The presence of the word “strange” in this film’s title represents truth in advertising, because the picture’s sole peculiar element—and it’s a doozy—is Rosalie herself, the sort of inexplicably clever wild child who exists only the imaginations of storytellers. Set in the remote deserts of the American southwest, the picture begins with a lyrically filmed burial scene that raises a zillion questions. The individual performing the burial is Rosalie (Bonnie Bedelia), and though viewers have not yet learned her name, she seems feral with her filthy burlap-sack dress and her ramshackle surroundings. (Never mind her immaculately groomed eyebrows and perfectly shaved legs.) Cut to Virgil (Ken Howard), a traveling salesman on his way to Los Angeles. He encounters Rosalie on a remote stretch of road, so he offers her a ride. She says she’s travelled some distance to reach her new home, a ranch owned by her grandfather.
Virgil delivers her to the ranch, only to discover the place abandoned. Then Rosalie slashes his tires, knocks him unconscious, and breaks his leg so he can’t escape. (One can’t help but wonder whether Stephen King saw this movie and derived inspiration for his novel Misery, subsequently filmed as the 1990 Kathy Bates/James Caan movie of the same name.)
Once Virgil regains consciousness, Rosalie explains her wacky plan to keep Virgil on the ranch forever as her lover, even though he’s a grown man and she’s just a teenager. Virgil tries various means of escape, but his immobility and the seclusion of the ranch are insurmountable obstacles. Adding to Virgil’s problems is Fry (Anthony Zerbe), a slovenly biker with the intelligence of a turnip and a tendency toward homicidal rage. Fry is obsessed with stealing a small cache of gold owned by Rosalie’s grandfather—who, if you haven’t surmised by now, is the fellow Rosalie buried in the prologue. Per the B-movie formula, director Jack Starrett and his collaborators put these lurid elements into a pot and wait for things to boil.
The Strange Vengeance of Rosalie has some enjoyably grungy scenes, though the film is far-fetched and overlong. That said, acting more or less puts the piece across. Bedelia makes a ridiculous role as credible as possible, Howard conveys the necessary shades of uptight exasperation, and Zerbe has a blast portraying a foaming-at-the-mouth psycho. If nothing else, the sight of Bedelia driving her mule through the desert as it pulls a four-poster bed containing the prostrate Howard is memorably odd.
The Strange Vengeance of Rosalie: FUNKY