BRUTE CORPS (1971)

BRUTE CORPS (1971)

Director: Jerry Jameson

Starring: Alex Rocco, Jennifer Billingsley, Joseph Kaufman, Paul Carr

Viewed: Blue-Ray

Brute Corps cover

The first time I watched Brute Corps was on a DVDr that was burned from a low grade VHS of dubious origin. The print was horrendous. It looked like it was copied from a copy of another copy of another copy and on and on until what was left was barely viewable. Faces were blobs with two black dots for eyes. Voices tended to be the consistent guide, separating one character from the other. Even the nude scene between Kevin and Terry when they’re in the creek was pretty blown out. The only way you knew they were completely nude was because there were no blobs of color on their bodies. The print was so terrible that you could even see cracks in the film negative as the tape via the DVDr rolled on. But I kept with this movie because it is actually pretty good for what it is and an obscurity that should be better known with genre fans. The main characters are fleshed out enough to keep you interested and, at some point, feel sympathy towards.

Fortunately, Code Red released this on Blue Ray, and it looks great. It’s like seeing it for the first time in comparison to that grotty VHS dub to DVDr that I mentioned above. Faces are clear, you can see their features, know who’s who, and enjoy the mean and nasty movie that is coming your way.

Brute Corps starts off with a group of men in military fatigues winding through canyon roads in Southern California on their way to some undisclosed country in Central America. There’s a scene where one urinates out of the back of the truck while it’s in motion and the rest look on is not to be missed because it’s one of those “Did I just see what I think I did?” moments. Indeed, you did. We soon learn these men are a group of mercenaries known as Burkhart’s Bastards, led by the ineffective Colonel (Charles Macaulay). They pass a hitchhiking hippy, Kevin (Joseph Kaufman), who later becomes a central figure in the movie. But first, these Bastards tangle with some bikers, and a short while later stop off at a cantina in a dusty desert town to harass the locals, and prove to all in attendance that they are indeed deserving of the Bastards half of their moniker. It’s here that we are introduced to the sleazy and violent Wicks, played by Alex Rocco (The Godfather, The Entity, Three the Hard Way, Detroit 9000, The Friends of Eddie Coyle,Bonnie’s Kids, and numerous TV shows). He harasses a young barmaid while everyone just looks on. She wriggles out of his grasp, but the stage is set, and you know this guy is one nasty scum bag to not take your eyes off of. He has no moral boundaries whatsoever, just get what he wants and let no one get in his way. Rocco plays him perfectly. A villain you easily despise and will relish in seeing him get his much deserved comeuppance.

That hitchhiker, Kevin, that I previously mentioned just so happens to be headed in the same direction. He’s on the run from the military, and he meets up with Terry (Jennifer Billingsley), the free spirit hippy girl who tells him, “I like to ball, it’s the thing I do very best in life. I should have been a hooker.” Of course they hook up and have sex, and start to develop an emotional relationship rather quickly as they make their way into whatever town across the border their looking to disappear into.

Eventually Terry and Kevin cross paths with Wicks, and go back to the camp with the promise of free food. From here Wicks begins to manipulate the couple for his ends, which is to get Terry. Kevin gets hip to what Wicks is doing but is too high to effectively fight back, and knows he’s outmatched and outnumbered to save Terry from the hell that is coming her way.

Terry’s arrival in the camp exacerbates the division and dysfunction among Burkhart’s Bastards. The distrust among each of them makes you wonder how they made it this far this long. They all want Terry and they will gladly hurt one another for to get her. The ineffective Colonel Burkhart suggests they compete for who gets her, as to them she’s nothing more than a piece of meat. The competitions are pretty goofy for the most part, mostly hand to hand combat, and pad out the running time of the film. One member, Ross (Paul Carr), is sort of the conscious of the group, but for the most part a coward in that he doesn’t act sooner.

Once Wicks gets his hooks into Terry this movie gets nasty and grim. There’s enough tension to keep you engaged, and the performances from Rocco and whoever played Terry are pretty good. Rocco is so vile and sleazy you can’t look away. Terry elicits sympathy as the broken girl. You do wonder how she will go on with life after all the humiliation Wicks put her through.

This movie could be easily written off as a low budget trashy action flick, and it is, but the writers Michael Kars and Abe Polsky (who wrote the must see The Baby (1973)) and director Jerry Jameson (The Bat People, The Six Million Dollar Man, etc.) did pretty well with their resources and delivered much more than anyone could have expected. (MA)

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Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Matt Average: MA

BONNIE’S KIDS (1972)

BONNIE’S KIDS (1972)

Country: US
Starring: Tiffany Bolling (Ellie), Robin Mattson (Myra), Steve Sandor (Larry)
Director: Arthur Marks
Music: Carson Whitsett

Viewed:  Streaming, Amazon Prime

Transfer Quality: Excellent! Top quality restoration and transfer

bonnie

Larry: You mean to tell me that God made two of you?

Ellie: God had nothing to do with it, darling.

Hot, oversexed, devious, and cruel would aptly describe the sisters, Myra (Robin Mattson Candystripe Nurses, Phantom of the Paradise) and Ellie (Tiffany Bolling The Candy Snatchers, Kingdom of the Spiders), but Bonnie’s kids aren’t the only morally bankrupt denizens of this twisted and superficial world of predator vs. prey. Virtually every character that appears on screen is on the make in one way or another. Even the camera is a lecherous creep, shamelessly panning up and down the contours of every female figure and implicating the viewer along the way whether we like it or not. This feature is gratuitous, but why would you expect any less of a film that was a major influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

There are some magical moments in this movie, which makes its impact on Tarantino easy to figure. For example, the arrangement of shots in the opening scene is quite brilliant in its portrayal of teen innocence that’s just slightly askew. It’s difficult to describe how well done this scene is, but director Arthur Marx (Bucktown, Monkey Hustle) employs some great visual storytelling techniques here that set the deliciously cynical tone for the film. An ice cream truck, headlights glowing in the distance, blares its syrupy looped tone made even more unsettling by its incongruity with the nighttime scene. Something is off balance, and it creates a sense of foreboding that subconsciously prepares us for the nihilistic excess that will occupy the rest of the film.  As the ice cream truck jingle continues, we see two high school couples making out in a convertible. While the ominous vehicle slowly rolls towards the make out session, Myra skillfully rebuffs the advances of her boyfriend as he presses his luck trying to unzip her dress. In the meantime, the truck passes without incident and the camera moves away from the action in the car to zoom in on the front window of the house where Myra’s stepfather, the tightly wound Charlie (Leo Gordon, Riot in Cell Block 11) is playing cards with his buddies.

Myra leaves her friends and enters the house where things get intense quick. Charlie’s buddies take turns teasing Myra and him about what they’d do with her and her older sister Ellie if Charlie wasn’t around. Myra quickly reveals herself as no innocent as her sexual teasing of the older men shatters any presumptions lingering from the opening scene. Later, as an undressing Myra is ogled at through the bathroom window by his departing guests (and then by the local police!) Charlie, who’s planning a trip to Montana to be with his terminally ill father, is in his bedroom chugging down a bottle of Seagram’s. Things continue to devolve as the drunken Charlie catches Myra on the phone talking sexy to her boyfriend. The out of control stepfather unleashes on Myra in a violent rage, and initiates what most certainly will end in sexual assault. It’s at this precise moment that Ellie enters and from quick back and forth we infer that she too was molested by Charlie. No sooner do we piece it together than Ellie blasts Charlie twice in the chest with a shotgun, leaving him dead. And so it begins…

The hallmark of the great morality exploitation film is that it titillates the viewer with precisely the vice it purports to condemn. At first I thought this was going to be one of those kinds of movies, but the ambiguous principles of each character left me wondering if anyone could be described as the morally righteous hero in this story. The way this film ends (and I’ll leave it for you to watch) only led me to further abandon all hope for humanity. However, when I wasn’t catching myself sinking into depression or contemplating the reason for my own existence, I actually found this film quite difficult to pause.

It’s also cool to keep an eye out for the connections between Bonnie’s Kids and Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. From a “Bonnie” whom we never see on screen, to Eddy and Digger (Alex Rocco, Timothy Brown) as the inspiration for Vincent and Jules, to the flirty banter and surreal showcase dance scene with Ellie and Larry (Steve Sandor) ala Mia and Vincent, it’s obvious that Tarantino was mining the gold nuggets embedded in this film. Even the shot composition at the diner scene with Eddy and Digger seems strangely familiar.

Check it out…enjoyable to say the least, but you might find yourself craving a shower by the end of it.  (DC)

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NW: Nate Wilson  DC: Devon Cahill  HR: Heath Row  MA: Matt Average