Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Hard Road (1970)

          At one point in The Hard Road, which blends educational-film elements into a narrative framework, narrator Dr. Byron Clark poses a rhetorical question about a young man imprisoned for drug charges: “Will he be cured for good, or will he again seek the dreams and fantasies that are pushed out of a hypodermic needle?” On first blush, this sounds a bit like the uptight moralizing of Reefer Madness (1936), but on closer inspection, the language is actually somewhat restrained. And that, in microcosm, is the experience of watching The Hard Road. Structurally, the picture is an old-fashioned cautionary tale, explaining how a teenage girl’s pregnancy leads her into a lifestyle of moral rot. Yet in the particulars, The Hard Road has something that might almost be called nuance.
          Director Gary Graver, who also shot the picture, employs imaginative camera angles for drug-trip sequences, seemingly trying to capture both the appeal and the danger of hallucinogens. Similarly, the script portrays the protagonist’s parents as status-obsessed alcoholics, so it’s not as if the movie lays the blame for youth-culture excesses squarely on kids. The Hard Road isn’t a hip movie by any measure, but it’s not precisely square, either. After pretty suburban 17-year-old Pamela (Connie Nelson) gives up her baby for adoption, Pamela’s parents hope she’ll change her wanton ways. Dad gets Pamela a job as the receptionist for a talent booker, and a rock star she meets at work takes her to bed. Pamela also befriends a girl who turns tricks to pay for her boyfriend’s dope habit. Eventually Pamela gets pregnant again, breaking with her parents and finding herself adrift, with only unreliable crooks and drug addicts for support.
          Despite amateurish acting and that problematic narration by Dr. Clark, The Hard Road moves along fairly smoothly for most of its running time. Yet every so often, the picture stops dead for a bit of visual lecturing, as when animation and photos are used to track the spread of VD through the body. Therefore it’s awfully hard to guess the intended audience for this film. The picture is too scolding for the exploitation-flick crowd, and too lurid for family viewing. So is The Hard Road sincere or is it sleazy? Considering how much porn Graver has directed over the years, the needle tips uncomfortably toward “sleazy,” but still . . .

The Hard Road: FUNKY

No comments: