70s Cinema: Prime Cut Review

It was a 70s marathon for me this weekend. For some reason I was just in the mood to clear some of the movies on my To Watch List and I just picked the ones from the 70s because it was such an interesting time for cinema.

Movies Watched:

Fritz the Cat

Prime Cut

Movies I’m Planning to watch:

Peeping Tom

The Driver

Don’t Look Now

Prime Cut makes for one exhilarating watch. First of all, you have the indomitable Lee Marvin as Nick, a gangster from Chicago sent to Kansas to collect a debt from meat plant owner name Mary Ann played by Gene Hackman. The only problem is, Mary Ann is a psychopath that also happens to be running a human slavery ring and doesn’t seem particularly interested in settling his debt. Robert Dillon mixes in sleaze, depravity and violence into his script and director Michael Ritchie matches the nastiness in the writing in the visual department. The film opens with an extend scene of a cow being processed into meat along with the remains of the last wise guy who made the mistake of asking Mary Ann to repay his debt. It’s disturbing stuff and that’s just the opening few minutes. Another particular horrific scene involves numerous drugged up girls sprawled out completely naked in cattle pens waiting to be auctioned off. What proceeds after is a nightmarish journey into scummy motels, creepy county fairs and desolate wheat fields. After watching this film, I guarantee you’re never going to look at a barn the same way ever again.

As far as actors go, I don’t think you can have a more explosive duo than Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman. Lee Marvin is Lee Marvin, which means he’s the epitome of cool. He’s calm, collected and is deadly with a Smith & Wesson Model 76 submachine gun. And who better to counter Lee Marvin’s stoic gangster than smarmy Gene Hackman? His Mary Ann is so disgusting and ruthless that he might be one of the most vile characters of 70s cinema. Unfortunately, Sissy Spacek as one of the girls Nick recues from Mary Ann’s human meat market is gorgeous to look at but isn’t really given anything to do other than look helpless or doped up.

For a film with such dark subject matter, Ritchie does the approximate thing by not being too graphic with the mayhem. Rather, heinous acts are shown off screen and the viewer is forced to assess the damage after the fact. There are two big action set pieces in the film that is worth noting. First off, there’s an action sequence that begins in a chaotic county fair and ends with chase with a combine through a vast field. Towards the end, there’s an epic shootout that starts out in a field filled with sunflowers and culminating in a thrilling climax in a barn.

Quite frankly, Prime Cut is a knockout. It’s incredibly hard hitting and can even be viewed as nihilistic, misogynistic and sadistic. Which means at its best, Prime Cut resembles the film Sam Peckinpah spent his entire career trying to make.

 

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4 Responses to 70s Cinema: Prime Cut Review

  1. Kingwho? says:

    Prime Cut was excellent, indeed. AND it had Sissy Spacek in the buff.

    • Dr. Lamb says:

      It has a CATIII feel to it. I believe it was Sissy Spacek’s screen debut AND yes she does look stunning in it. I felt kind of bad for her though, she really wasn’t given anything to do, “just get naked and look spaced out.”

  2. Martin says:

    You beat me to it! I have this recorded on my pvr, ready to watch and cover. It really is a great movie.

    • Dr. Lamb says:

      Martin, I KNEW this film would be right up your alley! I hope you’re still going to write a review on it. I can’t believe how underrated the film is. As far as I know, there’s a DVD release of it with no special features on it. That’s a shame. Criterion should really do something with it.

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