Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sonny Boy (1989)

In the 80s and 90s, there were a number of films aimed at reassuring children from non-traditional families that their living arrangements were just as legitimate as the nuclear family. If your parents were divorced, or gay, or single parents, the point is that a family is defined by love. Okay, now, Sonny Boy is a movie about a family consisting of a small town crime lord, his 'wife' played by David Carradine in drag, a few underlings (including Brad Dourif, as crazy as ever here), and a son who was accidentally kidnapped at birth and subsequently cut out his tongue, raised him as feral killing machine and let him loose to kill and eat his enemies. Yes, there are all sorts of families in this world. (And, yes, I said David Carradine in drag. It's never explained in the film.)

Sonny Boy is sort of about child abuse and the scars it leaves, and is actually very sensitive in that regard. It's also about a town ruled by crime and fear rising up against its oppressive king. Also, there's a country doctor who was disbarred for implanting monkey organs in people. And a massive desert redneck battle at the end. For the most part, though, the movie is indescribable. There are all sorts of weird details, like the table lamps sitting on the local bar; and there are scenes that don't quite end in a logical way. Supposedly, the studio panicked and shut down production in the last week, which is totally plausible. The film had a very abbreviated theatrical run, and I don't think it's had any legitimate home video release. It used to be available via bootleg tapes.

It's actually surprising that it had any theatrical release, and it's a testament to a lost era in exploitation film making. It's certainly not a perfect film, but it's one of the strangest and most original I've seen. You could call Sonny Boy the best movie in its genre, if only because there are no other movies in its genre!

That's David Carradine singing the theme song. I have no idea if he recorded the song in drag.

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