Written and directed by exploitation cinema maverick Arthur Marks (DETROIT 9000, THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS, BUCKTOWN), 1973’s BONNIE’S KIDS was a perfect vehicle for actress/singer Tiffany Bolling, who shortly before the film’s release, graced the pages of Playboy and was quickly on her way to becoming one of the premiere drive-in queens. With an unforgettable tagline (“Thank God She Only Had Two"), a talented assortment of character actors and an unpredictable, satisfyingly concocted script by Marks, BONNIE’S KIDS is quintessential 1970s cinema and an absolute indication that Dark Sky Films is back with a bang!
With their mother passed away for several years now, 24-year-old Ellie (Tiffany Bolling), a coffee shop waitress, and 15-year-old sis Myra (Robin Mattson) live with their hard-drinking, abusive stepdaddy Charley (Leo Gordon, THE HAUNTED PALACE). One night after loosing out to his card-playing drinking buddies, Charley catches Myra talking provocatively on the phone to a boyfriend, causing him to slap her around and attempt to force his sexual advances. Ellie returns home from a hard day’s work to catch this vile display, but instead of accepting Charley’s invitation to join in on the action, she blows him away with a shotgun. The two sisters hide the corpse and take off to the big city (San Jose).
With nowhere else to go, Ellie and Myra show up at the lavish office of Ben Eastman (Scott Brady), their uncle and only living relative, who happens to be the publisher of a magazine that specializes in girlie photos. Ben takes them in, giving Ellie the opportunity to model (topless) and putting Myra in the care of his much younger estranged wife, Diana (Lenore Stevens) who develops a fascination with the angst teen (aka lesbianism). Ellie is asked to drive out to a desert hotel to accept an anonymous package that is to be given to her by Larry (Steve Sandor, HELL’S ANGELS ‘69), a hunky womanizing private detective hired as an oblivious patsy by two of Ben’s cronies, Eddy (Alex Rocco) and Digger (Timothy Brown). When Larry and Ellie hook up, the attraction is heated, and when they land that it’s nearly half a million dollars they’re transporting, they contemplate running off with the life-changing loot. With two cold-blooded hitmen hot on their tales, their misadventures turn out to be much more than they bargained for.
With a super but rather long pre-credit sequence which features the underaged Mattson bearing her breasts (this was the 1970s folks) as a couple of inebriated middle-aged perverts ogle her outside the window, followed by the sisters’ execution of their unethical stepfather, BONNIE’S KIDS is set up nicely, but could have proceeded in a number of directions. With a title that’s rather futile (Bonnie is a deceased afterthought) description-wise, and the way the film opens up, you might think it would turn into a routine story where the two sisters hold-up a few filling stations, find boyfriends and encounter further predictability. But BONNIE’S KIDS turns out to be cleverly implemented, showing that Marks had respect for his audience while knowing how to fill out a proper exploitation film scorecard, and the outcome is a noir-like crime thriller with that beloved 1970s West Coast ambiance. There’s just the right amount of sleaze, slaughter and sexy, and more than a fair share of unscrupulous characters (practically everyone).
Bolling and Mattson are perfectly cast as the siblings propelled into a world of greed, crime and callous individuals, and they naturally have the sex appeal (something the two characters practice often to get what they need and want) and talent to pull it off. Here, Mattson is sort of similar to the Linsday Lohan of just a few years ago, and would appear in a few more drive-in flicks (New World’s THE CANDY STRIPE NURSES and AIP’s RETURN TO MACON COUNTY) before her days as a familiar daytime Soap bad girl. Anyone who views BONNIE’S KIDS can’t help but notice how much the “salt and pepper” hitman team of Alex Rocco and Timothy Brown (a former pro-footballer who also acted for Al Adamson) resemble John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in PULP FICTION, as the duo (and the film as a whole) was an obvious influence on Quentin Tarantino and his brand of retro cinema. Any seasoned B movie watcher who sees veteran heavies like Leo Gordon and Scott Brady in this would bet that they’re up to no good (and they’d be right), and you also have recognizable TV actor Max Showalter as a traveling businessman looking for a good time and a pre-“Cagney and Lacey” Sharon Gless (in her first film) as a pretty waitress who gets stiffed by Rocco and Brown.
Dark Sky Films comes through with its usual level of high quality with this DVD premiere of BONNIE’S KIDS in its uncut, uncensored 105-minute form. Mastered from the original 35mm negative and presented in a new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, the film looks terrific, never showing its age with dirt, debris or any other off-putting blemishes. Those 1970s colors (you just don’t see colors like these in today’s movies) are intense and really stand out, while the detail is nicely defined, with no visible grain on display. The mono English audio is solid and optional English subtitles are available from the set-up menu.
Writer/director Arthur Marks (who has contributed interviews for several past Dark Sky DVD releases) is on hand for the featurette, “Arthur’s Kids: A Conversation With Arthur Marks.” Marks talks about his early days working on the “Perry Mason” series, the formation of his General Film Corporation and producing films for the drive-in market. Aside from BONNIE’S KIDS (in which he reveals that Sharon Gless was his secretary and was eager to get into acting with her small role), he also briefly touches upon his work for AIP (BUCKTOWN, FRIDAY FOSTER, J.D.’S REVENGE, THE MONKEY HUSTLE). Other extras include the theatrical trailer (we can’t get enough of that “Thank God She Only Had Two!” line, especially when articulated by the excitable announcer), three TV spots (60, 30 and 10 seconds), and over 12 minutes of music cues (eight in total) from the wonderfully funky/jazzy score by Carson Whitsett. (George R. Reis)
BACK TO REVIEWS