Monday, July 24, 2006

Evil Andy

After eight seasons of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, TV viewers of the 1970's were frequently shocked to see good ol' Sheriff Taylor playing a heavy. In SAVAGES, for instance, which you can now see on one of those cheapo DVDs you occasionally see at gas stations or drug stores, Griffith played a hunter who turned the tables on his young guide (Sam Bottoms) and hunted him across the barren desert.

But Evil Andy Griffith's most venal portrayal is most likely that of Farragut, the rich psychopath that leads a dangerous motorcycle trip into Baja California in the 1974 trash classic PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS. One of the most notorious made-for-TV movies of the '70s, PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS stars William Shatner (STAR TREK), Robert Reed (THE BRADY BUNCH) and Marjoe Gortner (BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW) as advertising executives who suck up to an asshole client (that would be Evil Andy Griffith) by agreeing to accompany him on a motocross trip to Mexico. All three emasculated men are battling troubles at home; Shatner is shtupping Reed's wife (Angie Dickinson), while Gortner takes the news of girlfriend Janet Margolin's pregnancy without a smile on his face.

While their frustrated wives and girlfriends stew at home, the city boys set out across the barren sand, a grueling journey that becomes even more so when they discover that Andy is more than just a cruel businessman--he's also a horny, drunken psychopath whose tequila-drenched run-in with a couple of hippies turns ugly in a hurry. When the hot cockteasing blond hippie refuses to give it up to Andy--even for $100--he spikes the radiator of their groovy VW bus with a handy axe and leaves them in the desert to die.

If you've ever wondered what a drunk and lecherous Andy Griffith would look like while dancing and wearing Captain Kirk's command tunic, here you go:

Alternately hilarious and bizarre, PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS is unquestionably a must-see for Crappy Movie fans. One thing that fascinates me is the production's choice of wardrobe; the cast is dressed in motocross outfits that look remarkably like the velour shirts and black pants worn by the Enterprise crew on STAR TREK, and whenever you see Shatner on-screen in his trademark gold tunic, you can't help but wonder whether you've stumbled upon TREK's Lost 80th Episode, in which Captain Kirk finds himself transported in time and TV Land to an alternate universe where the Bradys live in Mayberry, RFD.

It's also fun to watch if you know about the actors' shared history. For instance, the same year that PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS was telecast, Shatner and Dickinson did a highly publicized nude sex scene for producer Roger Corman in BIG BAD MAMA. More than a decade earlier, Shatner guest-starred in a good episode of THE DEFENDERS, an acclaimed legal drama in which Reed was a co-star with E.G. Marshall. THE DEFENDERS was spun off from a two-part episode of STUDIO ONE called "The Defender," in which Shatner played the same part Reed had in the TV series. By the way, the defendant in that STUDIO ONE was played by a 27-year-old Steve McQueen. It's on DVD and is a very good drama.


Anonymous said...

There's another good "Evil Andy" TV movie titled MURDER IN COWETA COUNTY, where Andy is a rural land baron trying to get away with murder. Johnny Cash stars (effectively) as the law out to bring him to justice.

Wasn't it Timothy Bottoms' younger brother Sam that costarred in SAVAGES, a few years before hangin' ten in APOCALYPSE NOW?

Hal said...

You absolutely have to see A FACE IN THE CROWD, if you haven't already (I didn't see it reviewed at Marty's Marquee last time I looked at the F's). I still think it is Griffith's greatest performance, and he should have been nominated for an Oscar in 1957. Every bit as prophetic as NETWORK would be.

Uncle Larry said...

I think I would enjoy seeing Andy terrorize hippies. As for Face In the Crowd, Hal's right. Griffith's finest performance. Saw it for the first time about 4 mos. ago. It's easily every bit as good as Citizen Kane or any of the other movies that are constantly held up by critics as masterpieces. I thought the same thing about it and Network as well. Scary how accurate they were.

Marty McKee said...

As Andy says, "I'm kind of a hippie myself. A hippie with money!"

Anonymous said...

Holy crap. Watching that clip was sort of like nodding out at my desk and having a really stomach turning I-think-I'm-going-to-shit-my-pants nightmare.

I must see the rest of the movie.