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This movie is bilge. There are times when I'll actually look for a bad movie on television; namely, when I'm cleaning house or updating my computer records, and I want to have some mindless rubbish playing in the background on TV: something just interesting enough to keep me from getting bored, but not interesting enough to command my attention and distract me from the drudgery I'm doing. Recently I had some drudge-work to do in New York City, and I switched on the goggle-box just in time to catch "Morgan's Ferry".
SPOILERS AHEAD. "Morgan's Ferry" is like the bastard stepchild of a one-night stand between two much better films: 'The Desperate Hours' and 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?'. I'm gobsmacked at how awful this movie is. Firstly, the movie is narrated by a voice-over which is meant to be the female protagonist ... only the voice-over is supplied by a different (older) actress, who is supposed to be the heroine looking back on these events from many years later. So we know, straight off, that she's not going to die. Bang goes the suspense angle, right there.
This movie takes place in the white-trash deep South, so the characters have cornpone names like Vonnie, Joe Ed, and Carlene. I kept expecting Meemaw and Peejo to show up. One character is named Parson Weems, which was also the name of the American historian who made up the story about George Washington's cherry tree. All the dialogue and narration in "Morgan's Ferry" is written in that horrible deep-South dialect. You've heard it in a hundred bad movies. Never say "I don't know" if you can say "I don't rightly know". Never ask someone how far away the next town is, if you can ask him how far he "reckons" it is.
There are some of those annoying sub-Faulkner Southern Gothic touches. The heroine's father dug a grave for her when she was born, and she's kept the grave lying open ever since because she knows she'll need it eventually. Anton Chekhov warned dramatists that they should never introduce a dramatic element (such as a loaded firearm) unless they intend to use it later in the plot line. Chekhov's rule is ignored here: the heroine's open grave is yawning at the beginning of the movie, and at the end of the movie it's still yawning. (And so are the audience.)
Sam, Monroe and Darcy are convicts who have escaped from a work farm. As in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", the escapees are two morons and their handsome smooth-talking leader. As in 'The Desperate Hours', the three convicts hole up in someone's house, intending to lie doggo and take the occupants hostage. In this case, the house has only one occupant: Vonnie, played by Kelly McGillis in a one-note performance. Also as in 'The Desperate Hours', the stupidest of the three convicts strikes forth on his own and gets killed.
Roscoe Lee Browne used to be one of my favourite character actors. His performance in this movie is so bad, I'm tempted to forget all the fine performances he's given elsewhere. In this movie, he embodies one of my least favourite character clichés, one that has shown up in a lot of movies and TV shows in recent years: the po' old black man who jes' cain't hardly speak proper English but who is so incredibly dignified. I'm aware that, in segregation days, African-American menials were stigmatised (or worse) if they spoke proper English, but this movie takes place in the 1990s ... so why is Browne speaking like he jes' done ex-caped from a minstrel show?
The casting of Kelly McGillis as Vonnie is intriguing, for the wrong reason. After she starred in 'The Accused' (a drama about rape), McGillis spoke very courageously about an occasion in her offscreen life when she had been raped. In "Morgan's Ferry", she's alone in a remote house with three randy young men who just got out of prison and who are determined to intimidate her ... yet rape is never even mentioned, not even as a threat. This is implausible enough on its own, but the fact that Vonnie is played by an actress publicly known to be a rape victim just draws more attention to the lapse.
Annoyingly and implausibly, Vonnie has several opportunities to escape or to summon help, yet never does so. Very offensively and extremely implausibly, Vonnie becomes sexually attracted to the leader of the escapees: Sam, played by the petulant-looking Billy Zane. This plot turn makes "Morgan's Ferry" one of those ghastly movies (another is 'Three Days of the Condor') which tell male viewers that, if you take a woman hostage, she will eventually want to have sex with you. We never do learn the facts of Sam's criminal history; this is an obvious ploy to make him more sympathetic.
The film's title is nearly irrelevant. Morgan's Ferry is the place our three escapees are trying to reach: apparently if they can get to Morgan's Ferry, they've safely escaped. In our modern age of high-tech law enforcement, I couldn't believe this. The scriptwriter seems to be using Morgan's Ferry as a symbolic device, like Daisy Buchanan's green light: something the anti-hero longs to possess, but which he can never attain.
I got me a mess o' chitlin's an' hush puppies to eat right smart, so I ain't got no mo' time fo' this heah movie. I'll rate "Morgan's Ferry" one point out of 10. Now git!
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