Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Girls on the Road

(Thomas J. Schmidt, 1973)
A very strange, boundingly trashy movie that is watchable mainly for its bizarre displacements. Having just graduated, a couple cute rich kids head for their parents' cottage in their parents' car - such rebels! In so doing they occasion a driving sequence which is like a funhouse ride of cheese - weaving all over the road, throwing their bras around, dissing cops and guitar-playing hippies and limp-wristed 'fags'. It's non-stop, outrageous, and very very bad. Soon though they pick up Michael Ontkean, as a manic-depressive Vietnam vet who gets extensive trippy-wavy tinted flashbacks where he recalls army discharge and encounter sessions. These are bad too but also kind of pretentious, in a totally failed way. Given Ontkean's unmotivated inciting rampage against a couple pool-playing louts, it stands to reason that he's the mass murderer they're prattling on about on the radio. But once they get to his guru pal's Big Sur retreat, it's pretty obvious pretty fast that we're in for a 'surprise'. In spite of the relentless parade of outrageous hairy freaks - including Pa Walton himself, Ralph Waite, as the lecherous guru - the wildly misfiring exuberance of the first half gives way to heavied-out psychobabble and dubious romantic interludes. Ontkean, an actual actor who actually acts, is as out of place as the surprisingly explicit commentary on post-traumatic stress. At the end, though, the bald hyperbole is restored, as they try to turn the whole thing into a horror movie by dint of a lot of screaming and some running around. One wonders, though, how the people who came up with this idea managed to avoid shooting an actual ending; the final seconds are desperately patched together with spit and chewing gum. The surprisingly clean, west coast 70s sunshine look of the whole thing only adds to the confusion.

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