Friday, February 2, 2018

The Year of the Yahoo! (1971)

          One wouldn't expect to find a tart political satire in the extensive filmography of schlockmeister Herschell Gordon Lewis, and, sure enough, The Year of the Yahoo! disappoints as much as it entertains. Some scenes in this low-rent riff on the classic political drama A Face in the Crowd (1957) are sorta-clever, but the filmmaking is crude, the performances are uneven, and the pointless insertion of a skanky sex scene suggests a crisis of faith on Lewis’ part, as if he feared the drive-in/grindhouse crowd wouldn’t tolerate a movie without at least a little sleaze. Yet while it’s not as if one can envision some better version of The Year of the Yahoo! redeemed by minor tweaks, the flick has a functioning brain and good intentions, two things one doesn’t normally associate with Lewis’ output.
          Amiable Claude King stars as Hank Jackson, a country singer recruited by craven political operatives to run for state office. Initially, Hank ennobles his campaign, articulating a common-sense platform with aw-shucks sincerity. But then party hacks start pushing him to the right, compelling Hank to take cheap shots at welfare cheats and other familiar targets. This doesn’t sit well with Hank’s liberal wife, so the script—by Allen Kahn, also credited with penning Lewis’ 1971 opus The Wizard of Gore—leads inevitably toward a showdown in which Hank must choose between his political career and his principles.
         Nothing that happens in The Year of the Yahoo! is surprising, and parts of the movie drag because of that. Still, the character work and the satirical jabs, no matter how clumsy, generate some interest in how things might resolve. The picture also boasts some wry touches, as when Hank—seated on horseback for the filming of a cowboy-themed commercial—mistakes a camera cable for a rattlesnake and blasts the thing with his six-shooter. If nothing else, The Year of the Yahoo! reveals what Lewis could do with passable material—not much, but not nothing, either.

The Year of the Yahoo!: FUNKY


Unknown said...

Just back from looking over your other posts about H.G. Lewis, and I'm sorta surprised that nobody's mentioned this about him:

The Cinema of Herschell Gordon Lewis was basically his hobby.
By day, Lewis was a highly successful advertising man. For years, he presided over his own agency in Chicago, which was his principal source of income throughout his life.

Lewis started making his cheapie movies as a lark, a way to fill his off-hours.
When they proved to be moneymakers in the boonies, nobody was more surprised than he - and nobody who owns his own business turns down another way to make money ...

You don't mention this in the review, but may I make the guess that there are more than a few "commercials" for the politicians depicted herein?

So sometime, if a reader says to you that "Herschell Gordon Lewis must have been a mad man!" ...
... insert your own joke here ...

By Peter Hanson said...

Helps illuminate why "Yahoo" is among his most tolerable pieces, since it's essentially about advertising.

Guy Callaway said...

I had one of HGL's marketing books for the longest time.
What's fascinating about his work is the films actually got WORSE as he progressed.
I know he did them solely to cash in, but you'd think he might of picked up something along the way?
Sorry if you've covered this one, Peter, but if you haven't seen his 'Miss Nymphet's Zap-In' (1970), well...there are no words. ;)