Monday, May 9, 2016

#2,093. Pigs (1973)

Directed By: Marc Lawrence

Starring: Toni Lawrence, Jesse Vint, Catherine Ross

Tag line: "Once the pigs tasted blood... No one could control their hunger!!"

Trivia: This movie was also released as Daddy's Deadly Darling

It’s been a few hours now since I watched director Marc Lawrence’s 1973 horror movie Pigs, and I still can’t decide if it’s a masterpiece or a mess.

Hell, it's probably both!

After disposing of a nurse’s uniform by the side of the road, Lynn (Toni Lawrence, daughter of the film’s star / writer /director) continues driving down a dirt path, eventually stopping at a small café that’s looking to hire a new waitress.  She applies for the position, and is hired on the spot. 

The café is owned by Zambrini (played by Marc Lawrence himself), a one-time circus performer who, rumor has it, was badly injured on the job and nearly died. Nowadays, he passes time by digging up the corpses in a nearby cemetery and feeding them to his carnivorous pigs. 

Zambrini’s neighbors, a pair of sisters named Miss Macy (Catherine Ross) and Miss Annette (Iris Korn), fear for their safety, and tell the sheriff (Jesse Vint) all about Zambrini’s cemetery raids. The two are even convinced that the deceased bodies he brings back are themselves turning into pigs!

Despite his tenuous relationship with the locals, Zambrini and Lynn hit it off rather well. Their bond is further strengthened when Lynn, who clearly suffers from daddy issues, suddenly starts killing people. 

With Lynn's grip on reality slipping fast, Zambrini does what he can to protect his young employee, hiding her from the sheriff and tossing the bodies of her victims to his pigs. But is their tenuous relationship destined to last?

Yes, this synopsis is a bit strange, but it’s nothing compared to what happens over the course of this movie!

Pigs, also known as Daddy’s Deadly Darling, was a low-budget pet project for Marc Lawrence, a former actor who appeared in a number of Hollywood classics (Key Largo, The Asphalt Jungle) before being blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee. As feature films go, Pigs was Lawrence’s only solo directorial effort (he co-directed 1965’s Nightmare in the Sun with John Derek), and his inexperience shows (in one scene, as his Zambrini is laying Lynn down in her bed, we can see Lawrence waving his hand, motioning for the camera to move in for a close-up).

What’s more, Pigs features a number of weird scenes that seem to come out of nowhere. Soon after the sheriff speaks with Miss Macy and Miss Annette, promising to pay a visit to Zambrini and talk to him about his pigs, there’s a bizarre dream sequence in which Zambrini, dressed as a clown, bursts into the old ladies’ front room and threatens them. Which of the two women had this dream? Or was it Zambrini? We don’t know for sure, and the sequence is never explained.

Also quite unusual is the brief romance between Lynn and Ben Sharp (Paul Hickey), who, aside from the sheriff, is the only customer to ever visit the café. Smitten with Lynn, Ben takes her out for the evening, then tries to rape her in the front seat of his truck (the sheriff, who just happened to be driving by, stops the attack). A scene or so later, however, the action switches to Lynn’s bedroom, where none other than Ben Sharp is lying in her bed, watching her undress! She likely lured him there to take her revenge, but these events transpire so abruptly that I was left wondering if the attempted rape was real or yet another dream.

And yet, despite all this, Pigs has an energy that is hard to resist, thanks in large part to the performances delivered by it's father / daughter stars. Marc Lawrence plays Zambrini as a crusty old codger who, aside from his pigs, doesn’t have a friend in the world, yet it’s Toni Lawrence’s portrayal of Lynn that really hits home. In her capable hands, Lynn goes from a shy, unassuming newcomer to the most disturbed character in the entire movie.

In addition, Pigs has a breezy title song (“Somewhere Down the Road”, written and performed by Charles Bernstein) that actually narrates the opening scene (Lynn is driving while the song plays, and the lyrics urge her to “go to the end of the road”). All of this, combined with a slew of “WTF” moments, makes Pigs a low-budget clunker that I know in my heart I’ll eventually watch again

… and again

… and again.

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