Monday, December 22, 2008

MY BOYS ARE GOOD BOYS (1977)


Curious to see what the talent behind such skin flicks as MIDNIGHT PLOWBOY, THE PIG KEEPER’S DAUGHTER and THE DIRTY MIND OF YOUNG SALLY was capable of when given a few extra dollars and a couple of real (albeit past-their-prime) actors to work with, I grabbed this budget DVD the minute it surfaced at my local dollar store. Those familiar with the work of Bethel Buckalew will recognize MY BOYS ARE GOOD BOYS for what it is: a cynical sexploitation filmmaker’s idea of family entertainment. Everyone else will be left scratching their heads and wandering what audience this thing was intended for.

Teenaged troublemaker Tommy Morton (Jim Dandy), eager to besmirch the reputation of his loving father (Ralph Meeker) for reasons that are never adequately explained, robs a liquor store and gets sent to a juvenile detention center. Judging from the level of Tommy’s rebelliousness and the way his father has apparently pulled strings to get him out of previous scrapes with the law (“I vouched for you five times in the past five months!”), you’d think Papa Meeker was a judge, politician or prominent businessman, but no, the poor put-upon slob is an armored truck driver. “I’d like to nail him so good it would hurt him forever!” snarls Tommy as he and his juvie hall cronies Chunky and Pokie scheme to bust out of the detention center, stick up dad’s armored truck, and then break back into the joint in time for the afternoon roll call. The three manage to clumsily pull it off -- with help from Tommy’s sister Priscilla, some ski masks and a few cans of knock-out gas -- but Dad figures it out quickly and tips off armored security investigator Dan Montgomery (Lloyd Nolan), who goes to the detention center to get the money back. Attempt at a twist ending is a bummer.

A film that seems hell-bent on leaving an unpleasant taste in the viewer’s mouth, MY BOYS ARE GOOD BOYS was the final credit for veteran screenwriter Fred F. Finklehoffe, who in addition to writing many musicals and Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland team-ups also penned BROTHER RAT and received an Oscar nomination for MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. His script plays like something written thirty years earlier and then sloppily revised by another party hours before cameras rolled -- which was probably the case, since this was his first credit in 14 years and Buckalew is billed as co-writer (Finklehoffe was dead by the time pic reached theatres). Meeker, the physical ravages of whatever sadly on display here, is okay in a rare sympathetic role but second-billed Ida Lupino chews scenery as his lousy wife. Both needed a better director than Buckalew at this point in their careers (Lupino could’ve made something out of the moldy script back when it was fresh). David Doyle brings ham to the table as Harry, head guard at the detention center and the only one who "understands” the kids, having spent eight years in juvenile hall himself for shooting his abusive dad; nervously awaiting the call from Aaron Spelling, he spits out the film’s title in his big show-stopper scene, underlining “good” in italic boldface caps. Old reliable Nolan, an actor who could file taxes onscreen and make it interesting, walks away from this one unscathed.

The photography by Don Jones looks like what you’d expect from the director of THE LOVE BUTCHER and SCHOOLGIRLS IN CHAINS. Car chase action is competently handled but Doug Goodwin’s depressing electronic funk score hinders an already downbeat story. Theme song by rockabilly songwriting legend Dorsey Burnette opens the film on a sour note. I’d love to know how Meeker and wife Colleen ended up with producer credits on this shabby project, which was released theatrically in 1978 by Buckalew’s frequent partner, Peter Perry.

Peter Perry says: “I didn’t produce that movie. I didn’t have anything to do with the making of it. All I did was distribute it. [Bethel Buckalew] is a real person. I used to use him in the early years as my production manager, but then he went off on his own and did those other things.”

7 comments:

Marty McKee said...

Are we sure Buckalew was real? Someone years ago on the Mobius board posited that Buckalew was a pseudonym for Peter Perry. I would love to read an interview with Buckalew, if he exists (or Perry, for that matter). I'm fascinated by those soft-X sex comedies--who made them, who saw them, and why--even though I can barely sit through any of them.

Tim Mayer said...

Congrats, Marty. You are made of sterner stuff than me. I can't take 5 minutes of those hicksploitation movies.

Temple of Schlock said...

Marty, I always thought Buckalew and Perry were one in the same as well, but my buddy Bob Plante interviewed Tallie Cochrane recently and she insisted they were two different people, and the source of the quote included here was a conversation I had with Perry less than 2 weeks ago.

Brian Albright said...

According to an old Variety article I found, Buckalew actually formed a production company with the Meekers called Media Arts Inc., which was intended as a sort-of personnel pool for non-union, low-budget films. It doesn't look like that concept went anywhere after MY BOYS ARE GOOD BOYS. Public records indicate that he divorced Marlene Buckalew (who worked on some of these films) in 1980.

Kim Gibbs said...

For some reason David Friedman hated Buckalew and always claimed that he couldn't direct and Perry was the actual director of his Novak movies. This is probably the cause of the rumours. (Also, I never believed that).

Temple of Schlock said...

Brian, I checked my files and the only other Media Arts production I found was MAG WHEELS (1978), another Buckalew film produced by Colleen Meeker and released by Perry. I have that on tape as SUMMER SCHOOL so maybe I'll dig that out and give it a spin.

Marty McKee said...

SUMMER SCHOOL is coming out on DVD in January.

http://tinyurl.com/ychaewk