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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Vengeance Is Mine (Aka Sunday In The Country)

This is one of those movies you buy instantly based on the cover art alone without thinking about it. Most of the time it turns out total crap, but not this one oh no. Even a cursory glance will tell you this movie kicks ass, but I recommend taking a good long look. The manically angry visage of Ernest Borgnine brandishing a shotgun was simply too much for me to let it slip through my ultimately bewildered fingers. Unfortunately this is another one of those movies that has zero clips or even a trailer for it on the internet. If somebody would recommend a good A/V interface for a Mac to me I could have rectified this...

Have a look at the theatrical poster (One of several I have found pictures of, some better than other to be sure) in lieu of any other tidbits:

Plot synopsis: It's a sleepy Sunday morning out in the countryside of America. Farmers and their families are busy getting ready for church and all is quiet and peaceful. A carload of bank robbers from the city fresh off of a heist obviously gone awry murder an innocent couple, which later proves to have profound consequences when they try to hide out at a wayward farmhouse in their attempts to dodge the police. Unfortunately for these men, farmer Smith has his own very clear idea of how to interpret the law...

First things first, you probably noticed that the picture of my vhs copy and the movie poster feature very different titles (apparently it was also released under the rather enigmatic title of "Blood For Blood"). Considering the moral/ethical dilemas that take place in this film I feel the theatrical title is far more appropriate if for nothing else than its ultimately disarming nature. It's a pity the advertising wasn't equally different but if you confuse an audience too much they simply won't bother now will they? The main US theatrical poster unfortunately pointed out the rather light hearted title in order to attempt and draw more viewers.

Have a look:

I'm going to say this right now: this movie has pretty low production value. However enjoying exploitation/whatever films as I do I don't feel that this detracts from the film at all. The cast performs really well and quite naturally (the "crazy" robber is a bit over the top though) and the cinematography is actually pretty decent. The plot is well written enough to throw you for a loop repeatedly from start to finish. The wide open expanses and rolling hills of the country serve to both highlight and isolate all of the characters involved in a way city dwelling/suburban home invasion type drama can never really emulate. In the country neither party has anywhere to run to or hide and the stakes become that much higher. In other words the setting and atmosphere are of (in my opinion) seminal importance, much like the forest in my review of the film "Rituals" from earlier this year.

It's rather a surprise to find Ernest Borgnine starring in a flick like this one, but that was part of the appeal of why I wanted to see it. His character is an interesting one to say the least, being an aging farmer with very strict religious beliefs and worldview in the more relaxed and free thinking mid 70's. While his belief in looking after his own is indeed admirable, his bloodlust seems only further fueled by his dogmatic religious ideology as he quotes bible versus to justify pointing guns at criminals instead of calling the police as his poor young niece (who recently moved in with him while from college for the summer) begs him to to the point of hysteria. And to make matters worse his farmhand goes along with and defends his actions with total complicity. It seems the niece is the only character who really has her head screwed on straight and is viewing the world in a decent and rational manner.

I admit I am not entirely sure what this film is trying to say but I was reasonably entertained by what I saw enough to warrant repeated viewings for years to come (note: I have watched this at least four times in the three years I have owned it). It appears this film (not surprisingly) slipped under pretty much everyone's collective movie radar and I feel this movie deserves a little bit more credit. It's unfortunately another pretty decent movie of its era to fall into the inescapable depths of public domain. As such it is actually readily available on DVD and even vhs. Much like any public domain movie though the artwork fails to captivate anything near what the one pictured above manages to.

Here are a few of the examples I could find, some better than others...

The only release I have seen that is as visually eye catching as my Video Gems release is this one by none other than Paragon. These dudes are well regarded for their exceptional box art and this is no...well...exception. I apologize for the image quality but as I do not own this edition (I'm not some vhs collector scumbag that feels the need to own more than one edition of a damn movie on a single format) and the only high resolution image I could find was on a flickr page, so I had to knick this off of Amazon dot com:

This one is obviously a more bargain basement vhs offering. The graphic design is frankly quite aimless and doesn't actually appear to have a still from the movie anywhere on the cover. The picture on the right appears to be from the film "Emperor Of The North":

Here is one from Star Classics which has easily some of the worst airbrushed artwork I have ever seen. I'm not really sure what if anything to make of this particular edition:

This film has been available on DVD for a while now as well. Sometimes it's packaged as a double feature but is most commonly found on its own. Yet more insipid bargain basement graphic design. I wish these fellas would at least TRY for once in their lives. Again we are bombarded with images not necessarily from the film in question melded with lame countryside clipart:

So basically what I am trying to say is if you look hard enough this film is readily available. Being a rather obscure movie though it seems to just float on by with so much other flotsam and jetsam as litters many five dollar DVD bargain bins. If you see it lying about, I recommend giving it a watch- you might be pleasantly surprised.

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