Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Her Mind Was the Most Erotic and Dangerous Part of Her Body."

Mimsy Farmer seduces Robert Walker, Jr., posing as her long lost brother, in ROAD TO SALINA.

... so read the US posters for Georges Lautner's largely forgotten ROAD TO SALINA (1970), which lingers, if at all, in the popular memory as an embarrassment made by an aging Rita Hayworth shortly before her retirement from the screen. I watched it tonight, for the first time uncut, and can't figure out why it has acquired such a low reputation.

It still awaits its DVD debut, so you can only see it via an old Charter Entertainment VHS or DVD-R, where it's badly cropped and less than smoothly dubbed, so that works against it... and yes, at 52, Rita Hayworth is no longer GILDA, but that's not the movie we're watching. Rita's actually fine, playing a delusional woman in middle age, sick with loneliness, who mistakes a young drifter for her son, missing for the past four years; Robert Walker Jr. (the son of one of Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, fresh from his near catatonic appearance in the commune sequence of EASY RIDER) is very watchable as the boyish, spaced-out protagonist with Clint Eastwood's DIRTY HARRY haircut, who decides to take a break from his bad luck and be mothered for awhile... but he soon gets sistered too. Mimsy Farmer is electrifying as the sexy, teeth-baring, peroxide pixie whose free and faux-incestuous ways tempt Walker to stick around for awhile in a "hot box" in the middle of nowhere.

I would argue that ROAD TO SALINA is exactly what a Seventies film noir properly was and should have been: the depiction of a steamy Venus Fly Trap that you or I might easily wander into, and not be too quick to extract ourselves from -- not another second-hand gumshoe story set in a Hollywood B-movie version of the 1940s.

8 comments:

  1. Oh, Charter Video, how many of your titles are still crying out for a proper release? Not that I'd buy a DVD of The Spy With the Cold Nose anytime soon, but someone out there must want it.

    Here's a nice selection of Charter covers:
    http://www.critcononline.com/charter_entertainment_vhs_covers.htm

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  2. Now I'll have to hunt this down. You've made VERY curious-- thanks!

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  3. Miles2:26 AM

    Tim, you didn't mention the fabulous music - I highly recommend the OST - which actually more than Rita (who as you say, is perfectly fine) keeps the film on some kind of 'cinemap', at least it has done ever since 2002 when QT used it in KILL BILL V.2.

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  4. I'm writing a fuller review of the film for a future "Tapes From the Attic" installment, and the music will be addressed there.

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  5. I attended a theatrical screening of this two years ago, as part of a Rita Hayworth retrospective. I can't believe this gem has such a low reputation. The whole feel of the film is just to my taste. It's a sexy, weird and colorful mood piece, stunningly photographed in anamorphic Panavision. To top it all off, the print I saw was flawless! What a treat.

    Jonas..!

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  6. I'm glad to know there's a Panavision print in fine condition still around. It gives hope for a proper DVD release someday.

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  7. My old letterboxed ETC print of this underrated Seventies oddity is one of my most treasured video possessions, and I eagerly anticipate your review. What a vision Ms. Farmer is!

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  8. Anything starring Mimsy Farmer, I will need to see. I've been hooked on her (no pun intended) every since seeing MORE. Hope this gets a proper DVD release in the near future! Thanks for posting this, Tim.

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