lower classes as it is today. Of course, America has always had a dedication and been a foremost player in the upcoming racial apocalypse, especially considering the proliferation of Melungeon people (tri-racial individuals of European, Amerindian, and black extraction) in the South since the mid-1600s before even the inception of slavery. Interestingly, the title name protagonist of Poor Pretty Eddie has the surname “Collins,” which is one of the main melungeon families in Tennessee, thus Eddie's proclivity for dark meat and forced entry might not be so strange after all. Either way, Poor Pretty Eddie portrays virtually all Southern men as dimwitted barbarians with a pathological obsession with penetrating pretty pickaninnies and portraying the sole Southern woman as a horny honkey hog who can only get sex by paying for it. With gratuitous dream sequences of cracker Eddie cracking a whip and strikingly stupid scenes of Liz’s face morphing into Eddie's in a moronic moment of celluloid mongrelization, Poor Pretty Eddie is the sort of innately idiotic philistine propaganda piece nonsensically equipped with exploitation elements that makes a documentary like The Eternal Jew (1940) directed by Fritz Hippler seem like rather reasonable and objective as few other films feature such crude anti-cracker cardboard stereotypes and nonsensical Negrophilia as the sort of film that Quentin Tarantino probably uses as a regular masturbation aid.  A curious Southern Gothic fairytale that is, at best, entertaining for all the wrong reasons, Poor Pretty Eddie is essentially the cinematic equivalent of eating spicy fried chicken and cornbread at a crackhead-infested, inner city Popeye's restaurant, minus the resulting unpleasant bowel movements and possibility of being raped and/or robbed.  Of course, as history has proven, it was not white men who would go after black women in the future, but knuckle-dragging Negro men going after white trash women (and the occasional debauched debutante), the lowly blue collar and redneck whose ancestors the creators of Poor Pretty Eddie maliciously attack.  Incidentally, Shelley Winters almost died when he private plane almost crashed upon landing when she arrived to shoot Poor Pretty Eddie, which thankfully did not happen as she gives one of the most unflattering depictions of an old slag cougar who even allows her boy toy to rape negroids just so he will stay with her and, if that is not romantic, then I don't know what is.

-Ty E

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