Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pick-up (1975)

Directed by Bernie Hirschenson
Starring Gini Eastwood, Jill Senter, Alan Long
Rated R
USA

"This is going to be a bad trip."

A swampy mind-fryer, Pick-Up is half regional horror-show, half druggy performance art. The film is ostensibly a post-hippy meditation on the 'Pazuzu' myth - i.e. the Babylonian demon that possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist - but it never actually gets around to the occult antics it promises in its opening scenes. Instead, it prefers to simply roll around naked with its two gorgeous stoner chicks for most of its brief running time. And that's a plan that's hard to argue with.

The story, such as it is, involves shaggy-headed groovy dude Chuck (Alan Long), an aimless rambler who is delivering a 'mobile home' from one end of Florida to the other. Said home, by the way, is clearly a tour bus. However, the sign on the front of the vehicle says "Mobile Home", so perhaps we should just roll with it.

By the way, fun fact: the bus was previously used by Richard Nixon on the campaign trail in 1972.

Chuck stops to pee somewhere near Naples, and ends up picking up two doe-eyed hippy girls, happy go lucky Carol (Jill Senter) and grim, occult-obsessed Maureen (Gini Eastwood). They smoke weed, listen to Bach, flash a group of rowdy locals, and generally have an awesome mid 70's time of it, but things take a turn for the sinister when a flash storm hits, causing them to take a muddy detour that leaves them stranded in the swamplands.

From there, things get decidedly freaky. Maureen hallucinates the Goddess of Apollo, who hands her a sword to kill the demon Pazuzu. Later on, everyone has flashbacks to their childhood - Carol (Senter in pigtails) makes out with a 14 year old kid in the woods, Maureen (Eastwood, also in pigtails) gets molested by a priest, and Chuck (another actor entirely) fiddles with a ham radio. That particular flashback was comparatively underwhelming.

Carol and Chuck quickly develop a sexual relationship, which is no surprise, since Chuck prefers skin-tight white pants that clearly show the outline of the cucumber he's smuggling in there.

While the two young lovers fuck in the bushes, weird shit happens to Maureen. A foppish politician visits her on the bus, she finds an altar in the woods to masturbate on, and she's menaced by Pazuzu himself, in the guise of a sinister clown.

She shrugs every one of these odd occurrences off as soon as they're over, so we're never really sure whether they really happened, or whether she's just tripping balls. It is also unclear as to how many hours or days have passed since this loony joyride started, but it had to be awhile, since Chuck's boss sends out an airplane to find them. Will it get there in time to snatch up these lost souls before the swamplands eat them alive?

Hard to say. I've watched Pick-Up three times already, and I still don't know what happened. I am likewise unsure whether this film is a masterpiece of moody,existential exploitation, or just a woozy, slowly churning cauldron of naked hippy-chick soup sprinkled with 70's occult trappings and liberally dosed with metaphysical weirdness and free love.

Maybe it's both. That, ultimately, is up to the viewer. One thing is certain, however. There's nothing else quite like Pick-Up.

Well, except for drugs. Drugs are almost exactly like Pick-Up.



- Ken McIntyre

2 comments:

  1. I watched this as part of the Drive-In Cult Classics collection and was genuinely impressed. Quite a solid little film for a naked lady exploitation flick. Plus the girls were quite attractive, so what's not too like?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree. It's an impressive mix of high-pretense and low-ball exploitation. Pretty one-of-a-kind.
    We're talking about it on the podcast this weekend, if you want to give it a listen!

    Thanks for reading!
    Ken

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