Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Servin' Up a Heapin' Helpin' of Southern Fried Cinema

Before there was Honey Boo-Boo, before there was "My Big Redneck Wedding" and before there was "The Beverly Hillbillies", there was "The Louisiana Hussy" (1958), a hard to find slice of what I like to call Southern Fried Cinema: movies about the steamy lives and loves of folks down south, pre-1964.

These flicks usually feature one or all of the following: cast members with only four teeth (three of which are buck); characters named "Clem" or "Lulabelle"; ramshackle houses where chickens and pigs roam free; a general store where folks meet to shoot the breeze and drink hooch; a local minx who sports tight clothes and says stuff like, "I swear, it sends a shudder up mah spine..."; and lots of furtive sex, sex, sex, sex, SEX.

Some of the better known entries in Southern Fried Cinema include "The Long, Hot Summer" (where prim and proper Joanne Woodward is ordered by Big Daddy Orson Welles to shack up with hunky drifter Paul Newman. Sound parental advice, if you ask me), "A Walk on the Wild Side" (set in a Big Easy whore house where Capucine and Jane Fonda toil for madame Barbara Stanwyck) and "Hurry Sundown" (where Michael Caine tries to rob a poor but honest white family and an honest but poor black family out of their land). "The Louisiana Hussy", on the other hand, is a decidedly lower budgeted B&W feature with a no-star cast set among the denizens of "The Pitt" in swamp country. Now sit a spell and try and follow the plot.

Our tale begins with a bang--literally: no sooner have the opening credits faded than an unidentified female runs out of a fancy house, hops on a near-by horse and rides like the wind, all the while pursued by a posse of men with guns a-blazin'.

Next, we cut to "The Pitt" where brothers Jacques (Peter Coe, who never goes anywhere without his stocking cap) and Pierre (Robert Richards, who sleeps in his underwear) run a fur, fish and Spanish Moss business. Relations between the bros have been tense ever sine Pierre became engaged to Lili (Betty Lynn, best known as Thelma Lou, Barney Fife's Mayberry cuddlemate). Jacques, you see, was hoping to marry Lili himself. In fact, he's so pissed off that Pierre cut him out that he refuses to attend the wedding and tosses Pierre's suitcase in the drink. Like I said, he's pissed.

While the rest of the town attends Pierre and Lili's wedding, Jacques and old codger Cobb are out clearing Spanish Moss. Then a withered old "Gris-Gris woman" appears to announce that she's found an unconscious gal (Nan Peterson) in the under brush. Hmmm, who could that be? Jacques and Cobb take her over to Pierre and Lili's house (the best place in The Pitt, plus they have indoor plumbing) and alert the local medic named--no fooling!--Dr. Opie (Tyler McVey, recently seen in Roger Corman's "Night of the Blood Beast").

When the patient comes to, she says her name is Minette Lanier. Dr. Opie recommends a few days rest and says she shouldn't be moved. This totally upsets Pierre, who was hoping to consummate his marriage to Lili, but with Minette hanging around, well, shoot, how could they? But the anxious new hubby shouldn't have fretted over any missed nooky opportunities. No sooner has wife Lili gone on a quick errand than Minette (propped up on pillows and pulling the front of her nightie down), purrs for Pierre to give her a smoke. Then she motions the newlywed to sit on the bed so they can (ahem) "talk". Before you can say "Open mouth, Insert tongue", Minette and Pierre are making whoopskie. And who should stumble upon the copulating couple? Brother Jacques, who just happened to be passing by the open bedroom window!

Even though Minette nearly sucks Pierre's earlobe off, the groom manages to free himself from her grasp. From then on, Pierre calls Minette "a bad woman" and can't get her out of his house fast enough. Smart cookie Minette, however, quickly moves on to Jacques. She tells him that Pierre took advantage of her and, before you can say "Open mouth, Insert tongue", Minette and Jacques are quickly making whoopskie themselves. Jacques is so nutty over Minette, in fact, that he not only moves in with Cobb so Minette can stay at his place, he finally removes his stocking cap. He also severs his business relationship with Pierre.

Later on, Minette sashays over to the cabin of the Gris-Gris woman. Minette wants the old crone to hand over the expensive rings she stole off her fingers--and even threatens to dunk her hand in a pot of boiling soup if she doesn't comply. No dummy, the old crone forks the baubles over. Naturally, Minette can't help flashing her jewelry in front of the bedazzled Lili, who waits on the gal hand and foot, much to hubby Pierre's annoyance( it's still pretty clear he and Lili haven't consummated their union yet).

Doc Opie, meanwhile, wonders why name "Minette Lanier" sounds so familiar. He checks a few back issues of the local newspaper and reads where a rich gal named Minette Lanier had recently committed suicide--and she looks a lot the Minette Lanier currently swanning around the Pitt. Pierre and Lili also get involved and learn the following: Minette Lanier is really named Nina. She was hired to look after the real, wealthy Minette after a horse riding accident. The two women become such chums, in fact, that Minette let Nina borrow her fancy duds. Then Nina decides Mr. Lanier needs a new, healthy wife: namely, her. So she dresses up in Minette's clothes and does the wild thing with hubby. After the deed is done, Mr. Lanier deeply regrets his lapse, but it's too late: wife Minette caught the couple in the act and promptly offed herself in despair. Seconds later, the grieving husband catches Nina going through his late wife's jewelry. She grabs some swag, he grabs a gun and the next thing you know Nina is riding out of town to the sound of gun fire. Later, in his guilt and grief, Mr. Lanier will start hitting the sauce the big time.

Wait, there's more! Back at the Pitt, Pierre confronts Minette/Nina about her sordid past and orders her out of town. He even drives her half way and gives her bus fare. Pierre then dumps Nina by the side of the road like the trash she is. Pierre is no sooner out of sight, however, when Nina flags down a Cadillac and pretends to be a stranded lady in distress. The male occupant is more than eager to help and Nina, sensing she has a new fish to fry, presses her body up close in gratitude for all his help...

Over at the Pitt, Pierre and Jacques finally make amends over the Minette/Nina debacle. They even make up over Lili marrying Pierre. The brothers are back in business, too. While Jacques makes a new sign, Pierre and Lili finally have the time to consummate their marriage. All is right in the world, again.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy "The Louisiana Hussy" would be at the drive-in on a warm summer night, munching popcorn and sipping Cokes. This "B" feature was a bit racier than the usual Hollywood fare circa 1958, which was probably its biggest selling point. Besides sucking on earlobes, Minette/Nina twists a lot of sheets into knots and viewers actually see the shadows of Jacques and Minette/Nina moving up and down as they do the nasty. Another shocking bit has the stocking cap free Jacques extinguishing a candle on a near by table as he and his nefarious cuddlemate begin their muskrat lovin'. Perhaps the raciest aspect of the flick was that Minette/Nina was not punished for her antics. After all, an innocent woman is dead, her identity was stolen, her heirloom rings pilfered, her husband has become a heart broken drunk and two brothers came to near deadly blows over this swamp rat. Yet Minette/Nina doesn't feel a bit guilty and, having more lives than a cat, quickly moves on to her next patsy. Even in the waning days of the Motion Picture Production Code, bad girls still had to pay for their sins. After all the trouble she caused in "Kitten With A Whip"(1964), Ann-Margaret felt bad enough to sacrifice herself in the end. Sandra Dee still got preggers after doing it with Troy Donahue in "A Summer Place"(1959). And for poor Connie Stevens had to bear the shame of an illegitimate baby (and losing Bert Convey!) in "Susan Slade"! Not until "The Last Seduction" did movies feature such an unrepentant anti-heroine as Minette/Nina.

Until next time movie lovers, Happy New Year and remember: Save The Movies!

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