The Southern Man (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

On the surface, this is just a zero budget indie about a guy who kidnaps a kid and demands an enormous ransom from the kid's rich grandfather.

But beneath the surface, it is much more. As you listen to the dialogue and analyze the various plot developments, you see that it is an attempt to extend the literary tradition of Southern Gothic Melodrama into the present. It's like a living, breathing long-lost work of Tennessee Williams.

There are the grandiloquent patriarchs, the deeply concealed secrets, the precocious youngsters, the hootch, the sexual confusion, the rich people who live in mansions and the poor folks who abide in trailer parks, all of them hiding their passion and guarding their code of honor and their family's good name - everything you need for your own Burl Ives movie.

The kidnapper, you see, isn't really very interested in the child or the ransom. He's more interested in using the curiosity of the child's mother to spur her to research the circumstances that made the kidnapper so hostile to the family patriarch, who is the child's grandfather.

Well, wouldn't you know it, but the child's mother finds that she has a long-lost brother who was thrown out of the family by the grandpappy, because ol' grandpaw found him in a compromising position with a lad who was known to be of the homosexual persuasion. That banishment wasn't nearly as severe as what ol' rich grandpaw did to the Fancy Lad. He killed him and buried his bones in the backyard. 


 Hey, guess who the kidnapper is? No, not just a friend or relation of the murdered guy, but actually the missing son, come back to exact his revenge upon his "daddy". (Note to foreigners: in the North of the United States, males don't call their fathers "daddy" if they are older than six. This is a uniquely Southern affectation.) Did I mention that the guy isn't even a homosexual? What granpaw witnessed was actually an innocent moment. But perhaps ol' grandpaw couldn't face some inner truth about himself, and his own responsibility for the presumed homosexuality. 

DVD info from Amazon.


Is that Southern Gothic enough for you? My answer was "almost". They needed a retarded guy, five coon dogs, and an unclaimed bastard son, as well as two poor guys who aspire to marry the rich guy's daughter, one who loves her and one who just wants the money, but the patriarch doesn't know which is which because of malicious gossip.

Kidding aside, the film is raised above typical straight-to-vid level by genuine literary aspirations, and some macabre Faulkner-meets-Hitchcock atmosphere. It's not my kind of way to pass two hours, but I don't much care for those decadent southern talkfests, and even Tennessee Williams kind of grates on my nerves. If it is your kind of entertainment, it isn't bad.

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The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: not enough votes for a score, and no comments
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, I say C-. If you like highly literate, humorless, actionless Southern melodrama like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or Suddenly Last Summer or Street Car Named Desire, this may appeal to you.

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