The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 14, 2011

Mark Schuster, movie review: Stars’ early works worthy of a movie night

JOPLIN, Mo. — We all have skeletons in our closets. The entertainment industry is loaded with them.

Stars who have gone on to be living legends often start out small and have at least a handful of shady projects on their resumes. Today I focus on two such projects, obscure movies from the early 1970s with big stars and plenty of gumption that have been unjustly forgotten.

“Prime Cut”

I have two words for you: human sausage. “Has anyone seen Larry?” “No, but my, aren’t these sausages delicious? So tender and juicy É”

So it goes in “Prime Cut,” the demented 1972 potboiler starring Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman and Sissy Spacek in her first screen role.

Hackman steals the show as Kansas City meat wholesaler “Mary Ann,” perpetually chewing everything the movie places in his path, from scenery to the omnipresent sausages. Marvin plays a tough Chicago face-cruncher sent as an agent of “persuasion” after Mary Ann reneges on a debt.

When Marvin arrives on the scene and realizes that Mary Ann is peddling more than sides of beef, things get mighty sticky in Kansas City.

“Prime Cut” is a small, tight film that does what it does economically and with an amusing flair for the perverse. All the scenes that other movies of this ilk would cloak in darkness, “Prime Cut” sets during the blazing light of day.

Nude, drugged and dazed young orphans (of whom Spacek is one) are kept in pens and sold like cattle. A chase scene involving a combine harvester running roughshod through a wheat field is particularly memorable, as is the film’s climactic shootout. Music by Lalo Schifrin (”Dirty Harry”) provides a subtle, jazzy backbeat that keeps things moving.

“Prime Cut” is not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. It didn’t change society, and you won’t feel compelled to question everything you believe in after you watch it.

But it is a guilty pleasure; a grungy, sleazy, high-cholesterol thriller, hot-blooded and warm on a cold winter’s night.

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