Something Weird Video // 1971 // 180 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // October 5th, 2002
Two southern style swamp romps filled with gators, gals and good ol' boys!
Janeen is the Swamp Girl, a bodacious answer to Amos Moses. Long rumored to be living deep in the delta with her "pa," the locals have only speculated on her existence. But when one of the Prisoners from Cell Block H escapes with her boyfriend into the Spanish moss, the fugitives discover a sordid saga of baby swapping and selling by a crocked country quack explains the young lady's lot in life. When Ranger Jimmy Waters runs across the bayou babe, he's bitten by the love bog bug and longs to sweep Janeen off her peat. Too bad she must act alone in thwarting a trio of marsh morons hired by the jailbird's mom to march into the muck and save her prison princess.
Down in Swamp Country, there is murder and musical mutilation at hand. A door to door dyspeptic checks in to the Prime Suspect Motor Lodge, and when a local wanton woman is found arms, legs, morals and life signs akimbo, he is wrongfully accused of the deed. He escapes into the swamp and the sheriff wants him encapsulated. It's just too bad that our lawman is preoccupied with trying to woo the oldest teenager in all of southern Georgia away from her Mel Tillis-in-training boyfriend and biologically younger, child bride mother to bother. So he sends a posse of ornery opossum lovers out into the bog for a little airboat ambush. One by one they fall prey to the cunning carpetbagger as he tries to simultaneously clear his name and cure his raging swamp foot.
Before moving on to the review of this DVD, something needs to be said: Is there a name in entertainment that resonates with more raw pulsating sexuality and he-man magnetism than Ferlin Husky? Here is a nom de plume that suggests busting broncos, blazing six guns, and a trail-worn Stetson, complete with the dust of a thousand tumbleweeds and sweat soaked hatband. Too bad the Ferlin Husky we get here seems more like a punched cow than a macho cattle driver. It's this kind of literal legerdemain that explains why Swamp Girl and/or Country feel like a little bit of exploitation bait and switch. One approaches titles like these with the expectation of seeing a little bit of bog booty or some crocodile rocking, but instead we are treated to a dense quagmire of intrigue that presents its backwoods business with skill and seriousness. Anyone looking for Baby Doll meets Justin Wilson can peruse other cornpone porn classics like The Pigkeeper's Daughter or Sassy Sue for some southern fried friggin' in the mule riggin'. These films are really tame, innocent adventures, offering a real, if occasionally warped view of the South. True, they are not Deliverance (heck, they're not even The Legend of Boggy Creek), but there is still suspense and menace to be found in their thick, dense mire atmosphere. One does have to ask just what is being exploited, though? Inbreeding? Life without electricity or indoor plumbing?
Technically, these are both professional, well directed films. They offer interesting stories, compelling characters, and occasional musical numbers. Oh sure, there are some inconsistencies, like the bloated city slicker being able to consistently outmaneuver the seasoned swamp folk, or the daughter having more age spots and hysterectomy scars than her mother. But some of these outlandish plot devices are actually intentional, like who or what the Swamp Girl's "pa" really is, or the identity of the motel murderer. It keeps the audience on their toes, and makes for honest to goodness compelling viewing. As does the locations. Those who love the Everglades or other bodies of brackish water will find a resplendent wonder in the serene landscapes used as backdrops to the action. The one true drawback to these muddy water productions is the decision to let the leads tickle their tonsils, tune wise. Ferlin Husky may seem like a manly hunk of country ham, but his singing style is more reminiscent of an overly smoked pork butt. And Dave DaLie should just shut daHell up. About the only time his crooning is compelling is when he croaks about being "a Misfit." It's a good thing that his heinous harmonizing is kept mostly in the background to the murder mystery. We spend more time watching the sheriff and his gang of inbred deputies play "find the fat felon" than listening to Dave imitate Jerry Reed's prostate.
A mixed bag of specs and specials exist on this DVD. Both films seem a little washed out, with Swamp Country looking the worst. Swamp Girl is presented in anamorphic widescreen, while Country gets the less than satisfying full screen treatment. Something Weird has released better transfers, but considering the rarity of these titles, the picture is acceptable, if confusing. And the extras here are also a little unfocused. The trailers seem to skirt the notion of good ol' swamp cinema by mixing giant leeches, oversized jellyfish, and a witch with glowing eyes into the wetland jambalaya. The sole archival short isn't much better, highlighting how white trash spend their food stamps on fancified swamp buggies, only to drive them through the dirty, dirty mud. But then SWV saves itself from a watery grave by unearthing a truly deranged bit of marsh madness called Swamp Virgin. It's the poignant tale of how a father uses his adolescent son as human alligator bait. And is might proud of it. Apparently, when this featurette was made, there was no such thing as child abuse or endangerment. Or political correctness, since the entire torrid tale is told by an elderly black gentleman who makes Uncle Remus look like Colin Powell. When combined with the endearing if occasionally uncivil main features, we get an entertaining mix of the travelogue with the travesty. And don't forget the aforementioned husky Ferlin. If he doesn't make you long for a relaxing soak in some quicksand, nothing will.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic (Swamp Girl only)
* Full Frame (Swamp Country only)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Archival Short Subjects
* Bonus Featurette Swamp Virgin
* Gallery of Trash-O-Rama Exploitation Art
* Radio Spot Rarities
* IMDb: Swamp Girl
* IMDb: Swamp Country