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Article Archive >> Entertainment

Movies From the Black Lagoon: Vengeance is Mine

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Vengeance is Mine - 1974, Rated R

A righteous farmer (actually a right wing-nut who doesn't stand for mollycoddling criminals) encounters three ruthless bank robbers in this "Death Wish" type story from the swinging seventies.
The film opens on Adam Smith's farm, nestled in the quiet rural town of Locust Hill. It's Sunday morning and Adam is hustling his granddaughter, Lucy, into the pick-up so they won't be late for church. Along the way they pass a young couple changing a flat tire and exchange pleasantries while their radio warns that a trio of armed and dangerous men were last seen in the area, piloting a green Buick, after robbing a bank and murdering two tellers. Before you can even start a countdown for the unholy three they show up and exchange lead, rather than pleasantries, with the young couple. They steal the new wheels but spot a series of roadblocks and opt to ditch the car on a dirt road and search for a place to hole up.
Meanwhile, Smith stops off to purchase fertilizer after Sunday services and it's obviously the highlight of his day. We learn here that it's just him and Lucy now and that Mrs. Smith has passed on while Lucy's mom has gone AWOL due to generation gap issues with Dad. At the same time our crooks spot the farm and set out to cut the phone lines. The group consists of two old school gangsters and an upstart, trigger-happy psycho, named Leroy.
The Smith's arrive home and proceed to eat dinner. The bad guys descend on the house and then this film opts to go in an entirely different direction with Smith proving to be a pretty sly boot.
Smith answers his door toting a huge shotgun and blows a hole through one of the older gangsters, big enough to read the paper through. He then ties up the other two, and with the assistance of his hulking farmhand Luke, plops them down in a field rife with cow pies. Next they get a lecture on how times have changed and it becomes clear that Smith isn't too anxious to call the cops and would prefer to rely on his own sense of justice.
This turns out to be a pretty entertaining film despite the fact that the script, and direction, by John Trent is pretty flat. What saves it is the casting of two of Hollywood's most accomplished character actors in the leads. Ernest Borgnine stars as Smith and manages to create a full-fledged character without the benefit of a well-crafted screenplay. He's able to give Smith equal measures of arrogance and self-doubt, which are played almost simultaneously when Lucy calls him on his actions in the face of his religious beliefs.
Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde) plays Leroy as an amoral, back stabbing whiner with an attitude problem. His porcine features and puppy dog eyes make him perfect for the role of a simpering fool who you should never turn your back on. Even the viewer will want to strangle this guy and his nasally New Jersey accent is another minus as every vowel is spat out of his mouth so hard that you'd think it was burning his tongue. The pair also gets ample support from Hollis McClaren as Lucy. She's very good here but is best known for her wide eyed turn as a dope smoking flower child in Louis Malle's "Atlantic City". Add in some Sam Peckinpah styled bullet ballets and just a little emoting from Borgnine and this effort becomes the perfect B-Side for any Dirty Harry thriller you have on deck for tonight. All that and it can be found in bargain bins for about $2.99.
Best Line: "What possible reason could you have for chaining two people on a manure pile and shooting guns at them."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.

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