Monday, 28 September 2015

Mudhoney (4 Stars)

"Mudhoney" was made in 1965. It's the fifth film in the Russ Meyer Collection, and the second film in his Gothic Quartet. Whereas "Lorna" was set in the present day, "Mudhoney" takes place in 1933, during the Great Depression. The setting for this film is Spooner, Missouri. I tried to locate the town, but it seems that it doesn't exist. On closer examination I recognised the main street of Locke, California in some of the scenes. That little town must have been in a state of confusion to have two films made in it in such a short time.

"Mudhoney" shares a lot of elements with "Lorna". I'm glad I watched them back to back, or I might have missed the connection. There's a preacher, there's a woman unhappy in her marriage and there's an ex-convict. However, in this film the moralities are assigned differently. In "Lorna" the preacher is an all-powerful figure who stands outside the action, speaking as the voice of God; in "Mudhoney" the preacher is a man like us, speaking God's will as he understands it, but sometimes making mistakes. In "Lorna" the unhappy woman commits adultery to find satisfaction; in "Mudhoney" she feels tempted by other men, but she stands by her husband's side because it's her duty. In "Lorna" the ex-convict is an unrepentant killer running from the law; in "Mudhoney" the ex-convict is someone who killed in self-defence, but he's served his time and he wants to start again.

The men of Spooner are motivated by violence, greed and lust. The two main locations are the Wade Farm and the town's whore house. In the Depression farming and whoring were the only ways to make money. The farm is owned by old Lute Wade. He lives with his niece Hannah and her husband Sidney. The ex-convict Calif McKenny is living and working on the farm for the summer months.

Sidney is a violent man who frequently beats his wife. He spends every evening in the whore house, where old Maggie pimps out her two daughters, Eula and Clara Belle. This was the only place where it was possible to buy alcohol. It was during the Prohibition, but Maggie made her own corn liquor. Sex and alcohol, everything a man needs.

Unlike "Lorna", this is a film where the women fight back. Hannah is prepared to defend herself with a knife, and there are frequent comments that Maggie's daughters are "as strong as any man".

"Mudhoney" is a cold, dark thriller. Just like "Lorna" there is a line between good and evil, and those who cross it perish. In this film the preacher himself dies when he transgresses. God's law forgives no man, even if a sin is committed with good intentions.

When "Mudhoney" appeared in the cinemas in 1965 nobody knew what to make of it, and it flopped miserably. But somehow it didn't disappear. It was shown at drive-in theatres and had a cult following. Today, 50 years later, it's regarded as a masterpiece. Just like all the films in the Gothic Quartet.

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