Two rustic families, headed by patriarchs Laban Feather and Pap Gutshall, are feuding. At first, it is comical, with just the sons of the two families playing tricks on each other. But soon...
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Two rustic families, headed by patriarchs Laban Feather and Pap Gutshall, are feuding. At first, it is comical, with just the sons of the two families playing tricks on each other. But soon the Feather boys decide to kidnap a girl. She turns out to be innocent bystander Roonie Gill, not the made-up girlfriend "Lolly Madonna." As events escalate, Zack Feather and Roonie fall in love and try to bring the others to their senses. Will Roonie discover Zack's dark secret, the reason for the painful feud between the two families which once were close friends? Written by
Dan Kuttner (KutRite@yahoo.com)
This movie is based on the novel, "The Lolly Madonna War," written by Sue Grafton. Sue Grafton is author of the popular "alphabet mysteries" featuring female P.I. Kinsey Millhone. See more »
My name is Roonie Gill. I was just changing buses on my way to Nashville. Actually, I didn't care much where I was going. It just felt good to be on my own for the first time. I never heard of the Feather family or the Gutshalls before that. I found out later that Ludie Gutshall had planted a postcard in the Feather mailbox to get them away from the still. He signed it Lolly-Madonna - and that's who they thought I was. By the time I knew what was happening, there wasn't much I could do about it...
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This viewer had been wanting to see this little movie for years. Not only does it have a strong cast of veterans and then up-and-coming young stars, but it sounded like fun. He expected something trashy and action-driven, but ended up getting something more. This is really a pretty thoughtful melodrama with very convincing rustic atmosphere and efficient direction by Richard C. Sarafian (of "Vanishing Point" fame).
Rod Steiger and Robert Ryan (the latter in one of his final film roles) play Laban and Pap, the patriarchs of the Feather and Gutshall families. These families used to be close, but eventually things got bad, real bad. The Hatfields and McCoys type feud starts out somewhat mild, with pranks being pulled. The title comes from a phony postcard, signed by a made-up woman, "Lolly-Madonna", designed to get one family to abandon their still. This leads the Feathers to kidnap a young traveller (Season Hubley) who they are convinced must be this "Lolly- Madonna".
It's interesting to note that this was an early credit for the famed author Sue Grafton, who also wrote the screenplay with producer Rodney Carr-Smith. It's a very serious meditation on the utter futility and madness of any war, especially the Vietnam war. The material gives some juicy acting opportunities to a superb ensemble. Steiger and Ryan mostly play it low key (although Steiger *does* eventually erupt into typical Steiger-esque acting) in order to let the younger generation make their mark. And what a supporting cast: Jeff Bridges, Scott Wilson, Timothy Scott, Kiel Martin, Ed Lauter, Randy Quaid, Gary Busey, Paul Koslo. Lauter is especially fun as Hawk, who has fantasies of being an Elvis-like rock star. Bridges plays Labans' son Zack, and as he and Hubley make a connection, you realize that they're the biggest hope for some semblance of sanity and reason in this story. Still, it's hard to deny the somber feeling of inevitability to everything here.
The rough, grainy look is actually appropriate for the mood, and Fred Myrow contributes a very affecting music score.
This is an intriguing, now somewhat obscure, movie deserving of another look.
Eight out of 10.
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