Title: Ellie (1984)
Rating: 2/5
Genre: Comedy, Exploitation
Starring: Sheila Kennedy, Shelley Winters, Edward Albert
Director: Peter Wittman
Duration: 89 mins

An invalid, backwoods farmer is a month into his marriage with Cora when she persuades him into making out a will (what’s the worst that can happen, right?). Well, the very next day they are out on a picnic with Cora’s three sons, her conspirator lover, and the farmer’s nubile, young daughter Ellie. While Ellie is being distracted by a motorcycle ride, Cora rolls the wheelchair-ridden farmer into the lake, drowns him, paints the whole thing as an accident, and collects on the will. However, sweet little Ellie is too smart for such an excuse. Abandoning her purity and innocence, she lures Cora’s sons one by one to their deaths with her luscious, tender body and playful giggles. With the local sheriff too love-stricken with Cora the gluttonous career widow to do his job properly, Cora and Ellie break out in a battle of wits to see who’s revenge will be exacted first. Oh yeah, and this is all a comedy. Go figure.

If exploitation films are the oddities of the cinema world, then “hicksploitation” films are the oddities of the exploitation world. Maybe it has something to do with the popularity of such Burt Reynolds movies as Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance, or White Lightning. Maybe it goes back further to the man who may have helped invent it, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and his films Two Thousand Maniacs!, Moonshine Mountain, and This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! Whatever the starting point, this pseudo-genre sure has a lot of titles under its Confederate flag belt buckle. Ellie may not be a film that really stands out among the rest, but it sure is one head-scratching obscurity.

The character of Ellie is played by none other than Penthouse Pet of the Year, Sheila Kennedy. Seems about right. Joining her on the screen is veteran actress Shelley Winters, who has dabbled in some exploitation flicks herself in Roger Corman’s Bloody Mama and Poor Pretty Eddie - that is, when she’s not starring in more professional films like The Poseidon Adventure, Night of the Hunter, and Pete’s Dragon. Oddball ensemble, check. These two, as well as the rest of the cast, portray rural American folk most stereotypically: Kennedy is your typical blonde, country bumpkin; the three sons are nothing but none-too-bright, flannel-and-overalls-wearing good ol’ boys; and Winters is a textbook “evil stepmother.” Nevertheless, the character of Cora’s lover brings a humorous performance and one heck of a mustache, and the preacher character provides some much needed comic relief from the mostly bland brand of comedy showcased here.

I won’t say that Ellie is devoid of any interesting scenes. Quite the contrary, there are a number of unforgettable moments sprinkled throughout this movie: Kennedy’s sexy photo shoot scene; the sheriff’s expression of lust for Cora on the floor of the police station; and the completely unexpected, climactic mud-wrasslin’ session between Kennedy and Winters. Truly a sight to behold, the latter. Almost worth sitting through the previous 85 minutes. At this point, I don’t know if I’m making this movie sound amazing or tedious. I’d say it’s more on the tedious side. But don’t you worry because there are 5 or 6 original country tunes performed by Charley Pride and Atlanta (who?) that are catchy as the dickens, especially the film’s theme song.

Let’s see… we’ve got a Penthouse Pet baring it all, a Hollywood legend rolling around in the mud like a pig, several scenes of attempted rape… all taking place in the boonies, you say? Hot damn, I think we’ve got ourselves a hicksploitation film here. Maybe not a definitive hicksploitation film, or even a very good one, but at the very least you won’t be demanding back a lost hour and a half.


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