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May 29, 2011

Movie Review: Poor Pretty Eddie (1975)

Here is a little oddball gem that covers nearly every genre of exploitation. "Poor Pretty Eddie" (1975) is part revenge drama, part blaxploitation, part redneck atrocity film, part horror movie. At times it is consciously arty; at times it is deliriously wallow-in-the mud sleazy; at times it is crafted and polished; at times it is disjointed, episodic and all over the place. It is well-shot and well-acted, full of familiar and welcome character actors in roles you would have never guessed they had agreed to do. And occasionally it packs an honest wallop. It defies definition and I loved every minute of it.

Buy Poor Pretty Eddie Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack

Leslie Uggams stars as an African American pop singer who needs a little R and R. She inexplicably decides to take a drive through the rural south alone. Of course her car breaks down and she goes to a backwoods motel that also doubles as a mechanic's garage. The place is run by Shelly Winters as Bertha, who lives with her hunky boy toy and low-rent Elvis clone Eddie, played by Michael Christian. Also in the household is the hired help, dog-lover Keno played by Ted Cassidy, best remembered as Lurch from the "Addams Family" TV series. Uggams finds herself abused in multiple ways by a whole town of backwoods types, each one more demented than the last. It sort of rambles along from atrocity to atrocity with little regard for how well it hangs together until the inevitable blood bath conclusion.

Uggams looks great and turns in a believable performance. She is only slightly more likable than the other characters, and that is simply by virtue of her not being totally psycho. Pretty much every line she delivers throughout the picture is so rude and superior that you almost can't feel sorry for her. Almost.

Shelly Winters, always great, turns in another of her memorable performances. She is convincingly and magnificently over-the-top as Bertha. One of her first lines is so well delivered I guffawed out loud: "I bet she farts Chanel Number 5." Still, that wasn't the film's most outrageous uttterance. That comes later in this review.

This town of deranged rednecks is populated by some of the most recognizable and reliable character actors of its day. Among them is Dub Taylor as the lecherous Justice of the Peace whose belly always hangs out of his too-small t-shirt. And Slim Pickens nearly steals the show as the smiling racist horndog sheriff. He gets the award for most outrageous lines. When Uggams escapes from her captors and reports to the sheriff that she has been been raped by Eddie, Pickens asks her if her attacker "bit her on the titties." And then he asks her to show him the "suck marks." Just for proof in court, mind you.

While one would be hard pressed to label this a gore film, the violent scenes are all in slow motion, giving them a surreal and cerebral punch that is far more effective than the more graphic films of its day. The movie contains no nudity, which is maybe surprising given that it was financed by pornographer Michael Thevis. But seriously, it doesn't need it. Nobody will walk away from this one feeling cheated of their daily dose of sleaze.

The story is incomprehensible, none of the characters are likable, and it has a confusing non-ending. But this strange and unclassifiable movie packs more mood and more strange charm than a dozen of the more well-known exploitation films of its day.


  1. Heh, you beat me to this one. I watched it last night. The only thing you didn't mention was the rictus grin Eddie had on his face almost the whole film, and when it started to slip Something Bad was gonna happen. I don't know if I loved it, but I certainly enjoyed it.

  2. Yeah, there are a lot of touches I didn't mention. There is only so much room for a review. But this is the movie that keeps on giving - like a recurring does of herpes!

  3. Yeah, there's so much to say about this movie, in all its various disguises. There are at least three different versions under four different names.

    I wrote a lot more back in 2009 when it was shown on TCM Underground and still felt like I missed a lot out.