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Trotter pollster Pete Marshall is trying to find a missing coworker. In a rural town he stumbles onto the roughian Fleagle family. Bert and Mert would just as soon "splatter" snoopers with their rifles. However, Ma Johnson focuses the family energies on finding cousin Bonnie Fleagle's $70,000 bank job stash, somewhere around the large old rickety house. Claire Matthews, the daughter of a man implicated in Bonnie's bank job, also comes in search of the money to try and clear her father's name. Marshall and Matthews team up to try and decode Grandma Fleagle's strange deathbed clue but with Mr. Johnson attempting to poison people and Bonnie Fleagle showing up herself after a prison escape, it's anybody's guess as to who will find the money first. Written by
Gary Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film doesn't get mentioned much, but it is a classic---it manages to be both hilarious and terrifying, and very satisfyingly so. It's a crazy take on the city slicker encountering a clan of inbred backwoods folk. The darkness of the story combined with the frantic pacing and classic farce set-ups really works, and the lack of musical score actually emphasizes the clamminess of the atmosphere.
The goofy and murderous family is of course profoundly dysfunctional (though the term wasn't thought of then), and the classic "old dark house," with its cellars and hidden passages, as almost the sole setting eventually seems like a metaphor for damaged and torturous relationships . Although there are a few disturbing scenes of abuse of a "teched" daughter, somehow within the over-all context of comic hysteria they are appropriate. Much of the film's success is due to MacMurray's impeccable comic timing. There's also great matching of reaction shots for Peter Whitney's turn as twins Mert and Bert.
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