Poor Pretty Eddie 

The 1975 thriller begins with an ironic — or is it? — shot of the American flag, leading into singer Leslie Uggams playing singer Liz Wetherly, belting out "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a stadium. Four minutes later, you get a chicken decapitated with an ax — a big, fat sign that this isn't going to be easy viewing.

With two weeks off before her next concert, Liz seeks a "nice, quiet hole to crawl into," and finds only a hole when her car breaks down in redneck county (an alternate title, incidentally), where her African-Americanness makes her stick out like, well, an African-American. Would-be Elvis-style performer Eddie Collins (Michael Christian, TV's "Peyton Place") invites her to stay in the lodge he runs with his jealous sugar mama, Bertha (Shelley Winters).

Bertha doesn't cotton to having a "juicy picaninny" in the home, and the term offends Eddie, who counters that Liz is a "gen-you-wine celebrity!" Eddie loves Liz so much that he puts on the moves, and she responds with one of her own. Unfortunately for his crotch, it's the "balls, meet knee" greeting, so he rapes her.

Certainly this is the only film in history — I hope — so tasteless as to intercut scenes of the rape with two dogs mating, all set to the tune of a ballad whose chorus concludes with the line, "you won't have to say you love me in the morning."

Eddie rapes her a second time, too, and when reports it to the sheriff (Slim Pickens), he's none too sympathetic. "Rape? Real rape?" he asks as he sucks on a tomato and asks wholly inappropriate questions. Liz is raped again, but only figuratively, as her life becomes an absolute nightmare when the townsmen strip and humiliate her in the packed VFW Hall.

This is powerful stuff, made all the more disturbing by director Chris Robinson's decision to make sound a supporting character in the final scenes' melee, slowing it down considerably to the point that the screams are animalistic. "Poor Pretty Eddie" is tough viewing and rough going, but captivating as only good grindhouse can be.

Cultra's discs include a restoration demo and the original trailer, plus a most enlightening essay detailing the story of the production itself. Apparently, Winters was a major bitch through the entirety of the shoot, and the filmmakers were pornographers looking to go legit. Disturbing as their effort is, I think they succeeded. —Rod Lott

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Rod Lott

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