Motel Hell (1980)

Article 3395 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-18-2010
Posting Date: 11-30-2010
Directed by Kevin Connor
Featuring Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons

Farmer Vincent Smith runs a motel that is known for its excellent smoked meats, made from a secret family recipe. To get his secret “ingredients”, he waylays passing motorists and fattens them up in his garden. However, when he is smitten with a young lady and decides to make her part of the family, he sets in motion his own undoing…

This is an uneven but interesting black comedy that I wish was better than it is. It’s a pretty outrageous story with a fun sense of detail; I like some of the bizarre traps Vincent sets up to capture his prey, and the sense of detail that goes into the preparation of his “animals” is rather striking. The problem I have with the movie is that it tends to soft-pedal the humor; in fact, the score occasionally betrays a lyrically evocative mood that seems quite out of place with the story. If anything, the movie seems to take itself a little too seriously at times, and though Rory Calhoun gives a memorable performance as Vincent, he may go a little too far in keeping his character from being a caricature. In short, it’s just not all that funny, even though it’s too outrageous to be taken in any other way. The ending, which parodies old-fashioned mellerdrammers (think of heroines tied to logs in in sawmills) is one of the better scenes in the movie, and it does feature Vincent’s last line, which is the funniest one in the movie. It’s worth catching, though I’m afraid it’s not quite successful.

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