“I always wondered if you was any kind of a man at all.”
An ex-con (John Furlong) takes a job working for an aging farmer (Stu Lancaster) whose niece (Antoinette Cristiani) is married to a sadistic, alcoholic psychopath (Hal Hopper). As Furlong realizes he’s falling for Cristiani, he tries to distract himself by going to visit two local prostitutes (Rena Horton and Lorna Maitland) and their madam (Princess Livingston) — but Hopper’s rage and jealousy know no bounds, and when a local preacher (Frank Bolger) and his wife (Lee Ballard) treat Hopper like a “poor sinner”, he takes this designation and runs with it.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Deep South
- Domestic Abuse
- Russ Meyer Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “tawdry tale” may be director “Russ Meyer’s best film” — a dubious designation I can’t agree with, given that Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) remains his most memorably oddball flick. Peary describes Mud Honey — what exactly does this (or the alternate title, Rope of Flesh) refer to? — as being “set in a small town in Missouri that’s full of stupid but shrewd, sweaty, hypocritical men and stupid, big-breasted women” (an unfair assessment, given that Cristiani is overly loyal rather than stupid), where “everyone is driven by lust, hatred and greed” (again, not entirely accurate — what about Cristiani and Lancaster?).
In his review, Peary reveals a major spoiler that doesn’t occur until the last 15 minutes of the film (unusual for him), thus making it hard for me to quote too much more of his assessment. However, I’ll cite and agree with his statement that this “sleazy fake morality play is surprisingly well made”, with “Meyer’s camera work… fairly creative”:
the acting “satisfactory”, and the dialogue “flavorful”; we really are made to “believe that the characters live in this hellish version of Tobacco Road” — a place we’re oh-so-eager to say goodbye to once the dramatic, violent denouement comes to an end.
Note: Viewers will surely notice the distinctive presence of cackling “Princess Livingston” (what a name!), whose red-wigged, middle-aged dancing in Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) stands out in a veritable sea of surreal, bombarding imagery.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Strong direction and cinematography
No — though naturally, Russ Meyer fans will want to check it out.
2 thoughts on “Mud Honey / Rope of Flesh (1965)”
Certainly not Meyer’s best film. Meyer never really made a “best” film – though, in strictly camp / cult terms, he came close to that with ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’ (imo).
From once seeing a documentary about Meyer, my understanding is that the bulk of his work (at least once he got into features like ‘Mudhoney’) was designed for the drive-in crowd. As such, the films probably played well as diversions that pushed the envelope in the early ’60s. But they generally don’t hold up all that well outside of the environment they were first intended for.
‘Mudhoney’ certainly doesn’t. It’s a mangy tale (with a surprising bit of earnestness) that suffers from a repetitive quality that spins in place… until it reaches a crescendo that, in tone, is oddly similar to the way Meyer concludes ‘BTVOTD’.
For me, the ‘poetic’ (if you will) title would translate most closely as ‘Trashy Sex’ – and its alternate title, similarly, suggests that sex is something of the body that flesh is ‘tied to’. (Neither title seems appropriate for the film, though.)
Yes, good take on the title and sub-title. They both make sense from that perspective — though as you say, they are enough of a stretch that they’re not really good choices for the intended audience.