avantsneakideoplexmuffNeuminiMuffozploitationsexymishimamarjoe  

 

“BAD, BUT NOT EVIL”: THE CINEMATIC RISE AND FALL OF MARJOE GORTNER

CURATED BY ANDREW LEOVOLD

Marjoe Gortner: former child evangelist turned hippy, acid freak and Seventies B-movie phenomenon following the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary Marjoe (1972). The name - his parents’ amalgam of Mary and Joseph - may not be familiar these days but in his salad days he was a flash from above, even hitting the charts with a solo album “Bad, But Not Evil”, capitalizing on his post-Baptist notoriety. Translating his pulpit persona into an idiosyncratic acting style, he had a promising start in TV movies and the drive-in hit Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw (1976). Then his career hit a string of box-office disasters (The Food Of The Gods [1976], Viva Knievel! [1977]), culminating in Marjoe’s greatest failure, his own production of the stage play When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder starring his soon-to-be-ex-wife Candy Clark. Following a handful of B film roles in the Eighties (Mausoleum [1983], Hellhole [1985]), he all but disappeared from cinema and TV screens, and was last seen sponsoring charity golf tournaments. But aficionados of forgotten cinema are left with an astonishing legacy of a wide-eyed Marjoe’s eccentric performances both on and off the pulpit - “bad”, sometimes, but even in the most abominable of his cinematic turkeys never uninteresting, and once seen, certainly not forgettable.

WHEN YOU COMIN‘ BACK, RED RYDER? (1979)
Directed by Milton Katselas
Candy Clark Marjoe Gortner, Lee Grant, Hal Linden, Peter Firth
7pm / Sun 12 Oct / Glitch Bar
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Based on Mark Medoff’s award-winning play, it’s clear critics and audiences alike weren’t ready for the sheer train-wreck of Marjoe’s torturous yet utterly mesmerizing performance as Teddy (Gortner), an ex-’Nam veteran turned long haired drug dealer and foaming-at-the-mouth sociopath, breaks down - in every sense of those words - in a small town. He proceeds to terrorize a diner filled with locals and out-of-towners, and through an elaborate performance bordering on Theatre of the Absurd, strips each emotionally frail character - the city intellectuals, sanctimonious bumkins, a would-be Jimmy Dean and even Teddy’s partner-in-crime (Clark) herself - back to the basest of their motivations. The message, hammered home with the subtlety of a concrete enema, is this: we’re all doomed. Thus endeth the lesson. Richard Wolstencroft is a real fan of this film after being switched onto it by Mark and Colin Savage in the 80’s. Anything to declare? A comment from Colin Savage on the Red Ryder: When You Comin‘ Back Red Ryder?” definitely left a lasting impression on me from the first time I saw it, probably almost 25 years ago. I remember not knowing anything about it, but the artwork on the front cover really grabbed my attention, so I hired it out. It didn’t take long for me to realise I had uncovered a little gem. It was one of the first early films I saw that dealt with the idea of a bunch of people, trapped in an awful situation together, by someone that they couldn’t easily escape from. Having viewed the film again only recently, I must say the film holds up very well. Marjoe is excellent in the main role, playing a strange, sarcastic, condescending, unpredictable shocker who provides some great tense and queasy moments, and delivers some absolutely classic memorable lines as he confronts and humiliates everyone he comes in contact with. Rarely seen or written about, I’m pleased to see “When You Comin‘ Back, Red Rider?” getting a screening this year at MUFF. - Colin Savage.

MARJOE (1972)
Directed by Sarah Kernochan & Howard Smith
Majoe Gortner
9pm / Sun 12 Oct / Glitch Bar
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A fully-ordained preacher aged four (or so his Pentecostal parents claimed), Marjoe would leave the Church in his teens for a years-long sex and LSD binge that left him broke and willing to go on the fire-and-brimstone circuit one more time - with a camera crew following him through every back door and painful childhood memory. With his charisma and showmanship honed through a huckster’s lifetime of manipulation, Marjoe uses the cinema screen as his confessional booth: stories of an emotionally abusive mother who would beat sermons into him until memorized, the con-artist tricks of the evangelical trade, and even the fact he never once believed in God. As an expose on religious tent shows it’s essential; as a real-life character study - and what a character! - it’s flawless.

BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW (1976)
Directed by Mark L. Lester
Marjoe Gortner, Lynda Carter, Jesse Vint, Merrie Lynn Ross,
Belinda Balaski
11pm / Sat 18 Oct / Glitch Bar
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Genius White Trash exploitation with all your key Seventies drive-in essentials: rednecks and rubes, guns, bloodshed, freaks and hippies versus the Pigs, and a topless Lynda “Wonder Woman” Carter as Bobbie Jo, a carhop waitress and would-be country singer teaming up with an arrogant young hustler Lyle Wheeler (Marjoe) who fancies himself as a modern Billy The Kid. From then on it’s Thelma And Louise done right (or Bonnie And Clyde gone horribly wrong!) as they’re joined by Bobbie’s friend Essie (Balaski), sister Pearl (Ross) and Pearl’s psychotic boyfriend Slick (Vint) on their crime spree through New Mexico. Cute, nasty, and oh-so-cheap and tacky!

VIVA KNIEVEL! (1977)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Evel Knievel, Gene Kelly, Lauren Hutton, Red Buttons, Leslie Nielsen, Cameron Mitchell, Dabney Coleman, Marjoe Gortner
9pm / Sat 18 Oct / Glitch Bar
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Grotesque all-”star” vanity project courtesy of an incognito Irwin Allen, and possibly his greatest filmic disaster epic ever. Real-life daredevil Evel Knievel plays himself: Stunt Pony extraordinaire, ladies’ man, faith healer (“You’re the reason I’m walking, Evel!”) and target for a drug syndicate who plan to ship back $50 million in cocaine. inside Evel’s dead body! Marjoe here plays eighth or ninth banana yet still shines in the pivotal role of Jessie, Evel’s young protégé who yearns for Evel’s limelight - and thus makes him the weak link in Evel’s chain of command. The ever-moralizing Evel gives the greatest “Just Say No” speech EVER (“Your bodies are like a fuel tank.”) amidst cunning stunts that’ll make your wig flip. Two words: Pure Evel