Drive-In Couchfest: Country Blue (1973)

I bet I’ve put more thought into Country Blue than most folks, including some of the people who worked on the movie. As the next installment in the Drive-In 50-pack I was leery for two reasons, first, the previous entry was a pretty huge load of crap, and second, it’s got a 108 minute run time. Then once it started, I thought I was in for a real crap fest thanks to some awkward freeze framing, bad sound and inane cutting from action to the credits. But, in the end, I kind of liked the movie.

It must be said that this isn’t necessarily a good or original movie. Technically, it’s pretty bad and logically you want to scream at the TV, but some folks are really like that, so you can’t fault the story. The acting varies from person to person with the lead (and director thanks to talks with guys like Jeff Bridges and Robert Blake running long and threatening to squash the movie) varying from God awful to pretty good. The old man known as Jumpy is a ton of fun, as is the Ex Lax T-shirt he wears throughout the entire movie. And the lead’s girlfriend Ruthie, played by Rita Georg is stunning and not such a bad actress either.

The story revolves around Bobby Lee, a guy who can’t stay in one place too long. He just got out of jail for robbing a convenience store, but has his sights set on robbing a bank and moving to Mexico. Unfortunately for Bobby Lee, he’s kind of a dumbass. He and Ruthie rob the bank, her mask falls off and they refer to each other by their first names. THEN, after getting away, they rob a store and just stop to hang out near a lake only to get pissed when he reads a newspaper article that talks about how the bank president tricked him. So, of course, they go back and rob the bank again.

It’s a familiar story. Bobby Lee’s the kind of guy who just can’t let himself fit into society. He also doesn’t seem to try, not wanting to do the job Jumpy offers him. He wants a lot and doesn’t want to work to get it. There’s actually a pretty interesting metaphor that just kind of sits in some of the scenes without calling too much attention to itself: Jumpy’s monkey. The monkey’s in a cage in front of Jumpy’s garage always trying to get out. I was actually surprised that Bobby Lee didn’t break the little dude out before taking off. That would have been poetic.

I also want to compliment the cinematography. I know I trashed the technical aspects above, but there’s something about the filmwork here that makes it seem like a documentary, kind of like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but without chainsaws. It helps that the southern setting (I think the movie takes place in Tennessee?) looks like a camera’s never been there before. Everything feels very authentic, so sometimes the not-so-great acting doesn’t really hurt the whole puzzle because it fits with overall picture. Like I said, I’m thinking about this movie a lot.

I do have to call bullshit on the ending though. Consider this SPOILER territory if you care. So, at the end of the movie, Bobby Lee’s adoptive mother helps break him and Ruthie out of prison. They’ve ditched the cops and are driving through the woods. All of a sudden he goes from being on a road and talking about his plan to get to Mexico to bushwacking through the woods with his car and flying off of a small cliff into a body of water. Huh? The editing is sloppy, so it seems to come out of nowhere. We see Bobby Lee pop up out of the water, thrash around a little, dive down twice and then swim back to shore where he presumably waits to see if the love of his life and his adoptive mother get out of the car on their own. What?! Seriously, I’d by swimming around there until I was about dead myself and I would imagine a bull-headed dumbass like Bobby Lee would do the same. I get that they probably didn’t have the budget or wherewithal to do an underwater shot, but the weird flashback montage they do show of the car as it was crashing didn’t help matters.

I can’t think of another movie that was such a rollercoaster of opinions for me. I started out thinking it was going to suck, then got kind of engrossed by the tragedy of the whole thing but then at the end I was left with a WTF taste in my mouth. I wouldn’t say that Country Blue is a must see by any means, but it’s been one of the more interesting movies in the Drive-In series.

I intended to go back and do some screen grabs of Jumpy’s Ex Lax shirt, the guy who looks like he could be Will Forte’s dad and the weird post-sex Ritz product placement, but alas, my computer won’t read the disc for whatever reason.