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Petey Wheatstraw (Rudy Ray Moore) is a candidate to become the devil's son-in-law. The storyline is a scaffolding on which Rudy Ray Moore's standup humor can be unfolded. Beginning life as the afterbirth to a watermelon, the young Wheatstraw becomes a martial artist, but is unable to best the evil comedy team of Leroy and Skillet, who also indulge in wholesale murder. Satan restores the comedians' victims to life, and charges Petey with the task of marrying his clock-stoppingly ugly daughter to giving him a grandchild. When Petey attempts to default on the deal, he is pursued by the devil's henchmen. Written by
Years ago, I wrote a hostile review of Petey Wheatstraw for IMDb. What can I possibly say to justify that? I was young, and foolish. And the greatness of this film had not yet revealed itself to me.
Well, "greatness" is too strong a word. Petey Wheatstraw is not great, but rather "amusing" and somewhat "crazy." If you permit yourself to be drawn into the film's wacky universe, you may have a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience.
Petey Wheatstraw, in short, is about a kung-fu fighting stand-up comedian who makes an unwise bargain with Lucifer. It's part comedy movie, part horror movie, part gangster movie, part sex movie, and part kung-fu epic with intentionally (I hope) bad choreography. The film bounces breathlessly between these genres, especially in the early scenes, which are disorienting and seem totally unconnected. But soon enough, the story settles into a kind of weird rhythm.
Needless to say, the production values are poor (Lucifer's demon minions are men in ballet tights and Halloween masks), the editing is choppy, and the acting is of highly variable quality. The script, however, has a weird poetry to it. The comedy dialog, though extremely crass, is sometimes really funny, and some of the "character" scenes when Petey and Lucifer get together are bizarrely effective.
Now I feel all weird, because I'm trying to defend what is, in essence, an extremely tacky bad movie. But it's a *witty* bad movie, and I can appreciate the effort that went into its production. And the film undeniably captures a time -- a place -- a bizarreness. It's sort of hypnotic.
Let me put it this way: I bought Petey Wheatstraw as a bargain DVD years ago, hated it on the initial viewing, and almost pawned it. But I never did get rid of that DVD. It survived several years of DVD trading-in, numerous changes of address on my part, and other seismic events in my life that might easily have caused Petey Wheatstraw's demise. But that DVD survived through it all; I still have the movie, still think about it sometimes, still smirk when I see it on my shelf. And that's the best endorsement I can give it.
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