Home Video Hovel: Bonnie’s Kids, by West Anthony
If you’re looking for 70’s exploitation in an anachronistically pristine home video presentation, good news awaits you. Bonnie’s Kids is a suitably lurid melodrama slopping over with titillation, bloodshed and questionable acting choices. Tiffany Bolling and Robin Mattson star as Ellie and Myra, the kids in question (mother Bonnie is long gone, presumably killed in a plot device-related accident), and they are the kind of young girls that skeevy older guys leer over whilst uttering unsavory phrases like “you know you want to” and “purty young thing” — that’s right, purty. Not long after their stepfather’s poker buddies have left for the evening (pausing only for some underage window peeping), stepdaddy’s getting both barrels of a shotgun from Ellie, and the fugitive sisters take off down the road in a pickup truck, eating Fritos and drinking chocolate milk, just like Butch and Sundance. Making their way to El Paso, they shack up with their deceptively kind uncle Ben, who everyone else in the picture calls Mr. Seaman — you heard me — before the plot spirals further into a wild vortex of crime and/or punishment.
Tiffany Bolling is the older — and more accomplished — of the two lead actresses, and is given considerably more to do, which she does pretty well for all the absurd turns the screenplay puts her through. Robin Mattson, on the other hand, comes across as an evil, occasionally topless Marcia from The Brady Bunch, but without whatever modicum of subtlety Maureen McCormick had. (It should come as no surprise to learn that Miss Mattson later went on to a lengthy career in soap operas.) The only thing more disconcerting than her educational-film-grade performance is the fact that she was, in fact, sixteen years old when she made this movie; factor that into your viewing enjoyment, pervs. Steve Sandor (who played Lars in the Star Trek episode “The Gamesters Of Triskelion” — don’t be impressed, it’s one of three episodes I know) co-stars as Larry, a lunkheaded hunk who gets involved with Ellie to his lasting regret as the story veers from teen exploitation to z-grade film noir. The most enjoyable actors are the recently departed Alex Rocco — surprisingly slumming it after his memorable turn as Moe Greene in The Godfather — and former football player Timothy Brown, as Eddie and Gigger, a pair of bagmen/hitmen who are more than a little reminiscent of Vincent and Jules in Pulp Fiction. Eddie and Gigger’s Bonnie situation is somewhat different from the Tarantino picture, but it comes to a no less violent end.
For a drive-in b-movie, Bonnie’s Kids feels a tad long at nearly two hours, but that gives the viewer plenty of time to marvel at what the 70’s looked like. The quality of the video transfer on the Glass Doll Films Blu-ray is far better than a film of this caliber deserves, allowing one to wallow in the texture of every shag carpet and polyester suit. Among the extra goodies on the disc is a sedate but informative, trivia-laden commentary track from Terror Transmission podcast hosts Matt Paradise and Jason Andreasson that only occasionally lapses into lip-smacking cartoon wolfery; brief interviews with Tiffany Bolling and writer/director Arthur Marks; and an inexplicably long (70 minutes!?) interview with Steve Sandor, which is about as thorough as it gets for those who can’t get enough Steve Sandor, this reviewer sadly not among them. There are also some trailers, a sampling of the film’s score if you want to enjoy your 70’s pseudofunk without all that pesky histrionic dialogue drowning it out, and a booklet with production information and a sampling of promotional artwork. In an era where Manos: The Hands Of Fate somehow warrants a restoration and subsequent Blu-ray release, I guess we’re also going to get Bonnie’s Kids, although I can’t escape the feeling that this is the kind of movie that low-resolution VHS was made for. The care and affection for the film is evident in every aspect of the presentation, so exploitation aficionados will be delighted, but when I think of all the higher-quality films begging for any kind of attention, it becomes harder and harder not to begrudge them their jollies.