Created by rather dubious producers, Poor Pretty Eddie was a project from organized crime related porn producers looking to cash in on the drive-in crowd and help legitimize some of their business prospects. With a background such as this, one doesn’t expect to find much in terms of cinematic quality. The seventies were a different time and era however, and while many mainstream critics would have a hard time finding much to "enjoy" with the likes of Poor Pretty Eddie, it remains one of the most thoroughly engaging and awe-inspiring pieces of insane cinema released during the decade that gave us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A dark and brooding piece of exploitation cinema, this is a title that pushes every button that it can get its fingers upon. From the race-baiting that truly comes to prominence during the final act, or simply the rape and revenge angle that is given a certain amount of leeway, Poor Pretty Eddie is everything you could expect from a sleazy piece of exploitation cinema. More than that however, it also has one other property that sets it apart from the many other dubious pieces of horror that were available during this era: it’s smart and it knows precisely what is doing to its audience.
Poor Pretty Eddie tells the story of popular singer Liz Wetherly (Leslie Ugamms) whose car begins to give her trouble while she heads off driving on a much needed vacation. She manages to drive the car to a rundown local inn that is owned by the former entertainer Bertha (Shelly Winter) who lives with her lover Eddie Collins (Michael Christian) who also hopes to some day be a famous country music musician. Eddie is immediately infatuated with Liz and promises to fix her vehicle. However, as time goes by, it becomes clear that Eddie intends to keep Liz here for as long as he possibly can. The poor woman is soon wrapped up in a bizarre cabal of backwoods obsessions and violence. As Liz tries to escape her captor, she finds out that being a young, beautiful, African American woman in this southern setting means that her word will go nowhere against this young white man. Will she ever escape her tormentor?
A very intelligent piece of exploitation history, Poor Pretty Eddie is actually a very creative and technically apt piece of work, despite what its porno film background may tell you. There are many stylistic choices made throughout the film, some that even break cinematic laws, but the filmmakers are wholly aware of what they are doing and our confidence never leaves their hands. I am particularly a fan of the opening segment which is made up of only three or four shots and in those sparse camera movements we learn all of the background we need to know about the character of Liz. We see her at a baseball game of some sort, singing for the crowd, and then we hear her in voiceover being her regular condescending self as she explains her reasoning for heading out on this trip. The next thing we see is her pulling up to the hotel that our film will spend the rest of its running time at. This whole segment lasts maybe a minute, but it tells us everything we need to know. The filmmakers continually use these artistic flourishes throughout, including a massive amount of slow-motion action including a rape scene that cuts between the act of rape and two dogs having intercourse. Despite this being a genre where the content should speak DOWN to its audience, nothing seems dumbed down and is instead confrontational in all regards.
From a technical perspective, Poor Pretty Eddie continually delivers beyond what the audience may expect. Throughout the movie, and during the first half most assuredly, we are continually hammered with a dark and brooding atmosphere that seems to spell out doom for the cast at all turns. During the opening segments where we see the run down motel as it squeaks, churns, turns and wastes away without any music playing, we know that this is going to be a nightmarish cinematic experience. When the high drama comes rolling around, the film doesn’t relent. The character of Eddie Collins is a realistic monster, as he isn’t just some two dimensional creature. He is painted as a man who appears to suffer from serious mental illness and is potentially bipolar. The character of Liz, our damsel in distress, is no less complicated because she’s shown to be a rather unpleasant woman for the majority of the movie. So we have these battling characters and we the audience are thoroughly confused for the most part, but it’s a different form of confusion that we are used to. A welcome form of confusion. We don’t know what this movie will do to us and that sort of unpredictability is rare.
Restored for this new blu-ray and DVD release, it is doubtful that Poor Pretty Eddie has looked this good since its original release. A very morbid piece of work, its great to see a title like this being given some respect. No doubt having both Slim Pickens as well as Shelly Winters in a major role, where Shelly goes absolutely bonkers I might add, has helped to the longevity of this movie. However, I think it is the overall strange atmosphere that makes Poor Pretty Eddie something to hold onto. You can throw it up next to other great race-fueled pieces of exploitation like Fight For Your Life, but you can also just as easily place it alongside atmospheric and grim titles like Thriller: A Cruel Picture or Last House on Dead End Street. Enjoy it for the dark masterpiece that it really is, because this one utterly defies genre. You can pick up the DVD/Bluray combo pack from Cultra via