EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|DIRTY LITTLE BILLY (director/writer: Stan Dragoti; screenwriter: Charles Moss; cinematographer: Ralph Woolsey; editor: David Wages; music: Sascha Burland; cast: Michael J Pollard (Bill Bonney), Richard Evans (Goldie Evans), Lee Purcell (Berle), Charles Aidman (Ben Antrim), Dran Hamilton (Catherine McCarty), Willard Sage (Henry McCarty), Ronny Graham (Charlie Nile ), Josip Elic (Jawbone), Gary Busey (Basil Crabtree), Rosary Nix (Lou); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Jack L. Warner; Columbia Pictures; 1972)|
|"Offbeat western that thankfully doesn't
glorify the outlaw legend Billy the Kid."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
("Love At First Bite"/"Mr. Mom"/"Necessary Roughness"), former television commercials
director, debuts as a movie director with this surreal offbeat western
that thankfully doesn't glorify the outlaw legend Billy the Kid.
Cowriters Dragoti and Charles Moss characterize Billy before
his fame as the village idiot (history concurs), as he grovels to find
his bearings in the muddy town of Coffeyville by living with the tramp
gunslinger/pimp/card shark Goldie Evans (Richard
Evans) and his prostitute girlfriend Berle (Lee Purcell) in the
rundown saloon owned by the good-natured Jawbone (Josip Elic).
In the 1870s, mentally retarded teenager
Billy Bonney (Michael J Pollard) leaves NYC and arrives with his mother
Catherine (Dran Hamilton) and
his gruff stepfather Henry McCarty (Willard Sage) in the bleak dead-end prairie town of
Kansas. The hard-working Henry bought some farm property from Mayor Ben Antrim (Charles Aidman) and begins a new life as a farmer, but is
angered that lazy city boy Billy is useless on the farm. Billy is
forced to run away from the farm and ends up living in squalor in the
saloon with the town bad guys Berle and Goldie. After Goldie pulls a
gun on a buffalo hunter during a high stakes card game, that results in
a knife fight between the hunter's gal Louisiana (Rosary Nix) and
Berle, whereby Berle slices off her ear and Billy proves his loyalty by
sticking up for Goldie and trying to shoot the hunter with his own gun.
Though the gun backfires, Goldie still appreciates the effort and
responds by taking Billy into his gang and teaching him how to shoot.
At Billy's stepfather's funeral, Ben offers Billy a soft job in town
and tells Billy he hired a new lawman to kick Goldie out of town. But
Billy remains with Goldie and leaves town with him after Berle is
killed by the locals while making her town exit. The two try to join up
with Big Jim's cattle rustling gang hiding in the hills, but before Big
Jim shoots them Billy kills the entire gang and gets his first taste of
blood to start his mythic outlaw career.
Character actor Michael J. Pollard gives the role his usual bizarre performance of rolling his eyes and acting weird as a punky kid making his mark on the cold world. It works here, as this squalid, unromantic vision of the west has some beautifully realized visionary moments debunking the cowboy myth. It was the final film produced by mogul Jack L. Warner, who had cut his ties with Warner Bros. in 1972 and released this one through his former rival Columbia Pictures.
REVIEWED ON 7/10/2011 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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