Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 18, 2021


Timothy Carey, Peter Graves and Lita Milan
POOR WHITE TRASH (aka Bayou/1957). Director: Harold Daniels. 

New York architect Martin Davis (Peter Graves of Stalag 17) comes down to the bayou hoping to get assigned to a building project, but he's told by the man who called for him (Douglas Fowley) that he has to fight for the job. Martin is an intelligent man who refuses to sink down to other people's levels whether it comes to scrabbling with competitors or in actual fist fights. Martin, however, learns that he may have to fight for Marie Hebert (Lita Milan of I Mobster), a pretty Cajun woman who has innocently ignited the lust of shop owner Ulysses (Timothy Carey of Paths of Glory) and with whom Martin falls in love.  

Lita Milan and Peter Graves
Poor White Trash is actually the 1961 re-release title of a film originally called Bayou, which has some additional footage and a prologue where a man sings the catchy title tune. The most lurid -- and somewhat cinematic -- sequence has Ulysses chasing Marie through the mud of the swamp and finally cornering the exhausted woman. Marie is clearly raped (even if it isn't depicted graphically) but she has no reaction to this, offering Ulysses some money she owes him the next day as if nothing had happened instead of kicking him in the balls or telling her fellow Cajuns. This is clearly the fault of the script, although Milan herself registers nothing but a mild weariness after what would have had to have been a traumatic experience. 

"an orgiastic, self-flagellating dance"
Otherwise, Milan is attractive and appealing in the film. Graves was never a great actor, and this film offers more evidence of that, although he does register competence and likability. Douglas Fowley is fine as Martin's friend but he gets into a bit of trouble when he also essays Marie's dotty father, Emil. Timothy Carey, the Nicolas Cage of an earlier generation, displays his trademark intensity and is quite good as Ulysses, although one doesn't know quite what to make of the sequence when he does a kind of orgiastic, self-flagellating dance halfway through the movie. This uncomfortable sequence goes on for far too long, which is also the case in a love scene over which the storm outside is not-so-cleverly superimposed.  

Ed Nelson has a small role, but although Jonathan Haze of Little Shop of Horrors is also in the film I didn't spot him. There is some atmospheric photography and a vaguely evocative score by Gerald Fried. One of the film's most disturbing scenes is actually a party scene celebrating the marriage of an elderly man to a very young girl who looks like she'd like to run away from the oldster as fast as her feet could take her. 

Verdict: A trashy curiosity indeed. **. 


angelman66 said...

Looks like fun. I have a soft spot for Graves, though his performances are somewhat wooden! Grew up with Mission Impossible and then he spoofed himself so superbly in Airplane as Captain Oveur.

William said...

Graves was made for material like Mission Impossible where his leading man qualities were in display but he didn't have to get too emotional!