Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thank God She Only Had Two

The “kids” of the late Bonnie are two gorgeous young women, 24-year-old Ellie (Tiffany Bolling, whose then-recent Playboy layout was played up in the film’s marketing) and her 15-year-old sister Myra (Robin Mattson, later a major soap star). General Film Corporation released BONNIE'S KIDS in 1973 with a lurid campaign that makes it look more like a sexploitation picture than a noir.

The sisters live with their mean, drunken rapist stepfather Charlie (veteran screen heavy Leo Gordon) in a small town where they drive the men crazy by wearing their skirts too high and undressing in front of open windows. Before the opening credits have rolled, Ellie has popped a couple of shotgun blasts in Charlie’s chest while he’s attempting to rape Myra, and the sisters are on their way to El Lay to look up their rich uncle Ben Seeman (Scott Brady).

Although they haven’t seen Ben in years, he offers to put them up at his spacious ranch, where trampy Myra puts the make on both studly stable boy Harry (Nicholas Cortland) and Ben’s horny young wife Diana (Lenore Stevens). Meanwhile, Ellie, running an errand for Uncle Ben, and dim-bulb private eye Larry Evans (Steve Sandor) become the targets of Ben’s salt-and-pepper hitmen Eddie (THE GODFATHER’s Alex Rocco) and Digger (M*A*S*H’s Spearchucker, Timothy Brown).

The violence and sex quotients are relatively low (although both Bolling and Mattson appear topless), but the sleaze factor runs high with barely a likable character in the entire film. The men are perverted, mercenary, and brutal; the women selfish, manipulative, and pathetic. Director Arthur Marks’ bleak screenplay creates many colorful characters living outside the plot, like a small town sheriff (former Lone Ranger John Hart) and a tacky traveling gun salesman (Max Showalter), while also providing the stars, such as Sandor’s affable P.I., who gets smarter as the film moves along, with interesting pieces of business to sink their teeth into.

The professional cast handles the grimy dialogue and plot twists just fine, and Marks’ clean direction, Carson Whitsett’s driving score, and suitably cheesy locations (mainly around Palm Springs) ensure a steady pace. What may be most interesting today are the performances by Rocco and Brown as the hitman team, whose cool demeanor and easy camaraderie may remind you of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in PULP FICTION. A young, longhaired Sharon Gless (CAGNEY & LACEY) makes her film debut as a coffee shop waitress (she was Marks’ secretary at the time).

Dark Sky Films' brand new DVD is really fantastic, reproducing BONNIE'S KIDS from the original negative in a sparkling widescreen print with mono sound. In addition to trailers, TV spots, and isolated snippets of Carson Whitsett's score, Dark Sky has created a short featurette on writer/director Arthur Marks, who talks about not just BONNIE'S KIDS, but others he made, such as FRIDAY FOSTER.

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