Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shotgun Wedding

Low-rent LI’L ABNER retread is notable only because of its screenplay reportedly written by PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE auteur Edward D. Wood Jr., though a “Larry Lee” is credited. The plot and dialogue in the 1963 indie SHOTGUN WEDDING seem too coherent to be a Wood joint, but maybe the script was polished by producer/director Boris L. Petroff (ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO) and his wife Jane Mann (who takes story credit). By this time, Wood was well into his second career of writing sex-soaked paperback novels, but SHOTGUN WEDDING is decidedly lacking in sleaze and sin. It even has a fun musical number at a wedding.

It’s a soapy day in southern Mudcat Landing, population 47. Noted character actor J. Pat O’Malley gets top billing as Buford Anchors, a moonshiner and “river rat” who decides to marry his live-in companion, the vixenish brunette Melanie, played by the decidedly va-va-voomy Valerie Allen (PILLOW TALK), after she reveals that she’s pregnant. Despite the film’s light tone, most of the characters are really genial louts. Buford is blackmailing Melanie because he saw her shoot a circus strongman, and she hasn’t lit out of town because she can’t find the bundle Buford has hidden. She’s also having an affair with Buford’s Jethroesque son Chub (Peter Colt).

Meanwhile, Buford’s daughter Lucianne (Nan Peterson) is blackmailing Chub to stay quiet about the affair, another son (Rafe, played by Buzz Martin) is romancing sweet and stacked Honeybee (Jenny Maxwell), and her angry, uptight father Silas (Jackie Searl) and his omnipresent shotgun are dedicated to keeping his daughter unblemished. Best of all is ubiquitous character actor William Schallert (everything from THE PATTY DUKE SHOW to TRUE BLOOD) as a con artist posing as the local preacher, who recognizes Melanie from her carnival days (it’s implied she was a stripper) and demands a fee to keep her secret.

SHOTGUN WEDDING is so light, one fears it may blow away right in front of you. Petroff’s flat TV-like direction makes the film look as substantial as a PETTICOAT JUNCTION episode, and the humor is not quite at the same level. Surprisingly, for a film with Wood’s name attached to it, SHOTGUN WEDDING is professionally made (if obviously quite inexpensive) in Arizona with decent acting (Schallert is great) and a trio of beautiful women not always wearing a lot of clothes. It certainly belies its absurdly exploitative ad campaign, which promised a child bride, even though the film is as chaste as a Sixties sitcom.

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