Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Love and the Midnight Auto Supply (1977)

          Entertaining in a brainless sort of way, Love and the Midnight Auto Supply is partially the story of a redneck Robin Hood who contrives a scheme for funneling profits from his various criminal enterprises to a group of oppressed farm workers. Yet it’s also a sex comedy about the main character’s relationship with a madam, a love triangle involving a rich kid torn between a good girl and a hooker, and a political story tracking the adventures of a activist. These parts hang together about as well as the disparate elements of the soundtrack, which toggles between discofied riffs on “The William Tell Overture” and swamp-boogie grooves, some of which were generated by Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Tom Fogerty. The picture bombards viewers with just enough car chases, intrigue, rebellious rhetoric, and sex to keep things interesting, but it’s fair to say writer-director James Polakof hadn’t the faintest idea what sort of movie he was making. Is Love and Midnight Auto Supply a drive-in flick for the southern audience, a with-it counterculture story for the college crowd, or straight shot of exploitation nonsense? The answer to all of these questions is yes, because, with apologies to Donny and Marie, Love and the Midnight Auto Supply is a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.
          Michael Parks, enjoyably rural and bitchy with his cowboy hat, leather jacket, and snide remarks, stars as Duke, proprietor of Midnight Auto. He and his boys sneak into parking lots, strip cars belonging to rich folks, and re-sell the stolen parts. Midnight Auto adjoins a brothel operated by Duke’s girlfriend, Annie (Linda Cristal). Through convoluted circumstances, Duke gets involved with Peter (George McCallister), son of a local bigwig, and Peter’s revolutionary pal, Justin (Scott Jacoby). Together, these unlikely allies develop the aforementioned Robin Hood scheme. Explaining the details is pointless, since Polakof doesn’t worry much about consistent behavior or narrative logic, opting instead to rush from one colorful scene to the next. The picture is best when Parks occupies center stage, dispensing a darker hue of the good-ole-boy charm one normally associates with Burt Reynolds. Whether he’s barking at his sidekick (“C’mere, Stupid!”) or romancing Annie in a bathtub, Parks epitomizes southern-fried swagger. Those around him mostly flounder in search of roles to play, though everybody gets to do something cartoonish or nefarious or sexy. Long on vibe and short on everything else, Love and the Midnight Auto is a mildly enjoyable mess.

Love and the Midnight Auto Supply: FUNKY

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