MERLE BERTRAND LOOKS AT “HICKS FLICKS”

We live in a world that grows more specialized by the second. What with 500 or so cable/satellite channels niche marketing our television viewing habits into increasingly smaller audiences, (which, not incidentally, are thus more easily targeted by advertisers), and once-basic food items now available in a dizzying variety of choices, common experiences and shared tastes are rapidly giving way to cult favorites and specialty flavors. We’ve gone from a weekly “Wide World of Sports” on one of only three television networks, to networks like ESPN carrying nothing but sports, to stations like the Golf Channel which are devoted to one and only one sport.

As such, it should come as no surprise that one can also find this trend in the entertainment industry. Filmmakers and audiences, of course, have long since been familiar with such genres as the Western, the Romantic Comedy, and Action-Adventure films. Now, writer and film journalist Scott von Doviak has pulled together a study of a whole new genre from the bits and flotsam of the celluloid universe, one that sometimes seems to draw a little bit from all the ol’ standbys. It’s a genre that’s perhaps best described by the title of his new book on the subject, “Hick Flicks: The Rise and Fall of Redneck Cinema.”

Well, why not? Why not a book on redneck cinema when our bookstore shelves are filled with Dummy’s Guides to this and Chicken Soups for that? And lest you think the topic is unworthy of such serious scrutiny…ok, well, it probably is, but that’s exactly what makes this book such a hoot to read. That and the fact that it’s damned insightful, entertaining, and, dare I even say it, a surprisingly informative bit of reading.

Von Doviak organizes “Hick Flicks” into such colorfully labeled chapters as “Dixie DeMilles,” “Hillbilly Horror,” “Smokey the Red-Necked Sheriff,” and, well, you get the idea. Concentrating primarily, but not limited exclusively to, the 1970s and the Golden Age of the drive-in theater, von Doviak presents as thorough and exhaustive a compendium on this long-ignored subject matter as you’re ever going to find. Sure, Burt Reynolds, Roger Corman, Jerry Reed and Ned “Squeal like a pig!” Beatty make their obligatory appearances here, but this page-turner goes far beyond the obvious subjects and explores films that you’ve probably never heard of, (usually with good reason.)

Although “Hick Flicks” serves as a veritable encyclopedia of (mostly) white trash subculture, it’s an easy read. One concise, knee-slapping plot synopsis and snarky commentary flows freely, almost stream of consciously, into the next. Filled with such jewels of observations as…

“It’s hard to explain just how odd this movie is. Fish-eye lenses. Ominous banjo plucking. Strange industrial noises. A freaky waterfall. Elvis poses. It’s the kind of movie David Lynch might make if something heavy fell on his head.”

…and a Hillbilly Horror Primer of sorts…

#7: The sheriff is in on it.
#10: Ask nicely, and don’t taunt the rednecks.

…etc., “Hick Flicks” is far more entertaining than most of the movies covered. Yet, von Doviak treats these films very seriously, having obviously conducted extensive research on the subject as evidenced by the book’s extensive Filmography, Bibliography, and — gulp! — footnotes. Indeed, one has to wonder about the author’s current mental condition after having been exposed to such a concentrated dose of redneck culture.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Scott von Doviak is an occasional contributor to Film Threat. (Indeed, our own Chris Gore writes the book’s hilarious forward.) That being said, this is one immensely enjoyable book. With “Hick Flicks: The Rise and Fall of Redneck Cinema,” Scott von Doviak has undoubtedly earned himself an honorary spot in the Hillbilly Hall of Fame.

Can a Hick Flicks cable channel be far behind? – Merle Bertrand

“Hick Flicks” now available in the Film Threat Shop.




Posted on March 3, 2005 in News by
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