Week 31: of 52 films I’ve never seen

Fighting Mad” (1976)

Directed by Jonathan Demme

Source print: DVD… Thanks to the Shout Factory! These guys are awesome.

Back in the seventies there was a short string of low-budget “rural” action flicks that had been surprisingly successful (the likes of Walking Tall and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry), and Roger Corman deduced, in all the glory of his Corman-ness, that these films (and others like them) had three things in common: 1. A Hero with an unlikely sidekick; 2. An unusual vehicle; and 3. The hero would use an unusual weapon. He probably also deduced that Peter Fonda was a close number 4, and hence, he’s in this film too, riding a beaten up motorcycle with his toddler son and a crossbow. The plot constructed around these purposefully implemented hooks was unfortunately not as interesting, but it serves the movie in a basic way – to bring it from one explosively and/or exploitively action-oriented set piece to the next. Fonda plays a farmer who, along with his friend, family and neighborus, are holding out from selling their farming properties to a highly corrupt and somewhat dubious mining development & construction company. Things get duly out of hand in a Walking Tall sort of way, most scenarios culminating in murder, rape, explosions and revenge. Within the violence young director Jonathan Demme is both obviously and consciously inserting interesting camera angles an movements, which do give the picture some style, but it’s clear he hasn’t gotten the grasp of using the camera movements to help tell the cinematic story yet. No matter, really, Fonda is the person holding it all together, because unfortunately, Fighting Mad is not as awesome as the other action-revenge films of its ilk, and not as awesome as other Fonda or Fonda/Corman flicks of that era. But like Fonda’s own guerrilla warfare tactics in Fighting Mad, it’s a valiant effort, and certainly worth a watch for a curio’s sake.

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