I Saw A Film!

Susan Sarandon is an owl-eyed hippy chick shacking up with a dope dealer who keeps promising to end his pushing days. But, in typical user style, he soon shoots up and not long after, he’s selling junk to some kids in the street. He doesn’t actually have any real drugs. He’s just selling the kids harmless pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, he encourages Susan to take some junk, and she ends up in a store marking up her face with lipstick and giggling. She’s soon picked up and brought to a hospital where her folks arrive and are suitably aghast. Daddy soon heads out to confront the evil fellow who turned his baby into a . . . well, a counter-culture pill-indulger and winds up in a fight with the petulant boyfriend. The kid ends up with head bashed in against the wall and dead! It’s a fantasy owned by so many parents of kids who end up swimming with the elements parents fear most.

Here is where Daddy meets Joe, played by Peter Boyle. Joe is wearing out his bar-stool acquaintances with his hot-headed patriotism and fantasies of violence. He’s loudly going on about how he wants to kill hippies and commies and, basically sounding like Travis Bickle from a much later movie. Dad blurts that he’s just done one in! Joe gets very excited and while Daddy realizes he’s made a terrible error he backs off it like a joke. This is not the place for a confession. But Joe immediately takes a liking to Daddy and buys him a drink.

Soon, we get a smidge of Joe’s life, and the bit of him running a furnace where my own father worked at CI Hayes in Cranston RI. Dad didn’t meet Boyle however, but the little connection is what made me finally pull this old film up. Joe’s home life and the intensity with which he bosses his wife is uncomfortable. Soon though the news story of the young pusher found dead sparks across the TV. Joe makes the connection and decides that Daddy’s spilt confession of a couple nights ago fits the crime. Joe settles down to clean his guns.

The second phase of the story is all Joe working his way into the corporate suit life of the somewhat upper-class family of the daughter. He uses his knowledge a bit threateningly, but he also wants to experience what the older man has. They are soon engaging in odd cross-class cocktail get-togethers to put their ladies together, but more to the point is the adventure the fellows soon take in the seedy drug and sex dens of the youth (the free love the fellows wind up availing themselves of does little to ameliorate their appetites for violence). Joe and Daddy don’t mind enjoying the cute hippy girls (daughters of others!), of course, but they also get ripped off, and this causes a hunt, and a violent confrontation where Daddy doesn’t realize his beloved daughter stands in the fire.

Sure it’s a heavy-handed parenting parable of blind hate and misunderstanding, but it’s also a Shakespearian level tragedy. Boyle does such a good job as Joe one can’t really imagine he’s acting. Sarandon is both cute and spookily affected. The turning-point in the conflict is bound to rile up a few righteous folks, and I daresay things have little changed and today there would be plenty to side with the murderous acts of the leads here. Even the general misconceptions about sexuality, recreational drugs, and counter-culture have little changed. Joe doesn’t even know how to say the word “orgy” but, he’s long desired to participate, despite his low regard for the young women who give him that opportunity.

This is running free on Prime in USA! USA! USA! It could do with a facelift, the frame rates are sometimes very bumpy.

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