A few months ago I read about Prime Cut being released on DVD. I’d never heard of the movie but it sounded interesting—Lee Marvin plays an Irish tough guy sent to Kansas City by the Chicago mob to collect $500k from Gene Hackman and some local country types. What I wasn’t expecting as I put the DVD in a couple of nights ago was to love Prime Cut as much as I did.
Prime Cut is just a straight up, charge you like a bull, 1970s attitude, full-on American pulp filmmaking and it is terrific from start to finish. Directed by Michael Ritchie, who helmed one of my all-time favorite movies in The Bad News Bears--so how could I have never heard of this film?
The set locations alone are worth watching Prime Cut for as it’s like a snapshot into the early 1970s with parts of Kansas City you never see—slaughterhouses, dingy flophouses with sacked out winos, swanky downtown hotels that are long gone, rural country fairs and the huge cinema marquees that blink with so many lights they resemble Las Vegas signage.
While Prime Cut exists at its heart as just a gangster film with tough guys (although Marvin dons a pair of white leather shoes that lessons his toughness, or makes him tougher as you have to be a bad-ass to wear shoes like that when beating people up) wanting money they are owed. This is not a normal “give me my money” picture as it turns sleazy, strange, darkly funny, gritty and reeks of the 1970s mentality that made that decade such a blissful decade for filmmaking.
Early in the film Marvin shows up at an auction house to find Hackman (whose name is Mary Ann in this, which should tell you this is a different gangster film) eating a hot plate of cow guts with a bunch of completely naked women laying in drugged stupors in cow pens full of hay. Men stand around the pens and eat sausages and ogle the women in preparation for buying them for all kinds of criminal doings.
One of the naked women is named Poppy and it’s Sissy Spacek’s first credited role in a film. She soon joins up with Marvin’s crew and gets to deliver some odd, spacey ‘70s style dialogue and scenes while Marvin attempts to get the money owed his employer.
Prime Cut also has a great scene with Kansas wheat and a chase sequence involving a giant thresher. The first post I ever did in CineRobot was about wheat so it’s a no-brainer I loved watching this scene. There’s something about wheat blowing in the wind that completely captivates me. I've said it before and I'll say it again: more wheat!
I sometimes wish I had access to a time machine and could use it whenever I wanted. I would hop in it and go back to 1972 and watch Prime Cut at the drive-in because it is the perfect kind of drive-in movie. Prime Cut is an example of pulp American cinema that is trashy and slightly dated, yet is still hard to take your eyes off of and so, so much fun.