Friday, October 7, 2011

Oddball Film Report: BUMMER! (1973)

Look at that tagline. Was this flick aimed
at rapists?

   This is one report that won't take up too much space.

   Calling your movie "Bummer!" would seem to be a bad omen, wouldn't it? Hollywood is notorious for its superstitions, like never having a question mark in the title (thus, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT was a statement rather than a question). I guess those superstitions never crossed over into predictive titles like "Bomb" or "Drag." The most obvious thing about the title BUMMER! is that it leaves the door open for the predictable assessment "BUMMER! is a bummer!" Granted, there's nothing in the movie to counter the chosen title. I wound up with a copy because I wanted to see JOHNNY FIRECLOUD, and Something Weird Video had included BUMMER! as the co-feature (presumably because there was no other way to pawn it off on even their eclectic customer base).

   It's a good thing I enjoyed JOHNNY FIRECLOUD, because BUMMER! is exactly the sort of meandering, plotless (until the last two reels, which pick up considerably) 'hippie' flick one usually avoids. BUMMER! was one of David Friedman's 'legit' pictures made for the mass market, and thus only made for an R rating. Of Friedman's other 'mainstream' movies that I've seen (TWO THOUSAND MANIACS, JOHNNY FIRECLOUD, SHE FREAK), I've been fairly impressed. Even the 'dirty' movie of his that I saw (SPACE-THING!) had enough clever or dumb bits to be entertaining. BUMMER! had me wishing it were one of Friedman's sex films, since at least something interesting would be going on (actually, the film features quite a bit of nudity, but I had forgotten most of this until I went back and watched the trailer again).

   BUMMER! is what I guess you could call a "slice of life" epic about the lives of the members of a struggling band imaginatively named "The Group" and their three groupie chicks. No one here is really likable, but some of the characters are slightly less unlikable than the others. The designated loser of the bunch is the obese Butz, who can't get a girl, even a groupie, because he's a perverted jerk of a fat slob. He's also holding back The Group, but the others can't leave him because he owns a van. (It's That 70's Show, only it makes you want to kill yourself!) Mostly, we'll spend an hour watching these people interact, and steadily grow to hate them.

   Within the final stretch, we actually move into a real plot! This involves Butz trying to rape one of the groupies and killing her in the process, after which the entire gang is pulled over and arrested because Butz has a warrant on him for an earlier rape charge involving a groupie. At the station, it becomes clear this will end only in bloodshed and gunfire. This last bit isn't bad, technically speaking, but getting there is a chore. (And for the sake of anyone who might want to track down a copy of the film, it would be remiss of me to blow anything else.) The music isn't even much of a draw, but I admit this isn't my kind of music, so others might enjoy it more than I. Maybe you will enjoy "A far-out trip through a hard rock tunnel" more than I did. Being fluent in 70's slang will help you. Seeing this flick, I discovered that it really is a different language, and fortunately (?) I could rap this jive lingo, Turkey! (Not that I ever would speak that way in public, but I've seen enough films from the era to dig what these cats are talkin' 'bout.

   Happily, JOHNNY FIRECLOUD (a sort of BILLY JACK with more substance and less hippie preachifying) proved to have a lot more meat to it than I expected. But, it was BUMMER!'s one-sheet that I found, so it became the subject of this report.

   As is the custom with Something Weird Video, the DVD is packed with goodies. In this instance, though, there's not a lot of fun in the supplements. Firstly, there are the trailers for the two main features. BUMMER!'s trailer gives the impression that the film has a lot more plot/sex/action than it actually serves up. The trailer for JOHNNY FIRECLOUD on the other hand, may be Friedman's best work of all time (he wrote the trailers for most or all of his releases). Not only does the film have some impressive visuals and production values, and a top notch cast including Ralph Meeker, Frank DeKova, and David Canary, but the trailer announcer offers some of the best taglines I've ever heard ("It was now! Redskins no longer bit the dust, they just ate dirt!" "They pushed and shoved, squeezed and leaned, and leaned harder, until they bought themselves an all-American one-man Indian massacre!" "JOHNNY FIRECLOUD! A HATE story!"). That right there was worth the price of the disk. The other trailers here are for assorted 70's films that don't seem to fit into regular genres, including some 'wacky' looking comedies and a skin flick being pushed as an actual dramatic feature. It has to be the only SWV disc I've ever bought with trailers that I don't intend to watch again. Ever.

   The other extras are more interesting. Best is a neat little short about blind bidding, the practice of selling films to theater owners before they can see what kind of films they're buying. Then there's a girlie loop (from the 40s, maybe?) showing a striptease by a gal dressed as an Indian. Since BUMMER! features a detour to a strip club, this short manages to play into the themes of both films.

   The other thing on the disc is a commentary track over JOHNNY FIRECLOUD with David F. Friedman himself. Unfortunately, he doesn't spend a lot of time actually talking about what may be the best film his name was ever attached to. (Per usual, though, the late Mr. Friedman offers a colorful and entertaining commentary as he discusses various stages of his career in the exploitation/sexploitation industries.) Sadly, he doesn't perform similar duties for BUMMER!, which could have used a nice distracting commentary track.

   Those interested can purchase the double feature DVD direct from Something Weird Video here:

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