Monday, September 15, 2014

Bonnie’s Kids (1973)

          An all-too-common storytelling technique among ’70s filmmakers catering to the drive-in market involved taking elements that worked in other low-budget movies and jamming them together for maximum pulpy impact, even if narrative dissonance resulted. As a case in point, the action thriller Bonnie’s Kids includes ingénues, lesbians, mobsters, horny rednecks, sleazy photographers, a heist story right out of an old film noir, and lurid scenes that could be generously described as attempts at sex comedy. Based on sheer percentages of screen time, Bonnie’s Kids is a crime movie by default, but there’s a lot of cinematic wandering amid the film’s 105 undisciplined minutes. And yet as awful and sloppy as the preceding description makes Bonnie’s Kids sound, it’s not a completely terrible movie. The performances by leading lady Tiffany Bolling and supporting actor Alex Rocco are tasty, the plotting is relatively intricate, some scenes contain a modicum of wit, and there’s more than enough sex and violence to keep the viewer’s reptile brain engaged.
          The story starts in the deep south, where sexy sisters Ellie Mae (Tiffany Bolling) and Myra (Robin Mattson) live with their drunken lout of a stepfather because their mother, Bonnie, died two years previous. After the stepfather tries to molest Myra, older sister Ellie Mae unloads a shotgun into his chest, and the sisters flee to L.A., where Bonnie’s brother is a businessman. Before long, Myra gets romantically involved with a predatory lesbian, while Ellie Mae gets roped into transporting a package across state lines for gangsters, which brings her into the orbit of fellow courier Larry (Steve Sandor). Once Ellie Mae seduces Larry, she persuades him to open the mysterious package they’re carrying. It’s full of cash, so Ellie Mae talks Larry into running away with her—and the money. Predictably, the Mafia doesn’t the theft lightly, so gunmen Digger (Timothy Brown) and Eddy (Rocco) are sent to recover the loot.
          The first half of Bonnie’s Kids is scattershot, but the second half works fairly well as a lovers-on-the-run melodrama. There’s even some real tension toward the end, despite Ellie Mae’s annoying tendency to shout, “What are we going to do?” every five seconds. Writer-director Arhtur Marks, who cut his teeth directing episodes of Perry Mason and later made several lively blaxploitation flicks, keeps the pace brisk and seizes every opportunity to showcase the curvaceous figures of starlets. One can do a lot better in the world of tacky ’70s exploitation pictures than Bonnie’s Kids, but one can also do a lot worse, because hints of real filmmaking periodically emerge from the boobs-and-bullets muck.

Bonnie’s Kids: FUNKY

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