AKA: Black Vengeance
AKA: The Victim
AKA: Redneck County
AKA: Redneck County Rape
AKA: Heartbreak Motel
Popular African American singer Liz Wetherly (Leslie Uggams) has just finished a performance and has a full two weeks to get away from it all and relax before her next concert. Her goal is to get off the beaten path and find a nice, quiet place out in the middle of nowhere where she hopes no one will bother her. But she only gets half her wish when her car breaks down and she becomes stranded in a rural, remote southern town. Having no choice but to wait until the car is fixed, Liz is forced to take refuge at Bertha’s Oasis, a rundown and seldom used hunting lodge and eatery run by an overweight, drunken ex-burlesque star (Shelley Winters), her handyman Keno (Ted Cassidy), and her much younger boyfriend, Eddie (Michael Christian). Eddie fancies himself a talented up-and-coming star and immediately takes an interest in Liz, thinking he can charm her with his youthful good looks and she can help him with his nonexistent career. But when she turns him down flat and shatters his fantasy, Eddie shows his true colors by assaulting her and hiding the keys to her car to prevent her from leaving. Now trapped out in the middle of nowhere by a bunch of crazed and apathetic rednecks, Liz will have to try to find a way to escape and get revenge on her heartless and delusional captors.
Oh, honey, are you in the wrong place…
Poor Pretty Eddie is a low-budget American exploitation film from 1975 that also incorporates elements from the horror, hicksploitation, blacksploitation and vigilante genres. As such, it was alternately marketed to those targeted demographics thanks to edits and alternate endings, some of which changed the film into more of a thriller and others that tried to give Eddie a happy ending.
It shouldn’t really be surprising that it’s also the type of movie whose production and backstory ends up being far more interesting than the movie itself. The film was produced by Michael Trevis, a man once known as “The Scarface of Porn.” Not only was Trevis once responsible for nearly half of the smut in the United States, but he was also an alleged gangster. And like all good gangsters, Trevis needed a way to launder his ill-gotten gains, and since he already owned both a film and music company, it seemed only natural to use his existing resources to branch out into the non-X rated feature film side of show business. Despite his reputation, Trevis was not only able to get a script from proficient TV writer B.W. Sandefur, who wrote episodes for shows like Barnaby Jones, Bonanza, Charlie’s Angels and Little House on the Prairie, but he also managed to snag Tony Award Winner Leslie Uggams, Academy Award winner Shelley Winters, and TV and movie veterans Ted Cassidy (Adams Family) and Michael Christian (Peyton Place). How he managed that caliber of talent to appear in an exploitation film is a mystery, but add in Slim Pickens as a perverted Sheriff and Dub Taylor as a disgusting Justice of the Peace (both of whom look like they’re having a damn good time with their roles) and it certainly helps to elevate the films acting above what one would typically expect from this type of flick.
The summary says he’s an Elvis impersonator, but he feels less like the King of Rock, and more like a cheap Rhinestone Cowboy.
Lurch is 100% done with your shit.
At this point you just know she’s trying to make those honkies burst into flame with the pure power of her hatred.
On second thought, this type of movie seems right up Winter’s alley. Though she probably had second thoughts on the project when her jet almost crashed when she landed in Atlanta.
They were assholes…but at least they look like they were having fun.
The movie sort of feels like the racially charged cousin to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with the dinner scene being very reminiscent of Tobe Hooper’s own outing. The exception being that the local yokels are just slightly less deranged and inbred. But only slightly. They may not be killing and eating people, but they’re more than happy to add to Liz’s continuing trauma by holding a public ‘trial’ regarding Liz’s assault and ripping off her clothes to “prove” the rape, and then agreeing to Eddie’s farce of a marriage ceremony despite Liz being damn near catatonic the whole time. This is the type of film that relies less on using actions to outright horrify you (though it does that too), and instead focuses more on making the viewer progressively more uncomfortable by increasing the growing number of excruciating situations that Liz continues to find herself in. The initial rape was bad enough, but not being able to escape, not being able to get help, and the continued assaults and torture just continue to add up. To add to the viewer’s (and characters) discomfort, the worst scenes, including the assaults, are shot at a slower 100 frames per second, prolonging the trauma to the nth degree.
….Nope…..not even going there.
The film looks surprisingly good considering it’s small budget. It received a restoration several years ago, with the results making the film look better than it’s likely ever looked. It’s still filled with grain and some scratches, and the poor quality of the original film means that certain parts of brighter scenes are washed out, and the darker scenes lose some detail and can feel a bit murkish. But the film wouldn’t be an exploitation flick without it looking a little ‘dirty’, so the blemishes fit with the overall ‘feel’ of the film. There are some attempts of some more ‘arty’ shots, and the film does have its moments of visual grace and an excellently crafted climax, but in no way would it ever be considered a visual splendor.
This moment of artistic mastery is brought to you by Nikon. Nikon: We’re sorry. You deserved better.
Poor Pretty Eddie is the type of movie that has so many cring-y moments that you’ll feel like you need to take a shower afterwards. The dialogue is insensitive and often insulting, the plot is offensive, and the continued victimization of a single black woman by a bunch of grubby rednecks is painful on multiple levels. The movie tries to give itself style points by adding bizarre montage sequences to several scenes, including splicing in footage of the locals watching two dogs mating during the initial rape scene, but instead of being clever such scenes just add a slew of racist connotations that I ain’t gonna touch with a 50ft pole. The film itself looks okay and the acting, melodrama and all, is probably better than such a film deserves. But at its heart it’s still an exploitation film, so if that’s not your jam then you’re probably not going to have a good time.
Poor Pretty Eddie is available on several streaming platforms, including Amazon, iTunes, and free on Tubi TV.
It is also available on DVD/Bluray combo pack.