At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

BORN RECKLESS (Warner Archives)

By • Feb 3rd, 2015 •

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The title promises a level of energy that the film just can’t deliver, let alone a taste of raunchy misbehavior. Conceived as a ‘B’ vehicle for lead chanteuse Mamie (VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN) Van (THE NAVY VS. THE NIGHT MONSTERS) Doren – an appealing, 3rd rung Marilyn Monroe (assuming Jayne Mansfield was rung # 2) – the actress is given several song and spunky choreography which conjure memories of Monroe and Jane Russell in their flashy ‘A’ color extravaganzas. She is also given a number of wardrobe changes (courtesy of Marjorie Best) that don’t show off her attributes to their best advantage, and a character arc that’s more bewildering than satisfying.

Our lead lady is rescued from manhandling red-necks by a handsome but slow-witted rodeo star, and when she turns her romantic attention to him, he just doesn’t get it. In terms of her attachment, nor do we.

At the 54 minute mark, Ms. Van Doren suddenly looks her best. It’s not just Joseph (ATTACK!, VERBOTEN!, 13 GHOSTS) Biroc’s skillful low key lighting, it’s the make-up, and the wistful expression she summons. Were that it had lasted, but director Koch (UNTAMED YOUTH, FRANKENSTEIN 1970, THE LAST MILE), and probably Van Doren herself, saw her character in this rodeo-themed tale as feisty trailer-park-trash rather than soft, sensuous, and vulnerable.

Playing her disinterested love interest is Jeff (DON’T GO NEAR THE WATER, ISLAND OF LOST WOMEN, and episodic TV) Richards, who bears the brunt of the blame for the film’s overall weakness. He simply cannot act. Playing his sidekick, “Cool Man” (a dreadful moniker) is Arthur (EL DORADO, THE LAST COMMAND [perfect as Davey Crockett], and the touching Twilight Zone episode ‘The Hunt’) Hunnicutt, a wonderfully reliable actor who I’m certain improvised some of his back-woodsie lines, and who never appears to be mailing in his performance. An Hispanic family who are inexplicably bank-rolling Richards’ rodeo shenanigans are directed as if they’re constantly posing for family photo-album shots.

The widescreen image is clean. The grainy documentary rodeo footage doesn’t match the production footage, but that gives us the pleasure of knowing that we’re watching the ‘real thing’ for three or four minutes at a time.

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