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Crazy Mama/The Lady in Red




They cross paths with a greaser named Snake, a saucy octogenarian named Bertha, and Stuart Whitman, who can't keep his filthy paws off Leachman and vice versa. You also get a car crash, an American Indian bonking someone on the head, and Donny Most from "Happy Days" making a "duh" face.

With seemingly more music than "American Graffiti," this slightly endearing mess is an early job for director Jonathan Demme. After wall-to-wall "comedy," its freewheelin' attitude turns tragic, but let's look at it this way: Without "Crazy Mama," we might never have "The Silence of the Lambs." Or Bill Paxton and Dennis Quaid; see if you can spot them.

Much better is "The Lady in Red," a 1979 production loosely based on a true story of a prostitute who had a hand in the machine-gun death of 1930s gangster John Dillinger. Here, her name is Polly (Pamela Sue Martin). We get her sad story, from growing up at the hands of an abusive father, to witnessing a bank robbery, to working in a sweatshop, to becoming a dancer for 10 cents a stint and, finally, becoming a "dancer" with quotes around it for much more.

Her madam is played by Louise Fletcher, and one of her johns is none other than Dillinger (Robert Conrad), whose part in the film is surprisingly short-lived. Then again, the title is "The Lady in Red," however, not "The Man Who Boinked the Lady in Red." Martin does a pretty good job in the role; I've never been a fan, but she comes across confident and sexy.

Despite a prison scene that turns a beauty salon hair dryer into an electric chair, the script aims higher than most Corman efforts, because it's by the maverick John Sayles. Directed by Lewis Teague, who went on to tackle the Stephen King adaptations "Cujo" and "Cat's Eye," it's pretty serious stuff, making it an unusual choice to be paired with "Crazy Mama" on the same DVD.

As with other "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" presentations, this two-fer is stuffed with commentaries and trailers. "?Rod Lott


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