Prime Cut (1972)

Prime Cut (1972)

“Uppers, downers — all the livestock get their shots.”

When a Chicago hitman (Lee Marvin) is sent to settle a score with a rival gangster (Gene Hackman) in rural Kansas, he discovers a disturbing sex-grooming ring involving young women like orphaned Poppy (Sissy Spacek).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Gangsters
  • Gene Hackman Films
  • Lee Marvin Films
  • Michael Ritchie Films
  • Revenge
  • Sissy Spacek Films

Michael Ritchie’s second cinematic feature — after Downhill Racer (1969) — was this oddball gangster revenge flick with a darkly droll theme of “flesh as livestock” at its core. From the opening sequence in a slaughterhouse (where it’s intimated that a corpse has been made into sausages):

… to a shocking scene of a literal cattle-call for doped up, naked girls, we realize that the social commentary offered here is no-holds-barred. Indeed, as DVD Savant puts it, it’s “an undeniably gross gangster movie that packs a surfeit of purposely, pointedly taste-challenged non-PC content.” With that said, the film certainly has its fans, and does contain some redeeming elements — including cute-as-a-button Spacek in her first speaking role:

… and some colorful, innovative set pieces.

Also to their credit (I think), Ritchie and screenwriter Robert Dillon point out the existence of sex trafficking rings long before public consciousness allowed for the idea of such things on American soil — so that’s a “service” of sorts, though it’s exploited (naturally), and we’re meant to believe that male knights must come and save the poor girls.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Sissy Spacek as Poppy
  • The exciting combine chase sequence

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one time look if you can stomach it (bad pun), simply for its cult status. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book, which makes sense.


One thought on “Prime Cut (1972)

  1. First viewing (5/2/22). Not must-see, but Marvin fans will want to see his typically sturdy performance.

    Near the end of a watch, you may get the feeling that the film is short a few (informative) scenes. We do get the sense that Marvin is acting as an enforcer – a middle-man between two strong, competitive forces (and it may not even matter what more of the specifics are) but the film still feels a bit vague / confusing at times.

    That said, there’s a sufficient amount of action for a film of this type and the overall pacing is rather good. It’s also shot rather well.

    Marvin pretty much keeps this thing going and he’s usually a magnetic presence on-screen. Spacek also has presence in her film debut (though she’s only given a bit-more-than-minimal amount to work with).

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