Sunday, December 11, 2016

Pelvis (1977)

          This one’s just plain confusing, not because the storyline is hard to follow—exactly the opposite, in fact—but because writer-director Robert T. Megginson can’t seem to decide what sort of a picture he’s making. As the title implies, Pelvis sorta-kinda riffs on the legend of Elvis Presley, depicting a rural kid who travels to the big city and becomes a singing star because he’s handsome. As Purvis (Luther Whaney) evolves into the icon known as “Pelvis,” he drifts further and further from authenticity, eventually becoming a coked-out zombie who performs while wearing silver face paint. Meanwhile, his girlfriend from back home, Betty-Lou (Mary Mitchell), chases Purvis to the big city in the hope of luring him back to life on the farm, and their local Preacher (Billy Padgett) tags along for his own reasons. Simple enough, right? Well, here’s here Pelvis takes a turn.
          Preacher is a horndog who digs bondage and cross-dressing, Betty-Lou’s a sex maniac obsessed with Purvis’ massive penis, and Purvis/Pelvis sings truly bizarre songs, the most outrageous of which is the upbeat number “Nazi Lady.” That the lyrics of “Nazi Lady” rhyme “lovin’” with “oven” should indicate how far Megginson exceeds the boundaries of good taste. The movie’s tunes are so inappropriate that they render Pelvis borderline nonsensical. This doesn’t appear to be a satire about the world elevating an incompetent to stardom, and audiences don’t react to Pelvis like he’s a novelty act, so what gives? The kicker is that some the lyrics are amusing, even in “Nazi Lady,” and many of the dialogue scenes in Pelvis are similarly droll. Whenever Megginson guides his enthusiastic actors through rapid-fire patter and sight gags, Pelvis works, intermittently, as a deliberately dumb comedy. And that’s despite a meager production budget and a cast full of no-names.
          Yet Megginson surrounds his best jokes with junk, from raunchy sex scenes to weird attempts at sincerity. Almost from the first frames, it’s hard to tell what to make of this picture, which isn’t precisely a comedy, isn’t precisely a musical, and isn’t even precisely a narrative. It’s more like a compendium of dirty and/or strange sketches, barely held together by a thin plot. Megginson even throws in an out-of-nowhere fantasy element toward the end when he references The Wizard of Os (1939). (Also referenced: The famous “crying Indian” PSA with Iron Eyes Cody.)
          Like most sketch-comedy movies, Pelvis is wildly inconsistent. Some of what happens onscreen is insultingly dumb, and some of it is exploitive, with naked women bouncing up and down for no reason except to provide cheap thrills. Yet buried within the dumbness and tackiness are a few genuine laughs. At one point, a groupie gives her credentials: “Who do you think make the Dead so grateful?” And in the fun opening scene, Preacher slowly reveals he’s a pervert by demanding more and more detail from Betty-Lou while she’s giving her confession of sexual adventures with Purvis. Right at the end of that scene, however, Megginson pulls a 180-degree turn from juvenile humor to an even lower form of comedy, revealing that the “confessional” is a two-stall outhouse. Oh, and perhaps the weirdest thing of all about Pelvis is that it was originally titled Disco Madness and later re-released as Toga Party. Neither title has anything to do with the movie’s content.

Pelvis: FREAKY

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