One word that doesn’t usually (if ever) come to mind when you’re talking about the drive-in fare churned out by Crown International Pictures in the 1970s is weird.
Yeah, okay, fair enough — I suppose just about any CIP flick looks a little bit “weird” to a contemporary audience, given that they’re all very much products of their time, but honestly, pretty much everything released under their banner boils down, story-wise, to a simple morality play with a generous helping of sex (always) and violence (sometimes) thrown in — and more often than not, as with most exploitation fare, the most common themes in the Crown back catalog are “don’t set your sights above your station in life” and “don’t talk to strangers.”
At first glance, 1975’s Pick-Up, directed (and produced, and shot, and edited) by Bernard Hirschenson, would appear to fit comfortably into the “don;t talk to strangers” category, since it’s the story of two footloose-and-fancy-free hippie chicks named Carol (Jill Senter) and Maureen (Gini Eastwood — no relation, at least that I know of, to you-know-who), who hitch a ride across Florida with a far-out guy named Chuck (Alan Long) who is, like them, at loose ends and just “taking in what the world has to offer, one day at a time, man” in his fuck-pad RV.
Come on — he’s gotta be trouble, right? I mean, he’s an Aries, and according to the supposedly-metaphysically-tuned-in Maureen, Aries guys are bad news these days because of some state of flux going on in the universe or something. Still, the girls hop in for a ride anyway —
Trouble eventually does come their way, but Chuck isn’t the cause. After a deluge, the RV gets stuck in the Everglades mud, and that’s when things, as I promised at the outset, get weird. Chuck and Carol get busy screwing their brains out, but Maureen in between reading star charts and tarot cards and having waking (and sleeping) visions of her childhood, is visited by Pythia, a priestess of Apollo, who gives her a sacred dagger for some reason or other. And if you think that sounds strange, wait until the slimy politician and latex-faced clown show up.
Okay, yeah, none of this makes a tremendous amount of narrative sense — or even common sense — but it sure is interesting. It turns out that Maureen was molested by a priest as a child (guess they were into girls in the ’70s) and this is at the root of her psychological disturbances, which culminate in quite possibly the most bizarre scene (of many contenders) in the film, where she and Chuck finally “make it” on a stone altar with the clown, the politician, and the priestess watching on. And all this right after Chuck kills a wild boar (be warned, this film does feature genuine animal slaughter, although hardly of Cannibal Holocaust proportions) What does it all mean? Who knows. And honestly, who really cares? Pick-Up was clearly made with the stoner crowd in mind and, frankly, was probably made by members of the stoner crowd, as well. It’s all good, man. Just go with the flow.
There are some notable things to point out in relation to this film while we have a moment — the Florida Everglades locations are authentic, and were probably an absolute bitch to film in (good thing everybody was probably high), and both Senter and Eastwood are not only reasonably talented actresses, but absolutely gorgeous, as well — yet neight ever made another film. Go figure.
Like most of the Crown stuff we’ve covered both here and at my “main” site — http://trashfilmguru.wordpress.com , for those of you who don’t know — Pick-Up is available on Mill Creek’s 12-disc, 32-movie “Drive-In Cult Classics” DVD boxed set collection. There are no extras, but the remastered widescreen transfer looks surprisingly crisp and clean and the mono sound is, at the very least, perfectly adequate. This may not be the best film in the collection by any stretch, nor is it the most fun, but it’s definitely one of the most interesting, and it’s well worth the 80 minutes of your life it takes to watch it.