Friday, August 20, 2010

Bonnie's Kids (1973) review


Tiffany Bolling (Ellie), Robin Mattson (Myra), Steve Sandor (Larry), Alex Rocco (Eddy), Timothy Brown (Digger), Leo Gordon (Charley), Scott Brady (Ben Eastman), Frank Showalter (Frank McGuire)

Directed by Arthur Marks

"What's the matter, baby? Don't you want a little excitement in your life?"

The Short Version: Supreme noir-exploitation drive in classic from specialist, Arthur Marks. Tiffany Bolling is mesmerizing here and simply gorgeous. If there were a stick of butter on a table, she could melt it just by looking at it. As a bonus, the script is fabulous, filled with unsavory characters and plentiful nudity. A rare beast in exploitation cinema, everything works here. One of the most polished and professional pieces of sleaze you are likely to find.

After killing their abusive and drunken step father, two sisters, Ellie and Myra, decide to stash the corpse and head for San Jose, California. They end up in the company of Ben Eastman, their uncle who runs a publishing company specializing in modeling and nudie magazines. He is also involved in criminal activities and uses Ellie as a driver for a special pick up. Meanwhile, Ben's neglected wife finds solace in the arms of Ellie's sister, the 15 year old Myra. Ellie hooks up with Larry, a private detective who is hired by Ben's two hitmen to pick up this special package. Once obtaining the bag, Ellie and Larry discover it's loaded with money. Ellie coerces him into taking off with the loot, which prompts the two killers to take off after them. Ellie uses anyone and any means necessary to be reunited with her sister as bodies pile up all around them.

Alex Rocco (left) and Timothy Brown (right): Do these guys look familiar, or what?

If ever Quentin Tarantino could be accused of "ripping off" a movie, BONNIE'S KIDS would be it. This whole production reeks of the man's works in the crime genre such as RESERVOIR DOGS, JACKIE BROWN and most strikingly, PULP FICTION. Arthur Marks' movie seems like a textbook example, or blueprint for the "Pop Cinema King's" output. Among such other inspirational American directors like Jack Hill and Don Edmonds, Arthur Marks appears to be the major player of QT's style. One only need to view the work of Marks to draw parallels with exploitation admirer, Tarantino.

This dancing sequence also recalls the one from PULP FICTION with Uma Thurman and John Travolta

Leo Gordon about to sexually abuse his step daughter

BONNIE'S KIDS (1973) perfectly captures the very exploitation essence of the grimy and galvanizing decade of the 1970's. It's got the violence, it's got the sex, it's got the nudity, it's got the savagery, unsavory and cold blooded characters commonplace in the best the decade had to offer. It's got everything but over the top gore, but it doesn't need it. There's many other movies that are far more extreme, but this movie does everything right. Virtually no one in the entire film is a redeemable individual. The character of Larry is about as close as you get to someone to identify with, yet he's seduced into following Ellie and goes along with everything she says and does.

Tiffany Bolling has never looked hotter as she does in this picture. Every frame she occupies reeks sexuality whether she's fully clothed, or not. As the movie progresses, her true character comes to the surface. Ellie is a woman who will use all the resources at her disposal to get what she wants even if it means death to those around her. Her character is the template by which every conniving cinematic bitch has emulated over the years both before and after. She does an exceptional job and this is arguably her best role. It's on a par with her similar portrayal in the likewise slice of sleaze, THE CANDY SNATCHERS (1973). Another choice role for Miss Bowling was the cult favorite, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977) where she played a less salacious role as an entomologist. Bolling had a nice career during the 70's and is fondly remembered by genre fans today.

Robin Mattson plays Ellie's younger, more outspoken sister. When we first see her, she's being ogled by friends of her drunken step father who watch from outside her window as she undresses. While we're on the subject, just like the Arthur Marks penned THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (1974), the men in this movie constantly gawk at, abuse, or treat the women like slabs of meat to be tenderized, seasoned to taste and consumed. Her character is nearly raped by her step father (former Corman support player and frequent screen heavy, Leo Gordon), fondled by a lovelorn lesbian who hates the touch of a man and hit on by virtually everyone else. She turned up a couple years later in the lesser sequel to MACON COUNTY LINE (1974), RETURN TO MACON COUNTY (1975). She went to a very successful career in television.

Alex Rocco, who was great in Arthur Marks seethingly volatile, racially charged action drama, DETROIT 9000 (1973), has a role here as a hitman paired once more with an African American partner. Only these two are on the other side of the law. What's fascinating about both Rocco's and Timothy Brown's role (he plays Digger) is how amazingly similar they are to Jackson and Travolta's hitman team in PULP FICTION (1994).

From the way they converse with one another, to the way they move, to camera setups at various locations, even down to their looks, it's glaringly obvious where Jules and Vincent drew inspiration from. An Italian film from the revered Fernando Di Leo entitled MANHUNT (1972) features a similar pair of hitmen (Henry Silva & Woody Strode), but the team seen here in BONNIE'S KIDS (1973) appears more likely.

A seriously cool cult favorite from a grandious time period in American cinema, Arthur Marks' movies are deserving of a huge reappraisal considering how influential and important some of them have been over the years. He has also delivered some memorable movies in the celebrated black action genre. From escapist entertainment like BUCKTOWN (1975), to J.D.'s REVENGE (1976; a psychological horror film mixed with a possession angle), Marks also worked with Pam Grier in the average, but fun FRIDAY FOSTER (1975) with Yaphet Kotto and Carl Weathers. He also did the light hearted CAR WASH styled, THE MONKEY HU$TLE (1976).

Steve Sandor

Trash fans will also recognize tough guy, Steve Sandor as Ellie's complacent lover. He was the star of Cirio Santiago's post apocalyptic drive in flick, STRYKER (1983). Scott Brady (as Ellie and Myra's uncle Ben) is another familiar face from countless television shows where he frequently played policemen. Here, he's anything but a lawman.

If you are a dedicated drive in flick fanatic, BONNIE'S KIDS is a DVD you simply must own. Aside from its many attributes, it's worth seeing for Tiffany Bolling's oozing sexuality. Containing elements of film noir, Marks twists the conventions by adding ingredients of sex and violence to create an exploitation super nachos platter that is sure to satisfy your junk food palette.

This review is representative of the Dark Sky DVD

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