Oct 20, 2014

Buster and Billie

Although it would probably not surprise anyone that knows me, I have to admit that I absolutely loathe virtually all romance flicks, be they retarded rom-coms featuring some radically repulsive Hebrew turd like Ben Stiller lusting over some lecherous blonde Aryan Shiksa; phony James Cameron's blockbuster celluloid barf Titanic (1997), would-be-quirky frog mucus like Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie (2001), hipster hemorrhoids like Spike Jonze's Her (2013), or classic screwball swill like It Happened One Night (1934). In short, I tend to stay completely clear of any romance-themed film unless I receive a special recommendation from a friend whose taste in cinema I respect and/or if I do enough research about a film beforehand that leads me to believe that I would appreciate such a work. As far as I am concerned, German Expressionist auteur F.W. Murnau's Hollywood era debut Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) is unequivocally the most poetically romantic film ever made. While not exactly a film in league with Murnau's masterwork, the truly unsung cult item Buster and Billie (1974) aka Buster & Billie—a sort of post-Rebel Without a Cause teen rebel flick with hixploitation elements set in late-1940s Georgia about a teenage alpha-male high school senior who falls in love with the local town whore and who takes violent revenge against his comrades after they defile his beloved—is another one of those oh-so rare romance themed flicks that somehow got my blood moving. Co-directed by quasi-hack Daniel Petrie (A Raisin in the Sun, Sybil) and screenwriter/sometimes director Sidney Sheldon (The Buster Keaton Story, Dream Wife), this darkly romantic revenge flick is notable for being, among other things, one of the first mainstream movies to feature full-nudity (e.g. cocks and bushes) as well as Robert ‘Freddy Krueger’ Englund in a pre-A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) role and a pre-Airwolf Jan-Michael Vincent as the lethally lovelorn ‘lone ranger’ lead. Unquestionably the sort of film one should watch with knowing as little as possible beforehand, Buster and Billie is a hardcore country fried heartbreaker that reminds one not to take their beloved for granted. Like the Deliverance of tearjerkers, albeit featuring hetero hick rape as opposed to hillbilly homo forced bum-buggery, the film truly brings new meaning to the age old phrase ‘love conquers all.’ A borderline southern Gothic work somewhat in the spirit of Ode to Billy Joe (1976), albeit slightly more disturbing, Buster and Billie does the seemingly impossible by being a work that is certainly exploitative in parts, yet somehow manages to be genuinely emotionally penetrating in a classic love story fashion. Never released on DVD and fetching a fair amount of money in its out-of-print VHS form, Buster and Billie is unfortunately a work that is destined to remain in obscurity.

The year is 1948 and despite being the most popular senior at his rural Georgian High School, Buster (Jan-Michael Vincent) is a born individualist and confident rebel-rouser who does not care about what anyone thinks, including his friends and family.  Buster is engaged to marry his high school sweetheart Margie Hooks (Pamela Sue Martin), though he hates her friends (he hilariously calls one of them a, “hoot-owl-looking bitch”) and resents the fact that she does not put out (as he pleads to her after she denies him carnal pleasure, “If a man doesn't reach climax every time that he gets excited, he's liable to get kidney trouble and die young”). Buster's best friend is a goofy dullard boy named Whitey, who seems to worship his much more confident and handsome friend. Like the rest of Buster's friends, Whitey regularly sexually takes advantage of a beauteous yet somewhat intellectually challenged young lady named Billie Jo Truluck (Joan Goodfellow), who has moronic untermensch hillbilly parents and thinks the only way she can get people to like her is by letting them do whatever they want with her voluptuous young body. Although Whitey and the rest of his friends offer Buster the opportunity to tag along with them during one of their gang-bangs of Billie, Buster opts out, but later decides to ask her out on a date after becoming quite sexually frustrated due to his girlfriend's incessant cock-blocking. When Billie sees Buster beat-up a big fat belligerent school bus driver, she virtually falls in love with him at first sight, so she does not think twice about taking up his offer to take her on a date. Needless to say, the two soon fall in love and are both happy for the first time in their short lives, but their happiness is short-lived as jealous friends, annoying busybodies, and morally righteous morons get in their way.

 After one particularly heated date with Billie that makes him realize that he truly loves her, Buster decides to drive to his girlfriend Margie's house at 1 a.m. while drunk and tell her that their relationship is over, which she does not take well and even goes so far as lying to her friends and telling them she broke up with him.  Of course, when Buster reveals his love for Billie by taking her to church with him, he turns a number of the congregants against him, including his pigheaded friends, who are mad they can no longer take advantage of the girl and cannot stomach the fact that their cool friend would rather hangout with a poor whore than them.  Naturally, a number of people berate Buster due to his new relationship, including his parents, who feel disgraced that their son broke it off with 'good girl' Margie for a poor slut, as well as the local bartender Jake (Clifton James of Cool Hand Luke), who the high school senior threatens to beat up for bad mouthing his girlfriend.  As a self-proclaimed “lone ranger" who “rides alone,” Buster truly couldn't care less about what other people say and only falls all the more in love with Billie, engaging in skinny dippy, sentimental gift-giving, and whatnot.  When Billie gives Buster a poorly made necklace, he loves it simply because it was given to him by his beloved, who is so unwaveringly in love with her boyfriend that she loves to write his name in the dirt with a stick like a little girl with a crush. When Buster gets sick, Billie reads a Captain Marvel comic to him in bed.  At a local hoedown of sorts, the two almost cement their unadulterated pure love for one another in front of everyone in the town, which  leaves a lot of people jealous.  One day, Buster's friends go for some alcohol-fueled joyriding and when they spot Billie, they decide to have a little fun with her, but she runs away and when they catch her, she refuses to submit to their sensual savagery, so they knock her out and proceed to take turns raping her.  When Billie regains consciousness while being raped by a boyish bitch boy named 'Mole' (Mark Pendergraft), she claws at the teenage rapist's face, which infuriates him so much that he starts beating her head in, thus resulting in her accidental death.  Hoping to blame the murder on a mythical killer with a hook-hand, Buster's friend leave Billie's half-naked body in the woods with a couple branches barely covering it.  Meanwhile, Buster goes looking for Billie and when he does not find her, he goes to the local bar where his friends hangout and is surprised to not find them there.  Despite it being a rainy night, Buster eventually finds Billie's brutalized body in the woods and cries hysterically.  When Buster goes back to the bar, he finds all his friends playing pool and can immediately see the guilt on their faces despite the fact that they try their darnedest to act cool and normal.  After calmly agreeing to play pool with his friends, Buster randomly explodes and brutally beats all his friends, killing two of them with more or less with his bare hands (though he does use a pool stick and a billiard ball) and even slamming his best pal into a pool table.  While Buster is temporarily jailed, he is let out of prison the day after Billie's funeral, which is not even attended by her parents, and he honors his belated beloved by stealing every single flower in town and putting it on her grave.

Despite being more or less a hixploitation on steroids, Buster and Billie is reasonably believable in its shockingly nuanced depiction of true love, with such seemingly benign things as simple glances between the two leads saying much more than words ever could about the genuineness of their pure passion for one another.  The film is also one of those rare works that enables the viewer to empathize with the killer.  Indeed, for any man to watch Buster and Billie and not feel totally satisfied with the male protagonist's actions at the end is not a man.  In other words, if there is no context where you could see yourself killing for your beloved, you either don't love her or you're a ball-less pussy with no integrity.  While women have a habit of destroying relationships between friends, I have noticed that jealous beta-males also tend to get quite irked when their alpha-male friend falls in love with a woman and in no other film is this depicted more potently and even perniciously than Buster and Billie, which is a work that is rather romantic in a sort primitive redneck fashion.  Unquestionably, the film just had too much testicular fortitude and not enough senseless sentimentalism and contrived lovey dovey appeal to become popular with the American bourgeois, but it is certainly the romantic masterpiece that not enough working-class and rural-based Americans—the true audience of the film—have seen, because otherwise it would be considered an indisputable classic of 1970s American cinema.  Obviously, it should be no surprise that a weasel-like weakling like Leonard Maltin would trash the film, as he lacks the lifeblood and background to adequately appreciate it.  The work is like a A Walk to Remember (2002) that is somehow good as directed by a talented exploitation auteur, as well as a Southern Gothic directed by a sort of lowbrow rampantly heterosexual Tennessee Williams.  One must certainly have a heart of stone to deny the rough and rugged romantic majesty of Buster and Billie.

-Ty E


jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Joan Good-girl (as the bird was in 1970 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Pamela Sue Heather (as the bird was in 1971 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Jan Michael Vincents rampaging heterosexuality is the stuff of legend and that fact alone makes him a truly great geezer and all-American hero, however in virtually every other regard hes a bloody load of old rubbish.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The interesting thing about Fred Dekkers 1987 cult item "The Monster Squad" is that when it was released in North America on August 14th 1987 Heather still had over 6 months to live, and then when it was released in Japan on December 12th Heather was still OK and looking forward to Christmas and her 12th birthday, but then when it was released to those Australian scumbags on June 23rd 1988 (just 13 days after the release of "Poltergeist III" in North America) Heather had already been gone for over 4 months. So whenever i watch "The Monster Squad" i just always think about the American and Japanese release dates and forget about all the release dates after that, then i`m OK. Strickly speaking of course though i`m not really interested in anything that happened after February 1st 1988, for me the world ended on that day.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

On the poster for "Buster and Billie" i like the way that the 6 geezers in that black and white picture are all exuding rampaging heterosexuality, not a woofter amongst them, magic.