Wow! CORKY, which played the drive-in circuit briefly in 1972 (it was the only Blake starring role I missed back then), must be listed among Robert Blake's greatest and most intense performances of the late 60s and early 70s. However, be warned that Corky Curtiss is a totally unsympathetic character who treats everyone horribly, is on an ego trip, and sets out to wound the people who care for him. The film begins in Texas, where Blake and his pal played by the under-rated Chris Connelly, are driving in minor car races on the weekend and working for shop owner Patrick O'Neal during the week. Blake is married to Charlotte Rampling, who looks the part but whose accent wavers and sounds like Duchess Sarah Ferguson auditioning for Hee-Haw. After alienating everyone in the town and abandoning his wife, Blake and Connelly take off to take on the southern racing circuit. Blake's abusive behavior toward the easygoing Connelly finally makes CC split from Blake, and Blake's a**hole behavior winds up digging himself a deeper hole and leaving him more alone and stranded. He fails to learn anything from this, and I'll leave you the viewer to watch the final 20 minutes...everything from when Blake meets the two boys at the swimming hole on through the violent ending. If you are a Blake fan, you will go crazy over this film. He's over-the-top from beginning to end, struts around without his shirt on and with a beer in his hand, jives everyone he meets, and perfectly captures the loud, offensive, boorish, vain good-old-boys we all can't stand in real life. The film's title during its making was LOOKIN' GOOD (and there is a song by that title played in the middle of the film), and that fits things well as about the only thing that Blake cares for is strutting' and LOOKIN' GOOD. Talk about an anti-hero, Corky Curtiss makes Kowalski from VANISHING POINT and the leads of TWO LANE BLACKTOP look like Mother Teresa. This is the kind of post-James Dean, out-of-control Method performance that only a few people, Mickey Rourke among them, can get away with. To the film's credit, it gets small-town life down perfectly in every detail. When Charlotte Rampling is trying to get a GED, working two jobs, and pulling her life back together, I thought "I KNOW dozens of people just like her," just like I know dozens of people like her a**hole husband Corky. It's no surprise this film wasn't a hit, although that could also have been due to distribution, because who would want to see such a downer of a film? The Robert Blake fan, that's who. And if you are one, track down a gray market copy of this film immediately. Mine was taken from an old 1980's TNT TV broadcast, but the days when films like this were shown on TV are long gone. As this was an MGM release, perhaps you could write Turner Classic Movies--I'd LOVE to see Robert Osborne's introductory comments about CORKY! This would be perfect on a double bill with THE DAREDEVIL, starring George Montgomery (see my review of the latter). Blake was untouchable in his prime, and films such as this one contain the proof. Director Leonard Horn, who passed away a few years after this, worked mostly in television, except for the strange 1970 release THE MAGIC GARDEN OF STANLEY SWEETHEART. With that and Corky as his two big-screen directorial efforts, one wonders what Mr. Horn would have done if he'd been given creative freedom to make low-budget feature films instead of TV episodes and TV movies. Someone should interview Blake or Rampling (Connelly, O'Neal, and Ben Johnson are gone) about this film and about Leonard Horn.
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