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!
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!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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July 14, 2008, 2:18 a.m. CST
July 14, 2008, 2:18 a.m. CST
July 14, 2008, 2:24 a.m. CST
...has to go to traffic school again? I caught the last 2 minutes of it on TV a while ago and thought that the final gag was pretty funny. Of course I can't speak for the rest of the movie.
July 14, 2008, 5:42 a.m. CST
Ernest Borgnine is awesome.
July 14, 2008, 6:12 a.m. CST
This column is meant to fill in gaps in your film knowledge and I'm sure classic foreign films constitute quite a big gap in that knowledge - as with most film lovers. A film like Sunday in the Country hardly qualifies as a gap in your film knowledge, especially set off against foreign classics which play a significant role in film history, like, say, Pater Panchali or Les Enfants du Paradis or Andrey Rublyov (just to randomly name three). So start adding some foreign films that make up REAL gaps in anyone's film knowledge mate - you'll be glad you did.
July 14, 2008, 6:47 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Moving Violations was a cheap Police Academy knock off. I don't know why this is on the list other that Quint hasn't seen it. Borgnie could play warm and funny, but he could play some real bastards too. There was one flic where he was a sadistic train conductor and no one hopped a ride on his train without paying the consequences.
July 14, 2008, 8:13 a.m. CST
As soon as I saw Hollis McLaren in the cast list, my can-con radar went up. Seeing Cec Linder & Al Waxman's names in the poster clinched it. This is one of those awful Canadian tax shelter movies of the 1970's, when the government provided major tax breaks to Canadian film investors. Most hired 1 or 2 usually past their prime Americans to star, then filled the cast with homegrown talent. Only one English-language film form this boondoggle, the very very good The Silent Partner, was anything other than awful.<p> Please, Quint, don't hold this against Canadians.
July 14, 2008, 8:14 a.m. CST
by tobias funke
HarveyDentDies, i truly hope that you did not just ruin that.
July 14, 2008, 8:15 a.m. CST
That's the Borgnine movie where he's a mean sonofabitch train guard. I don't think I've ever taken such a strong and instant dislike to any movie character as this one, such a testament to the often loveable Borgnine. I met him a few years ago and he's a total gent.
July 14, 2008, 8:15 a.m. CST
...technically "Vengance is Mine" counts as a foreign film!
July 14, 2008, 8:40 a.m. CST
Someone please ban this HarveyDentDies cunt. And kindly remove anything he's posted.
July 14, 2008, 10:13 a.m. CST
It is. A completely forgettable mid-80s PG-13 comedy.
July 14, 2008, 10:46 a.m. CST
wow! you are in for fucking treat my friend! This is probably the only time Hitchcock was really allowed to express his true bloodlust. Saw "the Trouble with Harry" on TCM the other day. Have you seen it? If so, what did you think?
July 14, 2008, 11:38 a.m. CST
I always wondered if Hitchcock would make movies today or in...let's say Italy, with more independence, if he would be over the top with sex and violence like Paul Verhoeven or Dario Argento
July 14, 2008, 11:50 a.m. CST
On used DVD sites. There are copies on Amazon for a whopping $2.50.<BR><BR>Sheeld, there are indeed foreign films on this list, it's just harder to connect them via a common actor or crew person to the predominantly American list. I was able to connect three Kurosawa films I haven't seen yet, but we won't get to those for a while. But I don't hold your rather snobbish attitude that an exploitation movie has less value as an unseen film than a foreign movie. I have probably 20-25 foreign films (foreign meaning in a different language... if foreign meaning a non-US studio, then it's more like 60 or 70 since I have a lot of British and Canadian films) on the master list, mostly thanks to Criterion. I love foreign films of all sorts, they're just harder to connect to each other, which makes them more difficult to fit into this particular column. I'm trying, though. It was difficult squeezing in those Kurosawa films, but I found a way.
July 14, 2008, 12:08 p.m. CST
July 14, 2008, 12:59 p.m. CST
add another movie for that day. Film is sold as a sexy teen comedy, but is really just another POS Rob Reiner film with a very annoying Cusak and Zuniga bickering ceaselessly.
July 14, 2008, 1:44 p.m. CST
I watched it a lot when I was in my teens. There are plently of other 80's teen sex comedies that you could do worse by. Besides, I fell "stalker-crazy" in love with Daphne Zuniga and Nicollette Sheridan after watching it. I remember Strange Invaders was on a lot on Cinemax too. I determined later on in life I liked it because there was nothing else on (besides reruns of Good Times, or All in the Family) at the time.
July 14, 2008, 2:09 p.m. CST
I did not mean to say an exploitation flick has less value as an unseen film than a foreign film. I was specifically referring to well known classics, which obviously are to be considered bigger gaps in anyone's film knowledge than a little seen exploitation movie - without baring any judgment to the worth or entertainment factor of such a movie. And I only mentioned foreign classics since I hadn't seen any foreign film on the list yet (and with foreign I mean a film not in the English language) and because the group of unseen foreign classics is bound to be much bigger than the non-foreign one - if only due to availability. </p> That being said, I did not take into account the parameters of this particular column, being the unseen films you have at your house and wanting to connect them with each other. The makes the lack of many foreign classics quite understandable. And, being the film snob I am, I do feel it's every serious film lover's obligation to try and fill as many gaps in his/her knowledge as possible, so I can only applaud this column. Keep up the good work!
July 14, 2008, 2:32 p.m. CST
by Spandau Belly
Why is it called Vengeance Is Mine? I thought Borgnine didn't know these crimminals. What is he getting revenge for? I think the alternate title sounds more fitting.
July 14, 2008, 2:34 p.m. CST
is a lot of fun.
July 14, 2008, 2:36 p.m. CST
I'm generally very mild mannered and passive but that guy has to go.
July 14, 2008, 3:35 p.m. CST
John Cusack at his best (Pre Grosse Pointe Blank). Sure, it won't make anyone's top 10 best movies ever, but I do think it is a "must see". John Cusack was the king of wacky 80's romantic comedies and The Sure Thing was the movie that made him a star.<p>Cadillac Man is another great one. A very underrated film (mostly because hardly anyone saw it). Haven't see it in years but if I have time I might give it another viewing before the week is out.
July 14, 2008, 5:26 p.m. CST
The Imamura film from 1979, which is like Taxi Driver meets Macbeth. Although the random-crap approach to film watching has certain charms, maybe you wanna try watching things that are actually good, a category which would easily spare you Cadillac Man, for one.
July 15, 2008, 1:01 a.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
and I haven't seen the posts being referred to since they seem to have been deleted. But if someone used the user ID "movie-character-plot-twist-happens" and everyone USES THE NAME to get him banned - the spoiler is still there in a half dozen other posts.<p>For the record, the example given above is false - to the best of my knowledge no plot twists are going to occur to any movie characters and if it turns out they do well, it was just an unlucky coincidental guess, okay?
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