Review: Mudhoney (1965)

>> Tuesday, October 2, 2007


USA/B&W/92m./Dir: Russ Meyer/Wr: Raymond Friday Locke & W.E. Sprague/Cast: John Furlong (Calif McKinney), Hal Hopper (Sidney Brenshaw), Antoinette Christiani (Hannah Brenshaw), Stuart Lancaster (Lute Wade), Rena Horten (Eula), Princess Livingston (Maggie Marie), Lorna Maitland (Clara Belle)

Sidney Brenshaw is the kind of drunk that gives drunks a bad name. He’s an ill-tempered, razor-totin’, wife-beatin’, crazy-ass bastard--the kind of drunk you try to avoid on the street--the kind of drunk that ruins everyone else’s good time. This disagreeable character is at the center of Mudhoney, a low-budget exploitation flick from sleaze auteur Russ Meyer.

The film is the story of Calif McKinney (I can’t decide whether I like or loathe that name), a drifter who finds temporary work on a farm in a small, Southern town. The place is run by a kindly guy with a bum ticker and his beautiful niece, Hannah. The situation would be more or less ideal if it weren’t for Hannah’s lay-about, abusive husband, Sidney. Sidney spends most of his time at the home of local bootlegger, Maggie Marie, drinkin’ her moonshine and diddling her two scantily clad daughters (this is a Russ Meyer film after all). Still, Sidney finds time to welcome his new hired hand by holding a razor to his throat, and relations only worsen between employer and employee when Calif begins to take a shine to Sidney’s wife.

Honestly, Mudhoney doesn’t add up to much. The story is simply an excuse to paint the drive-in screen with black and white images of boobs, violence, more boobs, bizarro behavior, a few more boobs, heavy-handed social commentary… and did I mention boobs? Much of the acting is amateurish, the dialogue is often insipid, there is no sense of period (although the film is supposed to take place during the Depression), and the musical score ranges from irritating to obnoxious.

As an exploitation film, however, Mudhoney is a rousing success. It’s fast-moving, never boring, full shock and sleaze, and fairly artfully directed. Some sequences actually reminded me of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958), in their odd staging and effective camerawork. Mudhoney may not be a subtle cocktail, but it packs a memorable punch.

Drinks Consumed--Corn Liquor (moonshine)

Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, slurred speech, drunk driving, swearing, brawling, physical violence, jail time, the giggles, harmonizing, belching, and passing out

Potent Quotables--MAGGIE MARIE: You look kinda dried out. How ‘bout a nice drink of fresh well water? Hope you don’t object to plain drinkin’ water. We had us a little socializin’ last night and the home brew’s all gone. Got a new batch workin’ though. I make the best home brew and corn liquor around here.
CALIF: Isn’t that kinda against the law?
MAGGIE MARIE: You mean the Prohibition? Fawgh! Folks around here don’t pay no mind to that foolishness. Besides, it’s about to be repealed anyhow.

Video Availability--Released on DVD as Russ Meyer's Mudhoney (RM Films International), but hard to find

Similarly Sauced Cinema--For more countrified moonshine-soaked action, check out Thunder Road (1958) and White Lightning (1973).

Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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