Sunday, May 5, 2019

Only now does it occur to me... CRAZY MAMA

Only now does it occur to me... that I never thought I'd live to see Cloris Leachman scream aloud the word "fartknocker" and go on a wild crime spree.

Allow me to contextualize. CRAZY MAMA is a Roger Corman-produced, Jonathan Demme-directed (the second feature from the man who would bring us THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, STOP MAKING SENSE, and A MASTER BUILDER) nostalgia-crime flick that feels like a less-competent John Waters version of GREASE fused with BONNIE AND CLYDE. Set in the late 1950s, it features Ann Sothern (THE WHALES OF AUGUST, A LETTER TO THREE WIVES):

and Cloris Leachman (THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW):

as a mother-daughter duo whose beauty parlor is foreclosed upon by a dunderheaded Jim Backus. This leads to the aforementioned "fartknocker" (screamed by Leachman at a repo man) and a crime spree that sees Cloris and her gang taking out banks, dirt bike races, and even a wedding (!).

As is the New World Pictures Way, there are many scenes of parades and truck stops and racetracks that seem to exist not because the script calls for it, but because the crew wandered past and began filming without a permit.


Imagery worthy of Malick, I say

Of note: the bit parts and cameos are more than worthy of a Demme-Corman flick of this caliber. The legendary Dick Miller shows up as a cuckolding highway patrolman:

We're looking at less than a minute of screentime

 Writer/director and noted gun enthusiast John Milius (RED DAWN, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, EXTREME PREJUDICE)

plays a state cop who lines up the perfect shot but is run off the road by an unbridled Cloris Leachman:


Will Sampson (THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, "Chief" in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST) plays a roadside entrepreneur feigning interest in this movie:


And Bill Paxton plays a blink-and-you'll-miss-him cop in his first film role, ever:


Spectacularly, the whole crime spree (which indeed amasses a body count) is relatively consequence-free for Ms. Leachman, who, in the course of this film, murders, robs, speeds, and even vandalizes her daddy's grave.

How ya like that, remnants of the production code?

I'm concerned that in describing this film I've made it seem more appealing than it actually is––it's definitely a mess and occasionally a chore, but for the completist, it is an effective delivery system of Cloris Leachman crazyface in a variety of low-rent 1950s tableaux.