Tuesday, August 9, 2005


Let's take a look at the recently released Lee Marvin cult classic, PRIME CUT (1972). Now, I'm a huge Lee Marvin fan – I love him in everything from CAT BALLOU to THE DELTA FORCE – but I'd never managed to see this unheralded Seventies pulp potboiler until Paramount released this new disc from their vaults. 

What a great, sick, twisted little film. It's amazing that this was a major studio release. Ahh, the Seventies...

Eternally gruff Lee Marvin plays Nick Devlin, a freelance tough guy and sometime enforcer for the Chicago Irish mob. They send him to Kansas City because the local crimeboss, Mary Ann (a youngish Gene Hackman), hasn't been paying them his share of his earnings. He owes them a half-million, and they want Devlin to get him to pay up or shut him down completely. 

Mary Ann's a true monster. He runs a meat packing plant and also runs a white slavery business, raising young girls in an orphanage and then selling them off as if they were cattle. His hot dog-loving brother, Weenie (Gregory Walcott of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE) is a borderline psycho, who disposes of Mary Ann's enemies by grinding them up into sausage. 

Devlin shows up and finds Mary Ann uncooperative. He rescues one of the girls, Poppy (a stunningly gorgeous Sissy Spacek in her first feature role), from the slave pens, and before long, he's making a one-man commando assault on Mary Ann's ranch. 

PRIME CUT is a great, perverted little action exercise from underrated director Michael Ritchie (THE BAD NEWS BEARS, FLETCH). While the tone of the entire film is ironic and somewhat satirical, it works beautifully as a brutally violent crime thriller as well. Marvin and Hackman are excellent in their roles, with Marvin being allowed to display a little more humanity than is usual in his tough guy roles – he even smiles a few times. Walcott, as the thuggish Weenie, is also great – you really come to despise the guy. And Spacek's a big surprise. Aside from how unexpectedly lovely she is, she also plays her part with an unaffected innocence that never seems forced or artificial. 

Paramount's DVD is an utterly a bare-bones affair – there's nothing on it but an anamorphic widescreen transfer and a new 5.1 sound mix. Nonetheless, it looks gorgeous, it's a great movie, and it's highly recommended.

BUY: Prime Cut