Friday, August 05, 2016

087. In Hot Pursuit and 088. The Hearse

Jump to The Hearse (1980)

087. In Hot Pursuit aka Polk County Pot Plane(1977)
Director: Jim West
Writer: Jim Clarke
From: Cult Cinema; Drive-In

Drug-running brothers Oosh and Doosh do their best to deliver truckloads of pot for their kingpin bosses, but the cops are never far behind.

Robbed at the Oscars
We open with a credit sequence that implies that this will be a long-form chase feature or a pilot for a Dukes of Hazard rip-off. The music's peppy, each of the crooks is introduced by their character name, and the crime bosses are named “Kingpin 1” and “Kingpin 2.” It's a Dr. Seuss crime thriller! Even the plane gets a title card! Whatever else the movie might be, it's going to be goofy.

And then it actually starts and it's the pilot of a plane hauling pot mumbling at his co-pilot about the details of their altitude and how much space will need to be cleared for them to land. They arrive at the makeshift runway, trade the drugs for money, both sides holding shotguns and looking mean.

This isn't goofy, this is how a drug deal would go down.

Oosh and Doosh are driving the transport—a camper—and leave once they've loaded up. The plane starts to take off as well, and this is when the State Troopers show up to try to arrest everyone. The plane gets away, but the camper, after what's supposed to look like a high-speed chase but doesn't, hits a bulldozer that's being hauled on a flatbed and is torn apart. Oosh, Doosh, and their two nameless accomplices are arrested.

Mr. King, Kingpin #1, talks to the other kingpins about springing the quartet from jail and then vanishes from the movie. The next day, a helicopter lifts the drug runners from the prison, but the pilot is mad about getting shot at. He complains to Sandy, Kingpin #2, who shoots him in the head. Such goofy fun, right? He then gives Oosh and Doosh their next job.

While this is only the first 20 minutes, it's basically the film. The chase scenes are supposed to be nail-biting and exciting, but they're not, and they're punctuated with very obvious, highly telegraphed gags. In the first one, it's a car driven by a hillbilly that gets smashed up by the cops. After the whole scene's over, he drives home and gets yelled at by his wife about the car. In the second chase—because they're always getting tailed and spotted, but that's somehow not important—we literally cut from the beginning of the chase sequence to a long set-up of a guy buying a double-wide to be hitched to a truck and driven to his land.

In the second chase, they're driving a semi, so the semi's going to drive through the house. We know it's going to happen. But they belabor the point that it's going to happen and then take so long to arrive at the, admittedly impressive, shot of the semi driving clean through the house, that it's really hard to care.

Blah blah blah. They get chased, their friends get killed, they take a final job but Sandy stiffs them so they rob Sandy and take off in the plane. It doesn't really matter. These aren't characters, they're input/output devices going from pointless chase to pointless chase. Oosh and Doosh don't want anything, there's never any backstory, they're just drivers, background characters in their own movie. Even when their accomplices die, they say, “our best friends just got killed,” but I have no idea what those characters' names even are.

The movie doesn't have any characters, any personality, any stakes, so it doesn't have any sense of gravity. It reminded me a lot of Country Blue in that it's trying to be lighthearted, but ends up being, when not grim, just dull.

My print doesn't have any copyright claims on it which means it's public domain, but Mill Creek slapped their bug on it. It could be fun with a smart-mouthed group of friends. The movie's real stupid, but does have some impressive destruction: cars get torn up in ways I'd be surprised to see even at a demolition derby. If it weren't so dull, there'd be more to recommend. The closing credits announce that “NO STUNTMEN WERE USED IN THIS FILM” and I'd add that no actors were either. This is 87 minutes of dull, repetitive chase sequences with grossly telegraphed gags. While there is some nice destruction, the movie is still a slog.



088. The Hearse (1980)
Director: George Bowers
Writer: William Bleich from an idea by Mark Tenser
From: Cult Cinema

Jane Hardy moves out to her late aunt's house in the country to recover from stress after a divorce, but the townspeople are hostile to her presence, there are still questions around her aunt's death, and a spectral hearse keeps harrying her.

Who keeps giving you money?
The movie opens with a title card reading, “A Marimark Production,” and that's when the screaming begins—mine, not the film's. The only one of these I've remotely enjoyed was Hunk, and even that fell apart in its second half. So I went into this movie expecting to hate it, and, to be fair, it was pretty okay.

In the past year, Jane's mother has died and she's just finalized the divorce from her husband. She wants to leave San Francisco for a little bit to get away from all the things that remind her of her pain and her recent emotional breaks. This, by the way, is related to us in a mix of voice-over and flashback to her shrink being very unsupportive.

The scene does two things: 1) it establishes that she has emotional issues and so may be crazy and we can expect people to ignore her claims of ghosts or threats or plots against her for that very reason. 2) it establishes men being dicks to her. Seriously, everyone's kind of shitty to her throughout the movie. The shrink's advice isn't even good. She should get away from her triggers for a little bit and relax. Plus the house is part of her mother's estate so it's actually business Jane needs to resolve.

Anyway, that flashback ends the opening sequence in San Francisco which is literally there just to establish that Jane is from the city. She then drives to an area that's much cheaper to film in. I was making The Room jokes throughout because the opening uses many of the same locations that Tommy Wiseau did.

Jane arrives that night in Blackford where she has a small fender bender with the titular hearse that seems to have been waiting for her. She calls Pritchard, played by Joseph Cotton (yeah, him), who's a dick about letting her into the house. He lets slip that her mother had promised it to him and he's kind of resentful about Jane moving in.

Time passes, everyone is strangely rude once they find out what house she's staying at, and everyone shuns her. She hires the only person in town who's nice to her, the son of the hardware store owner, to do work on the house, and even he starts telling his friends that he's getting some action off her. Meanwhile, she's found her aunt's diary and a strange necklace that she starts wearing.

The diary talks about her aunt's plans to marry the local minister, but she's seduced by a Satanist named Robert, because why wouldn't you be? Actually, where's that movie? I want to see the elderly Satanic couple, still reviled by the town, but still being happy, awesome, and worshiping the hornéd-one. The diary notes that Robert gave the aunt a strange necklace, presumably the one Jane is now wearing.

At this point, Jane starts having nightmares. She sees the hearse occasionally, but rarely. It's also around this point where she meets Tom who she starts having a relationship with.

And the movie progresses from there. It seeds several possibilities: Pritchard is gaslighting her to steal the house, the town is actually full of Satanists planning something against her, she's actually dead and this is all a Carnival of Souls situation, or she's being haunted by her aunt's ghost. The movie is a bit too sluggish to effectively plant its seeds, or it's that very sluggishness that gave my mind time to wander and come up with all those possibilities. There's not a lot to suggest what the truth is. We get hints of a haunting, some kids are vandalizing the place, and the titular hearse doesn't show up that much which made me wonder why it was the title of the movie.

There are some moments of hilarity. Pictures of the aunt—who died around 1950—look like they're from the Old West. Even her diary seems profoundly anachronistic in that it seems to be from the 1850's, not WWII. The local pastor shows up out of nowhere at the end to shout at the house, which is kind of great. Also, one of the local teenagers is played by a 25-year-old Christopher McDonald. I will never not love elderly teens.

Of course, there are also things that don't work. Everyone is shitty to her and that includes some BS 80's boys-will-be-boys sexism. Even the sheriff is creeping on her and it's not okay. It even becomes a distracting subplot with the kid doing work on her house crushing on her and lying to his friends about how far he's gone. It's just sloppy filler in a movie that needed to be a little tighter, but it wouldn't be a Marimark Production without uncomfortable sexism.

This is not as bad as most Marimark Productions. It's not great—generally baggy, too slow in developing its plot, not much character—but it's not teeth-grindingly awful. It feels like a Lifetime Original Movie. Like I said at the top, the movie's okay. It's not hilariously bad, just profoundly unambitious. There's nothing remarkable about it, but, if it somehow pops up on TV and you want something in the background, it works well enough.

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