Escape From Mayberry: Savages (1974, directed by Lee H. Katzin)

Ben (Sam Bottoms) is a gullible college student working at a gas station in the Mojave desert.  Horton Madec (Andy Griffith) is a wealthy attorney from Los Angeles who walks with a limp and who fancies himself a big game hunter.  Madec hires Ben to serve as his guide through the desert.  Madec says that he’s hunting a ram but instead, he ends up shooting and killing an old prospector.  Even after Madec offers to pay him off, Ben wants to go to the police.  Madec gives it some thought and decides to hunt Ben himself.

After forcing Ben to strip down to his shorts, Madec sets him loose in the desert.  As Ben tries to make his way back to civilization, Madec follows close behind and uses his rifle not to kill Ben but instead to keep him from drinking water or taking shelter from the sun.

Savages deserves to better known than it is.  The film does a good job of making you feel as if you’re trapped out in the desert with Ben, trying your damndest to survive while some maniac follows close behind, taunting you and refusing to allow you to get any relief.  Horton Madec is pure evil, a maniac who brags about how he can do anything he wants because he has money and he knows people.  That he’s played by Andy Griffith makes him even more dangerous because you know there’s no way anyone would believe that Andy Griffith took you out to the desert tried to kill you.

After playing the folksy and friendly Andy Taylor for nine seasons on The Andy Griffith Show, Griffith tried to leave Mayberry behind by taking on villainous roles in made-for-TV movies like this one and Pray For The Wildcats.  Though he actually started off his film career by playing a villain in A Face In The Crowd, it was still probably a shock for audiences in 1974 to turn on Savages and see Andy Griffith cruelly drinking a martini while another man nearly died of dehydration in front of him.  Griffith goes full psycho in the role of Horton Madec and is totally convincing.  (Of course, audiences preferred the folksy side of Griffith which is why, even after ten years straight of playing bad guys, Griffith still ended up starring in Matlock.)

Even though it’s Griffith’s show, Sam Bottom does okay in the role of Ben.  He has the right look for the character and that’s really all that the part requires.  For the majority of the movie, it’s just Griffith and Bottoms but eventually, James Best shows up as Sheriff Bert Williams.  Five years later, Best would achieve a certain immortality when he was cast as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard.

Savages has never gotten an official DVD release but it can be viewed on YouTube, along with Griffith’s other villainous turn from 1974, Pray for the Wildcats.

Lisa Marie Picks The 16 Worst Films Of 2012

Let’s be honest: 2012 sucked.  In fact, and I can say this because I’m secretly a history nerd, 2012 was the worst year since 1934.  Who needs a zombie apocalypse when you’ve got 2012?

At the same time, it was also a strangely bland year for the movies.  Just as there weren’t any massively brilliant films, there weren’t that many huge disasters.  Instead, it was a year that celebrated blandness.  Fortunately, for me and my love of making lists, there were still just enough remarkably bad films for me to make out my annual worst of the year list.  Yay!

Listed in descending order, here are my picks for the worst of 2012.*

16) The Paperboy

15) Seeking a Friend For The End Of The World

14) Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

13) The Raven

12) The Trouble With Bliss

11) Savages

10) A Thousand Words

9) 96 Minutes

8) Haywire

7) Dead Season

6) This Means War

5) Rock of Ages

4) Project X

3) The Devil Inside

2) The Wicker Tree

And my pick for both the worst film of 2012 and perhaps one of the worst films ever made…

1) Branded

Tomorrow, I’ll be continuing my look back at 2012 with my picks for the 10 best songs of the year.


* Needless to say, these picks reflect my opinion and my opinion alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the other writers here at the Shattered Lens.  Hopefully, some of them will post their own lists.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Savages (dir. by Oliver Stone)

For the past 5 months,  every time I’ve gone to the movies, I’ve seen the trailer for Oliver Stone’s new film, Savages.  It’s a pretty exciting trailer, featuring sex, violence, and Taylor Kitsch’s abs.  Despite Oliver Stone’s recent track record of making preachy, boring films, that trailer got a lot of people excited about the prospect of seeing Savages

Well, the film has been released, I’ve seen it, and you know what?  Sometimes, trailers lie.

Savages is the story of Chon, Ben, and O.  Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) sell the greatest weed in the world and O (Blake Lively) is the woman who loves both of them at the same time.  O, by the way, is short for Ophelia and she narrates the film in such a monotonous style that I have to admit that I was shocked to discover that she actually knew she was named after Hamlet’s doomed girlfriend.  Chon is a violent former Navy SEAL while Ben is a laid-back buddhist who wants to get out of the drug business so he can devote his time to environmental activism. (Zzzzzzzzzz….)

Ben’s marijuana becomes so legendary that soon, a Mexican drug cartel led by Salma Hayek decides that both Ben and Chon are going to work exclusively for them.  Ben and Chon refuse so Hayek sends Benicio Del Toro to kidnap O and hold her hostage until Ben and Chon come around.  Ben and Chon, however, have plans of their own…

On the positive side, Hayek, Del Toro, and John Travolta (playing a corrupt DEA agent) all give excellent performances that would seem to indicate that they — as opposed to everyone else involved with Savages — understand that they’re appearing in an expensive B-movie.  They openly devour every piece of scenery in the film and have a fun time wringing every ounce of melodrama out of their pulpy dialogue.  These three actors are fun to watch and it’s a shame that the same can’t be said for the other half of the film’s main cast.

Jennifer Lawrence was originally cast in the role of O but she dropped out of Savages so that she could star in The Hunger Games.  The role was recast with Blake Lively, who looks like she could be Jennifer Lawrence’s older sister but who, as an actress, has never exhibited the type of wounded determination that has become Lawrence’s trademark.  As played by Lively, O is such a passive character that it’s difficult to really care that much about whether she survives or doesn’t.  Instead of being a strong, independent woman who is unashamed of her lifestyle, O just comes across as a spoiled and vapid pawn, a possession who is traded between the film’s various players.  It doesn’t help that Lively delivers her heavy-handed narration in a flat monotone that makes her come across less like a hard-boiled survivor and more like a spoiled rich girl trying to sound jaded.  Every time I heard her refer to Chon and Ben as being “my guys,” I just wanted to scream at the screen, “No, you stupid bitch, you belong to them!  They don’t belong to you!”

As for “her guys,” Taylor Kitsch is believable as a killer but not as a stoner.  (Kitsch’s character comes across as if he’s been snorting cocaine as opposed to smoking weed.)  Aaron Johnson, meanwhile, is a very believable stoner but he’s a lot less believable once his character becomes a killer.  Unfortunately, neither Kitch nor Johnson show much in the way of charisma in this film and that’s a shame because both of them have shown in the past that they are capable of giving good performances.  (Seriously,  just check out Aaron Johnson’s performance in the criminally underrated John Lennon biopic, Nowhere Boy.)  With neither Chon nor Ben being all that interesting, the film ultimately becomes a rather empty display of style.

And there’s no denying it — Savages has got style to burn.  Oliver Stone shows here that — despite such anemic recent films as Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps — he still knows how to film an explosion.  Unfortunately, there’s not much going on beneath all of that style and the end result is a film that mostly succeeds in making both sex and violence boring.

Poll: What Film Are You Most Looking Forward To Seeing In July?

According to last month’s poll, the two films that you are most looking forward to seeing in June are Prometheus and G.I. Joe Retaliation.  (Or, at least, you were until they decided to hold back G.I. Joe until 2013.)

How about July?  I was actually surprised to see how few films were scheduled to be released in July but it makes sense.  Everyone seems to have surrendered to the idea that July’s going to be dominated by the Amazing Spiderman and especially The Dark Knight Returns.

So, is that true or is there another film coming out in July that you’re looking forward to seeing even more so than those two heavily hyped comic boom adaptions?

Vote in the poll below and let us know!