'Mudhoney (Meyer, 1965)' is based upon a novel penned by Raymond Friday Locke titled "Streets Paved With Gold". Set in depression-era 1933 amidst the small gossiping town of Spooner, Missouri, where the prohibition is looked upon without much concern enters Calif McKinney (John Furlong). He's on his way to California, but is in need of cash. Luckily for Calif, Lute Wade (a fantastic Stuart Lancaster) is in search of a farm hand, and it just so happens Lute's daughter, Hannah (Antoinette Cristiani) is a striking blonde bomb-shell. There's just one small problem.
She's married to Sidney Brenshaw (Hal Hopper, once again playing an utterly detestable villain), and he's just counting down the days until Lute's bum ticker gives up the game and he can sell the farm for a large amount of money. The main focus of the story centres around these four characters, and unlike the wife in 'Lorna', Hannah takes her marital vows rather seriously, despite the fact her husband is abusive.
Yet there's a storm brewing in Spooner, for the folk of this small town are prone to talk and are easily swayed by the ramblings of Brother Hansen (Frank Bolger). To exacerbate an already tense situation further, Sidney frequents a brothel run by the toothless hag Maggie Marie (Princess Livingston, previously spotted in 'Wild Gals of the Naked West (Meyer, 1962)' rather briefly) - a character that quickly turns from humorous to irksome. Her two daughters are the remarkably cute but deaf mute Eula (Rena Horten) and the top-heavy Clara Belle (Lorna Maitland) who appear at regular intervals to inject a little bit of spice into the proceedings.
Meyer's competent presence can be felt throughout this film, and it is clear that here is a director entering his stride. Misplaced comedy aside, this is an interesting story with a scathing attack on the Bible-wielding mindless masses - a message that may come as a surprise after 'Lorna'. Unfortunately the pacing slackens during the middle, and the nudity and sex offered feel a little shoehorned in to appeal to Meyer's regular audience.
But Meyer manages to reign it all together during the last moments, as events build to a thrilling climax. While the acting isn't great from the female cast members (and, let's be honest, it's not for their acting skills they were hired) the men of the film manage to root the story with a humanity that doesn't feel out of place. Thankfully, the characters are a little more complex than those found in 'Lorna', which allows some interesting issues to arise.
Despite this, 'Mudhoney' is distinctly lacking in something 'Lorna' had in abundance - clarity. The story makes some puzzling departures, and could easily have been trimmed in several places. While it is in no way as dire as 'Eve and the Handyman (Meyer, 1961)', Meyer himself considers the film as something of a failure due to a poor turnout. But he wasn't quite ready to abandon his roughies just yet.
I played part of it over after watching it - but turned the sound to mute just so I could concentrate solely on the visuals. (I turned off the sound because a couple of the characters are played a bit over the top which may turn some viewers off). Technically, it's a very well done film. Nicely photographed and edited. For the opening shots you only see the feet of the main character. In fact, 3 of the characters are introduced in this way - by first showing their feet.
The story takes place during the Great Depression. A drifter, Calif McKinney (John Furlong) stops by a dusty midwest town called Spooner. He is making his way to California (his mother named him after the state) but is short of funds. He is told that a nearby farm is in need of a farmhand so he stops by to inquire about the position.
At the farm, Calif meets owner Lute Wade (Stuart Lancaster) and his daughter, Hannah (Antoinette Christiani). Lute at first balks at hiring Calif because he is afraid that there might be problems with Hannah's husband, Sidney Brenshaw (Hal Hopper) - a sadistically ill-tempered drunkard who fought and seriously injured the previous farmhand. Hannah is the one who actually hires Calif because she knows Lute is in poor health and they desperately need the help.
Lute's son-in-law, Sidney Brenshaw doesn't seem to do anything around the farm except drink and occasionally beat his wife Hannah and force himself on her. Sidney boasts about inheriting and selling the farm after Lute dies. One day, Calif overhears one of their arguments and intercedes on Hannah's behalf. This makes Sidney very suspicious about Calif and Hannah having a relationship behind his back. Sidney's suspicions are well-grounded because Calif is very much attracted to Hannah.
When Sidney is not harassing Hannah or Calif - he spends his time at the nearby whorehouse run by a cackling, toothless woman, Maggie Marie (Princess Livingston) who adds much comic relief to the film. The two whores are Maggie's very own daughters, Clara Belle (Lorna Maitland) and Eula (Rena Horton). Two very buxom beauties in the Russ Meyer tradition. Eula happens to also be a deaf mute.
Adding to the dynamics of the Sidney/Hannah/Calif triangle is the fire & brimstone preacher, Brother Hansen (Frank Bolger) and his devout (and buxom) wife Sister Hansen (Lee Ballard). Plus an assortment of weird-looking characters sprinkled throughout.
But the one character that really stands out is Eula, the deaf mute. It's funny how she can be the embodiment of sexuality and yet exude an air of pure innocence. I don't recall ever seeing such a character like her. When the story reaches the point when madness and mob-violence seems to run rampant - it is Eula who gives hope for humanity.
This film is crazy & brilliant all at once
8.5 for now...