Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Girls on the Road (1972)

...aka: Hot Summer Week

Directed by:
Thomas J. Schmidt

Self-proclaimed "wallflowers" Karen Moore (Dianne Hull), bespeckled class valedictorian, and Debbie Rae (Kathleen Cody), blonde cheerleader, plan a week-long trip to Big Sur for their graduation and to get away from their overly-strict parents. Before they arrive at their destination, the little hellraisers break about every single traffic violation in the course of about two minutes, cause a traffic accident by slamming on their brakes, cause a second accident by flashing a guy, drive around flipping everyone the bird and get pulled over by the cops for "littering" (i.e. throwing one of their bras out the window). They discuss losing their virginity, argue a little and giggle a lot. Just missing out on a news broadcast about a psycho strangler on the loose, they also decide it would be a swell idea to start picking up hitchhikers. Well, except for ones who are ugly ("Ugh, who'd pick them up?") or gay ("That's all we need... a couple of fags!"). I guess some could view this as being typical teenage behavior, but it didn't exactly make me not want to see them cross paths with the serial killer. Which, of course, is exactly what happens.
The misadventure of the carefree girls are cut with the story of Will (Michael Ontkean), a young soldier just back from 'Nam who's naturally pretty fucked up. Blue-tinted flashbacks show his therapy sessions, where he's basically brushed off by his uncaring shrink (Michael Kopsche). Will gets into a bar brawl, smashes a bottle over a guy's head and kicks another in the crotch right before hitting the highway to hitch a ride. Guess who pulls over to give him a lift? Why Karen and Debbie, of course! Will's on his way to "The Institution;" a free love hippie commune where he thinks guru John (Ralph Waite, the patriarch of The Waltons) can help him. Karen ends up falling for troubled hottie Will, while Debbie becomes intrigued by older man John, but both are apprehensive about giving up their virtue to either of those sketchy cats. Not even up for consideration is a weird-o hippie named "The Maker" (John McMurty), who carries around a dove, stares intensely at the girls, likes to wear glittery face paint and reminded me of Buffalo Bill from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.
Primarily a coming-of-age tale where our naive heroines must quickly grow up after being forced into various unpleasant, bizarre and/or sexual situations, it also certainly has a place in the horror genre (and was promoted as such on video), with the serial killer aspect, a stragulation, various mentally-disturbed characters and a killer who - once finally revealed - goes completely nutzoid and attacks with an axe. The acting isn't bad, but there's a God awful AM radio tune ("Fantasy in Love") that plays repeatedly and the film doesn't appear to have actually been finished, concluding with a highly unsatisfying freeze frame right when things start getting good.
The cast includes Pamela Serpe (wife of actor Greg Evigan) as a hippie seductress, Cliff Emmich as a truck driver, stuntman-turned-director Charlie Picerni and 70's skin flick queen Uschi Digard, who can be seen for about five seconds sitting on the beach. There's no DVD to my knowledge, just an ancient VHS released by Unicorn Video.

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