Thursday, 7 October 2021

Mean Mother

Patch Adamson

Mean Mother
Directed by Al Adamson
& León Klimovsky
USA 1973
Severin Blu Ray Zone A

In a pre-credits scene, a pimp and his associates pay a visit to one of the girls who he has hooked on drugs, setting up for the audience just how bad this minor character is. Then he goes to a rooftop (of course it’s going to be a rooftop... it’s an Al Adamson movie) to buy some drugs off of a Vietnam war soldier called Beauregard Jones, played by Dobie Gray (credited as Clifton Jones). They try to cheat him so he takes out the pimp, his two henchmen plus the two corrupt policemen in the pimp’s pay before grabbing a plane back to the Vietnam war. He’s the... Mean Mother of the film’s title (although he doesn't seem to be wanting to procreate with anybody's mum in the movie so... it might be a bit of a duff title) and the opening credits include shots of Jones from the pre-creds sequence and shots of soldiers (which is a part of the plot which plays out within 5 to 10 minutes of the movie) and is genuinely one of the worst title sequences of any Al Adamson film I've seen to date.

If it could be called an Al Adamson film, that is.

Because what we have here, once again, is a patchwork movie put together by the half cut remains of a Spanish crime movie from two years prior, Run for Your Life (directed by León Klimovsky) with a load of new footage by Adamson (billed as Albert Victor) featuring a ‘parallel plot’ so that he could repackage and sell the movie to the youth of America as one of the growing trend of popular blaxploitation movies. And... it has to be said, it’s not very good. Not absolutely terrible but... yeah, not too far away from terrible either, although parts of it are entertaining, at the very least.

So the Spanish part of the movie has the main protagonist Joe, played by Dennis Safren, with Luciana Paluzzi, the gal from Thunderball (reviewed here) as his love interest. The story follows Joe, who runs from a court martial in Vietnam and goes to Rome, getting mixed up in smuggling and working for a criminal network. At some point it turns into a kind of secret agent movie when Joe is asked to help a Russian ballerina to defect from Spain (where she’s somehow working at the Royal Festival Hall?) and move her to London (wait, what?) but that's also about a valuable jewel she is in possession of and, to be honest, I suspect the great leaps in logic and garbled story line must be because of the bits of the film which got excised for this new, cross pollinated movie (I hope).

Meanwhile, Joe’s ‘mean mother’ of a friend Beauregard also leaves Vietnam and goes to Spain, where he gets mixed up with a girl who stole forged money plates from the mob and who leaves him high and dry, blaming him. With ‘the syndicate’ on his tail, he quickly flies over to Rome to connect up with Joe so they can get away from things with the finances from Joe’s new defecting ballerina job, which doesn’t go without its problems. Beauregard’s main love interest is played by Marilyn Joi, who has used a number of different names in various films and who has been in a lot of Adamson’s movies from this time. She’s always interesting to watch on screen so at least her performance was entertaining, to be sure.

In order to try and sell the idea that these two completely different in tone story elements are somehow part of the same film, Adamson manages to get Dennis Safren over for the new footage with Dobie Grey for two scenes. One is near the start where, even though he is on screen with no other characters other than Safren, Beauregard manages to hook up with Joe in Vietnam where they both decide to go their separate ways (to Rome and Spain). Similarly, there is a scene towards the end of the movie in Rome where the two also hook up. Alas, for Joe’s two scenes in the new footage, the actor seems to have a lot heavier hair and the style he used for the earlier film is not apparent (maybe he was also in the middle of shooting something else at the time)... so he will have really short hair in two scenes sandwiching a scene where it’s much fuller in a couple of places in the movie. Just in case you really were having trouble figuring out which parts of the films belonged to which shoot. Which, trust me, you won’t have any trouble with any way because one’s a Eurocrime movie and the other is a blaxploitation thriller so, yeah... and if you really are having trouble then another clue could be that the soundtracks for each movie are totally different too. Roberto Pregadio provides the Run For Your Life scenes with something appropriate to what’s going on there while Vic Caesar’s funky, wah wah guitar score for our ‘mean mother’ of a character does exactly what you’d expect from that kind of film. So, yeah... these two films don’t splice together seamlessly, for sure.

But, it’s not a chore to get through either and although the separate ending for Joe’s character doesn’t really carry the emotional weight I suspect it’s supposed to... what with half the movie being cut away... Beauregard and Marilyn Joi’s character have an okay ending. Although, their ending includes a car chase through a stretch of desert and I was having real emotional trauma that I was going to have to end up watching that damned Al Adamson car roll again at some point. Fortunately this doesn’t happen this time... that footage is not reused yet again and this is possibly why I was more on board with the ending more than any other factor, it has to be said. Would I recommend Mean Mother to anyone... no. It’s not something I would even highlight to fans of the genres involved (even the Run For Your Life part of the film is somewhat clunky) but I am at least glad I got to see it in the context of my watch through of the huge Al Adamson - The Masterpiece Collection box set from Severin. Also, this disc in the series has a pretty nice interview extra with Marilyn Joi where she talks about her time as a burlesque dancer and then meeting Adamson and going to work in the movies (and how she got some of those parts)... which is a really cool bonus feature. Now if I can just get through the next, similar patch up job of a film on the same disc in the box... I will be happier.

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