Johnny plays drums at midnight, but his survival is tentative.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Warren Hammack ...
Johnny Vik
Kathy Amerman ...
Girl
Gina McCormick ...
Rita
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Bert
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Storyline

In this drama, a man caught between disparate cultures: Native American and Anglo, attempts to deal with being in between. Shipped out to Southeast Asia in the 60's; the experience scars him. Johnny returns... he's changed, he's deranged. The story begins after he is arrested and sentenced to 30 days for urinating in public. He is ridiculed by the locals and without medication, suffers distinguishing reality from fiction. The "man" wants to right his mind, but he's having none of it. He breaks out and hides in the forest. There he suffers conflicting visions concerning his problems. A young girl stumbles across him and takes him to an isolated cabin. He is happy there, but his problems are far from over. Written by Ørnås

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If only they hadn't put Johnny in jail

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Drama | Adventure

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March 1977 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Truth Keepers  »

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(Eastmancolor)
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Referenced in Ban the Sadist Videos! Part 2 (2006) See more »

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If only they hadn't put Johnny in jail.
19 April 2003 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

SPOILERS INCLUDED

A real cinematic UFO that at a glance could be described as an unglued episode of Grizzly Adams. According to the opening credits this is 'a story that moves on many levels of reality and fantasy.more simply it is the story of the spirit in man which dares to survive'. Even more simply put this concerns Johnny Vik (Warren Hammack), a Native American back from the Nam and finding it hard to settle back into life in his home town. Life has not dealt Johnny a good hand-what with his mental scars from Nam, inability to keep down a job and regular trips to a psychiatric hospital-refreshingly Johnny isn't your common or garden psychotic Nam vet but is every bit the town misfit. 'Comic' sequences wedded to music that sounds like the theme from The Benny Hill Show feature Johnny falling off his bike,and watching a bunch of good old boys amuse themselves by chaining a police-car to a pole. Johnny's mother Rita is an ex-circus performer who fancifully dreams of building a rodeo ring; she's become hooked on the pills the doctors have prescribed to Johnny. The pills are meant to blot out bad thoughts and after witnessing his mother's drug addled head in the clouds speeches about the good old days, Johnny wants nothing to do with them. Rita tries to get Johnny back into society by having him take a job as a window cleaner. But when Johnny peeks in while cleaning the windows of the local state hospital, the sight of heavily retarded children proves too much for him. Johnny attempts to buy a ticket out of town,but the suspicious locals refuse to serve him. Calming down and enjoying a beer in the local bar Johnny becomes preoccupied by the deformities sported by his fellow drinkers. The sight of birthmarks,scars and a man with a false leg causes Johnny to run out into the street and err..urinate! None too pleased the local sheriff, a cigar chomping loudmouth, has weak bladdered Johnny sent to prison for 30 days. Inside the prison (represented by close-ups on bars, crude graffiti and a charming shot of someone on the toilet) Johnny has a dream in which he is torn between Rita who with her mean expressions and vulgar gold lame suit represents the grotesqueness of the industrial town, and Ramona a local girl who represents the purity of the forest from which he as a blue eyed Indian originally came from. Ramona's 'natural' qualities are further illustrated by shots of her running bare-ass through the woods, and her and Johnny playing baseball during which one of her breasts falls out of her blouse in slow-motion.

Deciding nature is for him Johnny makes a (less than thrillingly depicted) escape from the prison and ends up hiding in the forest. Quickly sporting a Grizzly Adams beard Johnny learns to appreciate the forest; it's the only place where he can get his head together and a world away from the noise and pollution of the town which the film sees as leaving people mentally and physically crippled (the casting of real life deformities is a somewhat tasteless but pointed piece of symbolism). Johnny lives off berries and mushrooms-the latter obviously being the reason why Johnny sometimes has strange 'visions' like being pursued by men wearing Ned Kelly masks. He gets to peek in on a hippy girl doing an impromptu striptease but his time is mostly taken up by creating wood effigies of animals (subsequently used as target practice by heartless rednecks). While Johnny is clearly a kind, peaceful type quite happy to spend the rest of his life up a tree, the Sheriff and his cronies are relentless in their pursuit of him. Now let's just take a reality check here-all Johnny is guilty of was urinating in the street, yet given the fanatical manhunt that follows his escape you'd think he were some kind of mass murderer. As one character incredulously points out 'did they think he was gonna flood the town'. As the sheriff begins closing in, Johnny befriends Pola (who narrates most of the film), a young girl who's similarly alienated from normal society due to her tomboy looks and leg brace, before he has to go it alone and embark on a 'spiritual journey'. Heavy handed surrealism makes a guest appearance as Johnny in his final hours is visited by apparitions including an army of Chinese girls carrying glasses of water, a pasty faced tramp with deformed fingers and a girl in a novelty store angel costume throwing animal insides around.

Filmed 'where the legend really began', Johnny Vik was an obvious labour of love for one Charles Nauman who wrote, produced and directed, and Warren Hammack a secondary player in early Larry Buchanan movies deserves ten out of ten for his handling of the film's difficult, central role (and one that he has to play virtually mute). That said Johnny Vik is a film that easier to admire than to like. Undoubtedly all concerned had their hearts in the right place, but this is hardly entertaining viewing what with the tone of the film alternating between deeply depressing to toe-curlingly pretentious. After enduring an hour and a half of our soul searching hero wandering the woods, much back to nature preaching and whining narration along the lines of 'the emptiness followed him, haunted him, like a caravan of death', you'd be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief rather than outrage when the sheriff's gung-ho men predictably gun Johnny down. Urinate in my town would'ya weirdo. Despite a title change to the more exciting sounding 'The Hunted', Johnny Vik appears to have been mostly gathering dust until video came along. The film's only known video release on the Intervision label in the UK tried to dress this deeply uncommercial effort up as a violent actioner ('if only they hadn't put Johnny in jail' screams the box), well you can't blame them for trying can you.


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