Monday, November 3, 2008

Fleshburn (1983)

...aka: Fear in a Handful of Dust

Directed by:
George Gage

In 1975, Navajo Indian Calvin Duggai (Sonny Landham) deliberately abandoned five men to die in the desert because of an argument involving tribal rivalry and the powers of Indian witchcraft. Four psychiatrists testified that Duggai was not capable of distinguishing right from wrong and recommended he be institutionalized. Years later at the "State Hospital For the Mentally Insane," Calvin suffers from 'Nam flashbacks, escapes through the air shafts and kills a friendly hunter who picks him up hitchhiking. He then decides to get back at the four shrinks who helped put him away. One by one, he kidnaps them, ties them up, throws them into the back of a truck and drives miles out into the middle of the desert and drops them off. There they must face the extreme heat, dehydration, starvation, snakes, scorpions, birds, etc… and Calvin, who is off in the shadows with a high-powered scope rifle watching their every move AND using his powers of witchcraft to strike out at them. Thankfully, one of the victims (Steve Kanaly, from the TV show "Dallas") gave up head-shrinking years ago for a job as a park ranger and helps everyone survive by digging holes to sleep in, hunting rabbits and using cacti for food and water. He also has to make peace with the jealous husband (Robert Chimento) of his former lover (Karen Carlson). Macon McCalman (who had a small role in DEAD & BURIED) is the fourth doctor, an overweight, bald, homosexual with a broken leg who reacts to the stress by becoming a born-again Christian! Not quite as funny as the "I'm a lesbian but I guess I'll stop it" line from EVIL COME, EVIL GO, but still...

Though watchable for the most part, it's by no means a great film and the annoying non-ending will leave a bad taste in your mouth. It was based on the novel 'Fear is a Handful of Dust' by Brian Garfield. Also with Robert Alan Browne. The husband and wife team of Beth Gage (she co-wrote) and George Gage (he also produced) went on to make the documentary FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN (1996), which involved Tenth Mountain Division soldiers and was narrated by Kanaly. It was nominated for the prestigious Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.


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