REVIEW: Cry Uncle (1971)

I wrote a piece for Gorepress about how much I dig Troma (clicky!) and funnily enough, this movie didn’t come up in it. Back when Troma were making phat cash (well sorta) from sex comedies and raunch, they released this one. Directed by John G. Avildsen, the guy who helmed Stallone in Rocky and, more importantly, the first three Karate Kid flicks, this film is hot mess that works more than it doesn’t, I guess.

The plot for Cry Uncle was all over the goddamn place. This horndog private dick takes a case involving a man who is being blackmailed because of a bondage tape he made with some hookers, while his client’s supposedly sexy companion moves in with the PI inexplicably. The detective fucks his way through some clues and cracks the case. Thats your lot, in a nutshell. Basically, your detective man just has sex with a bunch of hookers while sounding a bit like Mark Wahlberg talking to the animals and looking like the kind of bloated, shambolic perv you’d have arrested if they walked too slowly passed a school. This betrays his character though, as Jake Masters (played with a naive ingenuity by Allen Garfield) is a likable fellow indeed, and manages to straddle the roles of sex obsessed shabby dick and convincingly bewildered everyman with the sort of empatic gusto that you just don’t get in modern actors. Sure, a bunch of the time he comes off wholly incorrigible  and thoroughly icky, but aren’t we all?

So, plot aside, this movie shocked me. Not by the “surprise” conclusion as I had figured that out by the end of the first act but by just how graphic it was. I was expecting a light early 70s sex comedy, I was not expecting to see full oral penetration. Now, I knew this movie got banned in a couple of countries, but I also knew that it got an R in the US, so that just blew my boots off. I guess they got away with it due to the fact that it is presented as a negative with the colours inverted, but I found that added to the explicitness of the scene. The banning of the picture in some countries seems to be attributed to one scene which focuses on unintentional necrophilia, but wasn’t all that graphic by today’s standards. The rest of the nudity is standard boobs and bush, but the interesting thing about Cry Uncle was that it makes sure that every woman who bares all is a fully fleshed out character with their own agendas. I can see men in the 70s watching this for an eyeful of titillation, and walking away with some subconscious notions about the strength that women wield. Even if the film only shows them wielding that strength by using sex as a weapon.

The comedy in Cry Uncle was so black that it was difficult to actually find it funny, especially while you are still reeling from seeing such shocking depictions of sexualised violence and mostly naked fat dudes walking around looking pretty vacant. The real enjoyment stems from the performances, Garfield is a treat as the PI with more going on under the hood than you would believe (as well as being an inexplicably “good lay”), and Madeleine Le Roux oozes sexuality as the femme fatale despite her looking a bit like an emaciated Readers Wives centrefold with her face set almost permanently to “sneer”. Devin Goldenberg, who you may recognise from The Last Horror Film (man, that is due for a rewatch soon), trips and goofs his way into a stellar performance as Masters’ hero worshiping nephew. All the peripheral performances are excellent too, particularly the black hooker, but most notably Paul Sorvino’s debut as the cop who smoked a few too many Marlboros, as well as Uncle Lloyd himself as a tweaked out druggie.

The movie plays well as both a noir homage, frat boy baiting comedy and meditation on hypocritical nature of modern society, depending on how you want to look at it. I haven’t read the source novel, and know nothing about it, but I fear in the hands of a lesser film maker Cry Uncle could have been a crass and vapid movie with little or no redeeming features. Instead, Avildsen takes something cheap and titillating and turns it into something a whole lot more than all that. This is definitely not a classic, but is lightyears ahead of the other early Troma sex comedies such as The First Turn On or Battle Of Loves Return. If you like your full frontal nudity with a bit of depth and nous to it, then I would fully recommend Cry Uncle. Conversely if you are looking for something to tide you over until the next Karate Kid movie, then I would steer well clear of this.

7/10

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About dangerousjamie

I am genre movie watchin', punk rockin', blog updatin' rebel with a heart of gold.
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